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Bishops and dioceses explore new models of ministry together

Bishops and dioceses explore new models of ministry together

In the Diocese of West Kansas, the new bishop-elect is busy. The vicar of two parishes, the Revd Mark Cowell also works as a municipal prosecutor and elected county attorney in Hodgeman County.

Cowell was elected to become the sixth Bishop of Western Kansas on Saturday, the Episcopal News Service reports.

While helping oversee the process that resulted in the election of current Bishop Michael P. Milliken, Cowell met with then-Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to discuss the idea of a dual-role episcopacy in which a person serves as both bishop and a congregational priest. Milliken lived that model, the first in the Episcopal Church in the past 150 years, until the end of 2014 when he resigned as rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Hutchinson to served full time as bishop, according to the diocese.

Cowell expects to extend the dual role in his own ministry as bishop, continuing to serve both of his current parishes after his consecration.

On the north coast, another experiment in shared episcopal ministry looks set to enter its own second chapter. reports that after completing his extended ministry as Provisional Bishop in the Diocese of Bethlehem, the Rt Revd Sean Rowe, Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, may again share the gifts of his episcopate, this time with the Diocese of Western New York, as Bishop William Franklin is set to retire next year.

The Right Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of the Erie-based Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, will end his duties as provisional bishop in Bethlehem when its newly elected bishop is consecrated Sept. 15. Rowe became bishop in Erie in 2007 and took on the temporary Bethlehem job in 2014 after the bishop there retired. In 2019, he could resume the job of provisional bishop, this time in Western New York following the retirement of Bishop William Franklin.

Standing Committees, which are groups of clergy and laypeople who advise a bishop, met Monday in Erie and suburban Buffalo to approve the arrangement in which the dioceses would share Rowe for five years. They also would share ministry and support staffs and collaborate on ministry initiatives. In 2024, the dioceses would decide whether to continue and deepen the arrangement, according to a statement.

The plan still needs to be approved by the annual convention, a meeting of clergy and laypeople, of each diocese. The two conventions will meet jointly in Niagara Falls and vote Oct. 26.

In other episcopal news from the ENS, the Diocese of the Rio Grande elected the Revd Canon Michael Buerkel Hunn, as their next bishop over the past weekend. Canon Hunn currently serves on the Presiding Bishop’s staff.


Featured image: by 3dnatureguy via wikicommons 


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Kenneth Knapp

I think this is a healthy thing. At some point in time we need to start dismantling the elaborate superstructure that was erected as the church approached its peak in the 1960s. If trends continue the way they have for the last 50 years, we need to accept the reality of bishops being rectors of parishes in addition to their episcopal duties, as well as the presiding bishop simply being the senior bishop amongst the diocesan bishops. This governance model has historical precedence and we should probably go there sooner rather than later for the solvency of the church.

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