Our friends at ENS report that the Dioceses of Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan are in the process of finalizing an agreement to share a bishop.
In October, Eastern Michigan’s convention is scheduled to vote to elect Western Michigan Bishop Whayne Hougland Jr. as bishop provisional. If approved, Hougland would be following in the footsteps of other dual-diocese bishops, in particular Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe, who also serves as bishop provisional of the Diocese of Western New York.
The transition underway in the Diocese of Eastern Michigan follows a spirit of innovation that dates back to its creation in 1994, when it was carved out of the Detroit-based Diocese of Michigan.
“The idea was local leadership. Grassroots efforts would rise up from the local congregation and be shared,” said Katie Forsyth, who joined the diocese as director of communications and public engagement in 2013. “Very purposefully, the diocese was designed to be a little more flexible. … We are actually well skilled to try something on and see how it goes.”
… A key catalyst for the recent conversations was the resignation of Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley in June 2017. Ousley, who left to lead The Episcopal Church’s Office of Pastoral Development, a position on the presiding bishop’s staff that assists dioceses undergoing bishop transitions, said in an interview with Episcopal News Service that The Episcopal Church is working to move beyond organizational structures that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
“We’re getting better as a church on focusing on mission-driven priorities rather than trying to squeeze the mission into an existing structure,” Ousley said.
General Convention underscored the importance in a 2018 resolution that called on dioceses and congregations to engage periodically in missional review, to determine “what is God calling us to be and do at this time and in this place.”
As the article notes, this would not be the first time two dioceses will have enjoyed shared episcopal ministry. Bishop Sean Rowe also served as Bishop Provisional for the Diocese of Bethlehem until its current bishop, the Rt. Rev. Kevin Nichols, was consecrated last September. Northwest Texas and Fort Worth have also shared the service of Bishop Scott Mayer since May of 2015.