Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bishop Jake on Today's Supreme Court Decision and Our Common Life

Dear Friends,

Today the Supreme Court issued two much-anticipated rulings about same-sex marriage.  The first ruling struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional. In the second ruling the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California.

Some rejoice.  Others lament.

For gay and lesbian persons, these rulings mean that they are no longer second class citizens.  The rights that others have long taken for granted are finally theirs to enjoy.  Their families and friends join them in celebrating a world-changing day.

Others see this as a giant step in the ongoing moral decline of Western culture.  Departure from the traditional view of marriage is but one part of the larger moral erosion of our country.

Here's what it means to be Bishop.  I love all of these people.  And central to my ministry is Christ's own commandment to help us all be one.  Following my Savior's commandment is just what I will try to do today and in the days ahead.

One of the things I've learned about being a spiritual leader is that I don't belong to myself.  I belong to Christ.  I belong to all of you.  How I happen to feel about a matter and what I can do as your Bishop are not always the same thing.

Here's how I feel about today's decisions.  They seem right to me.  Courts of law in the United States deal with the rights of individuals.  That is what the Court's rulings were all about.  Does each individual have the same rights? In America, we say yes.  My gay and lesbian friends--individuals and couples--are happy, and that makes me happy.

At the same time, my traditionalist friends are experiencing some part of the emotional mix of anger, disappointment, confusion, and fear.  Some are morally outraged.  Others are brokenhearted because the America they know is fading away.  They are ready to fight or cry or maybe both.  And I am grieved by their hurt.

That's where I am as the individual "Jake."  The guy who married Joy and rejoices in his children and goes to the gym and likes to watch movies.

As your Bishop, I say these things.

No one will be forced to do things or to accept beliefs that they cannot live with.  No priest or congregation will be required to bless same-sex unions.

Some of our congregations are a safe and welcoming spiritual home to gay and lesbian individuals and couples.  For this I am grateful.  I understand that their theology is often quite progressive, and I respect and support them.

Some congregations embody a more conservative form of our common faith.  While they do not espouse hate for or reject gay and lesbian persons, they are very clear about their traditional view of marriage.  They have my respect and support.

I am the Bishop for everyone in this Diocese.  That doesn't mean that I'm your theological boss or your spiritual drill sergeant.  I'm the one who keeps reminding us that we are one in Christ.

In Christ's Love,

The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, Ph.D., D.D.
P. O. Box 2031, Alexandria, LA 71309-2031