1. What is our current status regarding our bishop and ecclesiastical authority?
The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, placed the Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr. on a one-year suspension from ministry beginning in July of 2020. In June 2021, the Standing Committees of Eastern and Western Michigan reached an agreement with Bishop Hougland that includes resignation as Bishop Diocesan of Western Michigan and Bishop Provisional of Eastern Michigan on July 1, 2021.
At this time, the Standing Committees hold the ecclesiastical authority of the dioceses with episcopal support from our Assisting Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gladstone (Skip) Adams (Ret., Central New York).
2. What is a Standing Committee and who serves on it?
The Standing Committee is one of the elected bodies responsible for the governance of a diocese. It is described as the council of advice to the bishop and assumes the ecclesastical authority of a diocese when there is a bishop vacancy. Standing Committees play an integral role in property matters, the ordination process, and our relationship with the wider Episcopal Church. Each Standing Committee elects officers from amongst their members, including a President, Vice President, and Secretary.
The Standing Committee of Eastern Michigan is composed of three clergy members and three lay members, who also serve on the Diocesan Council. Those members are Janet Huff-Worvie (President; St. John’s, Otter Lake), the Rev. Brian Chace (Vice-President; Retired), Gary Grinn (Secretary; St. Paul’s, Gladwin), Barb Ilkka (Secretary; St. John’s, Saginaw), the Rev. Deacon Anna Leigh Kubbe (Holy Family, Blue Water), and the Rev. Nancy Mayhew (St. Alban’s, Bay City).
The Standing Committee of Western Michigan is composed of four clergy members and four lay members. Those members are Dave Croal (St. Mark’s, Coldwater), Anne Davidson (St. Mark’s, Coldwater), Carole Redwine (St. Philip’s, Grand Rapids), the Rev. BJ Heyboer (Vice-President; St. Mark’s, Newaygo), the Rev. Jodi Baron (St. Philip’s, Beulah; Holy Trinity, Manistee), the Rev. Diane Pike (Southwest Michigan Episcopal Covenant – Dowagiac, Niles, St. Joseph); Martha Bartlett (Secretary; St. James, Pentwater); and the Rev. Dr. Randall Warren (President; St. Luke’s, Kalamazoo).
3. What are the Standing Committees doing right now?
Currently, the Standing Committees of Eastern and Western Michigan are meeting as a joint body on a bi-weekly basis via Zoom including members of the diocesan canon-level staff. As needed, each Standing Committee meets separately to consider issues specific to their diocese. In between meetings, our members are connected and communicating through electronic means.
Here are some of the things we’re up to:
- Ensuring the day to day mission and ministry of the dioceses continues and reflects the mission, vision, and cultures of our dioceses. To stay up to date on these, make sure you’re connected to our diocesan communications to hear of updates and invitations (Click here to sign up).
- Personnel decisions
- Receiving and responding to general inquiries from members of the diocese
- Decision making around the Re-Entry directives
- The regular duties and responsibilities of a Standing Committee, such as property matters, consents to bishop elections in other dioceses, and our role within the ordination process
The secretaries of our Standing Committees, Gary Grinn and Martha Bartlett, are posting executive summaries of the regular joint meetings on a weekly basis to our diocesan websites for any members of the diocese to review. Click here for Eastern Michigan’s website, or click here for Western Michigan’s website.
4. What is “Ecclesiastical Authority?”
In simplest terms, “Ecclesiastical Authority” is another way of referring to the authority inherent in the office of the bishop. Authority for certain actions and decisions are assigned to bishops by the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, the local diocese, the Book of Common Prayer, and the traditions of the Christian church. Sacramental actions and certain disciplinary actions may only be performed by individuals who have been ordained to the episcopate, but other responsibilities and oversight can be exercised or delegated by a Standing Committee.
5. How will we continue our diocesan mission and ministry, separately and together, without a bishop in place?
All mission and ministry of the dioceses and their congregations continue even when a bishop is not in place. It continues because we are a Church and dioceses that value the ministry, contributions, and leadership of all the baptized.
