The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe, Bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, will soon begin a five-year term as Provisional Bishop of Western New York. In September, Rowe completed a four-year term as Provisional Bishop of Bethlehem.
Michigan Dioceses Move Closer
The Diocese of Eastern Michigan voted Oct. 27 to ask permission to elect the Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland Jr., Bishop of Western Michigan, to serve as its provisional bishop.
That proposed sharing of a bishop now awaits the approval of the Diocese of Western Michigan, which will discuss the proposal in three workshops scheduled for February and March.
If Western Michigan consents, Eastern Michigan would still need to vote to actually elect Hougland.
The dioceses are contiguous and their see cities, Kalamazoo and Saginaw, are 150 miles apart.
“We continue to be grateful for our relationships with our neighboring dioceses,” Hougland wrote to members of his diocese. “We do very great work together already and will continue to do so no matter the direction we choose. I am excitedly looking forward to working together to help Michigan see that the grace, peace, and joy of the Kingdom of God is indeed near.
“I continue to be honored to be your bishop as we take on the important work of finding what it means to be a disciple in our little cul-de-sac of the Lower Peninsula.”
Adapted from the Diocese
Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York will share Bishop Rowe and his staff for the next five years as they explore a deeper relationship focused on creating new opportunities for mission.
The New York diocese completed the agreement Oct. 26 by electing Rowe. He will assume the office upon the retirement of Bishop William Franklin in early April.
“History will judge us as the to the right and wrong of the choice,” Rowe said in a brief address before the vote. “God will bless us in our faithfulness to the gospel call—no matter our choice. And that’s all that matters.”
The dioceses will evaluate the partnership again in October 2021 and will decide three years later whether to continue it.
“We have all experienced the new energy that the conversations about this partnership have created, and we have felt what this infusion of energy could mean for our ministry here in Western New York,” said Franklin, Bishop of Western New York since 2011. “It’s created a kind of electricity and given many of us a renewed, missional hope for the future of the Episcopal Church in this region.”
Rowe will maintain offices in Tonawanda and Erie and make visitations in both dioceses. The dioceses are contiguous and their see cities are about 100 miles apart. Western New York is part of Province II and Northwestern Pennsylvania is part of Province III.
Elected leaders in both dioceses will continue to exercise their canonical functions. Each diocese will maintain its cathedral and send a deputation to the 2021 General Convention.
“This partnership has the chance to infuse invigorating energy into all of us,” said Danielle Bane, of St. Stephen’s Church in Fairview, Pa. “And with that renewal, we can do God’s work with greater generosity because of increased efficiency and a marvelous synergy. I know it will include some hiccups and challenges, but the light that results will shine brighter. A little vulnerability and faith are always part of terrific innovations.”
The vote was the culmination of a 14-month process of consultation. More than 500 people attended eight listening sessions in the two dioceses last winter to discuss the proposed partnership. In May, the standing committees of the two dioceses unanimously voted to support the idea.
“We can credit the work of the Holy Spirit to bring the joint energies and the talents of two dioceses under the dynamic leadership of one bishop,” said the Rev. Luke Fodor, rector of St. Luke’s Church in Jamestown, N.Y. “Sean Rowe is the best possible candidate we could have found to be our provisional bishop. And now, we look to the future of serving beside new colleagues. May this border-crossing moment open our eyes to the way that God is calling forth new realities in our midst.”
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies gave the convention’s keynote address. She said such restructuring initiatives were afoot throughout the Episcopal Church, and described the proposal between Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York as “bolder and more thorough than most.”
“The world might swirl around us, but we know who we are, and we can stretch our identity, our faith, and, yes, even our structures to accommodate the changes we need to make,” Jennings said.
Adapted from the Canticle Communications