The standing committees of two dioceses — Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York — have unanimously approved sharing a bishop and staff for five years while exploring a long-term relationship.
The plan must still be approved by the annual conventions of both dioceses, which will meet jointly in the Niagara Falls, New York, in October.
The Rt. Rev. William Franklin, Bishop of Western New York, is scheduled to retire in April 2019. If the two conventions approve the plan, the Diocese of Western New York would consider electing the Rt. Rev. Sean P. Rowe, Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, as a provisional bishop.
Rowe recently concluded a term as Provisional Bishop of Bethlehem while remaining Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania.
“We are excited by the opportunity to have Bishop Rowe succeed Bishop Franklin,” said Jim Isaac, president of Western New York’s standing committee. “But this partnership is about more than sharing a bishop. It’s about having the courage to experiment and adapt to new realities. Our two dioceses have complementary strengths and we face similar challenges. Together, we are well aligned to respond to what God is doing in our corner of the church.”
Jack Malovich, president of Northwestern Pennsylvania’s standing committee, said the partnership offers not only financial efficiency but also opportunities for the two dioceses to work together on regional ministries.
“The people of our dioceses share an industrial past, a respect for the beauty of the Lake Erie region and a history of resilience,” he said. “We are committed to being part of the Rust Belt resurrection that is already underway in Buffalo, Erie, and elsewhere.”
The diocesan office for Western New York is 100 miles northeast of the office for Northwestern Pennsylvania, both along the eastern side of Lake Erie.
Adapted from Rust Belt EpiscopalWestern New York Standing Committee Report 2018-04-24