Dear Friends in Christ,
We write today with news about our life together at the conclusion of the suspension of our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr.
After a series of lengthy, honest, and occasionally painful conversations, the Standing Committees, Diocesan Councils, and Bishop Hougland have reached a separation agreement that will result in his resignation as Bishop Diocesan of Western Michigan and as Bishop Provisional of Eastern Michigan, effective July 1, 2021.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr.
Bishop Diocesan, Western Michigan
Bishop Provisional, Eastern Michigan
The Joint Standing Committees of Eastern & Western Michigan
People of Eastern & Western Michigan,
Over the last several months, the bishop and leadership of the two dioceses have undergone a period of mutual discernment that has led us to this current moment.
The Joint Standing Committees began early this Spring in preliminary conversations with Bishop Hougland about how we would undertake this discernment. Lay and clergy leaders met in Affinity Groups for pastoral processing of the last year. We received hundreds of submissions to a written survey from our laity and clergy, articulating reflections about our life together as dioceses and in relation to the episcopacy. And recently, a series of conversations were held in which our clergy community met with Whayne, hearing what he has done and experienced over the last year and sharing with him what they had done and experienced over the last year. These conversations were difficult, honest, and holy.
After every step, we would sit back, review the gathered feedback, and determine together whether we would continue on in conversation. Though we had anticipated another series of conversations and surveys as part of our continued discernment, it was clear, based on the responses we had already received from you, and out of concern for the emotional toll on our dioceses, that this process had come to a conclusion. This does not mean that we don’t love and care for one another — simply that we know and understand that our continued mission and ministry, including our growing relationship between our two dioceses, would be impeded by reinstatement to office.
Over the next few years, in a process facilitated by the Building Bridges Steering Committee, we will continue 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 broadly embraced, as evidenced in survey responses and our conversations with the clergy. The appointed Steering Committee has already been hard at work, beginning to invite others to help facilitate research, internal and external conversations, asset mapping, and more. This burgeoning relationship has been a deep source of joy and hope for us all.
The Standing Committees are in conversation with our Assisting Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Skip Adams, to extend his time with our dioceses over the next several months. We are also in conversation with the Presiding Bishop’s Office and our consultant, Dr. Melissa Perrin, about how we might attend to the pastoral needs of our community in the aftermath of this suspension and pending separation — more on this to come.
Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” Our dioceses are not central administrative offices in Saginaw and Wyoming, but a network of churches and organizations and ministries and individuals from coast to coast, working together for the Kingdom of God. This has been a difficult and painful year. The news about our bishop may feel welcome to some and disappointing to others, with a bit of every other feeling in-between. The severing of a relationship with a pastor is not one that happens lightly or without deep and prolonged prayer and discernment.
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 within a sealed envelope, you ensure that your message will not be mistakenly read by others. You may also send greetings by email, by forwarding your message to firstname.lastname@example.org, understanding that its contents will not be totally private as it gets forwarded to its intended recipient.
Finally, we invite you to pray for our dioceses, for one another, and for Whayne and Dana Hougland. The following collects are offered for your personal intercessions and as part of corporate worship, during the Prayers of the People.
A Prayer for Parting
Gracious and loving God, destination of all our journeys; be with Whayne, Dana, and our two dioceses as we move from what was to what shall be. Help us reflect on the joys, memories, and hardships of our time together without clinging to the past, but in preparation for continued ministry in your Name. Assist us in gratitude and forgiveness, for you bless and forgive, and to you we give praise, holy and undivided Trinity, our One God, now and for ever. Amen.
A Prayer for the Dioceses
Blessed God, who makes all things new: Grant that our two dioceses, as communities of Word and Sacrament, may be leaven for the world’s bread, and wine of delight for hearts in need; a gathering strong for service and glad in praise; and a people listening and responding to your presence in our midst; through Jesus our redeemer and steadfast companion. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
The Standing Committee of Eastern Michigan
Janet Huff Worvie, President
St. John’s, Otter Lake
The Rev. Brian Chace, Vice Pres.
Ret., West Branch
St. Paul’s, Gladwin
Barb Illka, Secretary
St. John’s, Saginaw
The Rev. Deacon Anna Leigh Kubbe
Holy Family, Blue Water
The Rev. Nancy Mayhew
St. Alban’s, Bay City
The Standing Committee of Western Michigan
The Rev. Dr. Randall R. Warren, Pr.
St. Luke’s, Kalamazoo
Martha Bartlett, Secretary
St. James, Pentwater
The Rev. Jodi Baron
St. Philip’s, Beulah & Holy Trinity, Manistee
St. Mark’s, Coldwater
St. Mark’s, Coldwater
The Rev. BJ Heyboer, Vice Pres.
St. Mark’s, Newaygo
The Rev. Diane Pike
Southwest MI Episcopal Covenant
St. Philip’s, Grand Rapids