[Diocese of Eastern Michigan] The Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan elected the Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland Jr. to serve as bishop provisional of the diocese during their annual convention on Oct. 19, 2019.
Bishop Hougland, bishop diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan, will serve both dioceses concurrently as the two bodies enter into a three- to five-year period of conversation around relationship and shared resources.
In a letter to the diocese, the Standing Committee of Eastern Michigan celebrated the decision, saying, “We are excited to be building on our commitment to creative and innovative ministry by entering into this next phase of life for our two dioceses. We don’t know where this relationship will lead, but by placing our trust in the Holy Spirit and committing to the work of discernment and risk-taking, we believe we can build a church responsive to the needs of her people and flexible to the demands of 21st century mission and ministry. Let’s dance!”
Bishop Hougland expressed his excitement as well, saying, “We are at the forefront of these kinds of experiments in the church and I think we are uniquely primed to take on this work with good faith, humor, and creativity. I am looking forward to living into these next 3-5 years and to seeing where the Spirit leads!”
This next step for the two dioceses is the result of nearly two and a half years of conversation, kicked off by the resignation of former Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousley to become bishop for pastoral development of The Episcopal Church, a position on the presiding bishop’s staff. Following a series of regional and diocesan-wide meetings, the Diocese of Eastern Michigan voted last fall to invite the Diocese of Western Michigan to consent to the nomination of their bishop, the Rt. Rev. Whayne Hougland, to serve as bishop provisional. In the spring, after a series of meetings on the western side of the state, Western Michigan’s Diocesan Council and Standing Committee voted unanimously to accept the invitation.
The two dioceses share a number of ministries and resources already, including efforts in congregational development, local formation, mission work, governing bodies, and staff. Combined, the two dioceses are composed of just over 100 congregations and cooperating ministries, and over 12,000 baptized members.