We also recognize and value that our mission and ministry are not determined by a bishop alone, but as a conversation with the wider diocese, coming from the people, the grassroots. Over the last several years and over their lifetimes, both dioceses have mission and vision and values that have been developed through various discernment processes and lived experiences in relationship with one another. These help guide our continued decision making and enrich our experience of working with one another across diocesan lines. We look forward to the opportunity to explore and experience deeper relationships and ministry opportunities with one another.
6. How will we continue the work of exploring our 3-5 year relationship?
Over the next few years, in a process facilitated by the Building Bridges Steering Committee, we will continue on in our intentional exploration of relationship between our two dioceses. The Standing Committees deeply value the relationship we have with one another, both in navigating the difficulties of the last year and in the continuing and developing mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church in Eastern and Western Michigan. This desire was shared broadly, articulated clearly through the responses to the written survey and in our conversations with the clergy. The <appointed Steering Committee> has been hard at work on this already and has begun to call in others to help facilitate research, internal and external conversations, asset mapping and more.
7. How do we remain in contact with the Standing Committee and staff during this process?
First, please make sure you are subscribed to receive our diocesan communications. We are committed to transparency and communicating as much as we can, when we can. This is also how you can find out more about the life and ministry of our dioceses and opportunities to learn, pray, and discern together. Our primary mode of communication is by email. Sign up to receive our communications here.
The secretaries of our Standing Committees, Barb Illka and Martha Bartlett are posting executive summaries of the regular joint meetings on a weekly basis to our diocesan websites for any members of the diocese to review. Click here for Eastern Michigan’s website, or click here for Western Michigan’s website.
Members of the Standing Committees are available to all people of the dioceses to offer feedback or ask questions. Please route inquiries through the diocesan offices, either to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, there is at least one clergy member of the Standing Committees present to attend each of the eight Clericus meetings across our dioceses, which are currently taking place at least monthly.
The staffs of the dioceses continue to meet together as a joint body and carry out their responsibilities with the people and leaders of our parishes. Contact forms and staff information are available at eastmich.org/staff and edwm.org/contact. At this time, our office hours are very limited. The best means of contact for staff is by email, though they will receive voicemail messages as well.
9. WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE SEPARATION AGREEMENT WITH WHAYNE?
The Standing Committees and Diocesan Councils of the dioceses, in conversation with Bishop Hougland and the Presiding Bishop’s Office, came to a separation agreement in exchange for Whayne’s resignation as Bishop Provisional of Eastern Michigan and Bishop Diocesan of Western Michigan. The agreement includes a limited extension of his reduced salary, one year of COBRA health insurance, and the completion of our financial support for Dana, approved at the beginning of the suspension.
The dioceses’ share of the financial cost of the separation agreement was determined by many factors, including Whayne’s length of service with each diocese.
9. WHAT’S NEXT FOR EPISCOPAL OVERSIGHT OF OUR TWO DIOCESES?
The Standing Committees are in conversation with the Rt. Rev. Skip Adams to extend his time with us as Assisting Bishop over the next several months. They have also engaged in preliminary conversations with the Presiding Bishop’s Office about next steps on a more permanent basis.
10. HOW CAN I SEND A NOTE TO WHAYNE OR DANA?
If you’d like to send a note to Whayne or Dana, please forward it to the Western Michigan Diocesan Office, 5347 Clyde Park Ave SW, Wyoming, MI 49509. By sending it in a sealed envelope, you ensure that your message will not be mistakenly read by others. You may also send greetings by email, by sending your message to email@example.com, understanding that your message will not be totally private as it gets forwarded to its intended recipient.
11. How do we pray for one another during this time?
In the place of the bishop during the regular prayers of the people, it is appropriate to pray for the Standing Committee.
We also commend to you, the Prayer for a Diocese, available on page 817 of the Book of Common Prayer; and the Prayer for Mission, available on page 816.