Whayne Hougland resigns as bishop of Western, Japanese Michigan after being suspended for infidelity – Episcopal Information Service
[Episcopal News Service] Bishop Whayne Hougland will step down from the leadership of the Dioceses of West Michigan and East Michigan, the dioceses announced on June 28, as Hougland is close to completing his year-long suspension after admitting an extramarital affair.
Hougland had served as diocesan bishop of western Michigan and provisional bishop of eastern Michigan in a partnership between the two dioceses. In the spring, clergy and lay leaders, as well as other members of the two dioceses, conducted a decision-making process on whether to welcome him back after his suspension ended on July 1st. In online meetings with Hougland, the dioceses concluded that he should resign.
“We know and understand that our continued mission and service, including our growing relationships between our two dioceses, would be hindered by [Hougland’s] Reinstatement in office, ”said the standing committees of the dioceses in their joint statement on June 28th.
Rev. Rev. Skip Adams, a retired bishop of Central New York, began serving the two dioceses as assistant bishop on February 1, and the standing committees said they will ask Adams to hold that role for at least the coming months keep track of how the dioceses determine their next steps. An ordained bishop can serve as an auxiliary bishop to fulfill a specific function determined by the ecclesiastical authority of a diocese. The standing committees in east and west Michigan remain the ecclesiastical authorities of the dioceses.
“This has been a difficult and painful year,” said the standing committees. “The news of our bishop may feel welcome to some and disappointing to others, with something of every other feeling in between. Breaking up a relationship with a pastor does not happen lightly or without deep and long prayer and judgment. “
At the same time, their message reaffirmed the dioceses’ commitment to sharing resources and developing ministries together.
“For the next few years… we will continue our conscious exploration of the relationship between our two dioceses. The standing committees really appreciate the relationship we have with one another, ”said the standing committees. “This burgeoning relationship has been a deep source of joy and hope for all of us.”
The two dioceses signed their partnership agreement in 2019, and part of that agreement was the sharing of a bishop. Hougland, Bishop of Western Michigan since 2013, was elected Provisional Bishop of Eastern Michigan in October 2019.
The two dioceses’ standing committees announced in June 2020 that Hougland had reached an agreement with incumbent Bishop Michael Curry on a one-year suspension after admitting he had made “serious mistakes” in pursuing the affair. The other person involved in the affair was not an episcopalist or a member of the staff of any of the dioceses and, according to the dioceses, no state or federal laws were broken.
Hougland apologized in a detailed written apology a year ago when news of his suspension became known. “I still don’t fully understand why I acted like this, but I am solely responsible for my actions and the discipline that the presiding bishop and I have agreed,” he said at the time.
Hougland’s suspension will expire on July 1st and his resignation will take effect on that day, based on the separation agreement he has made with the dioceses.
Curry responded on June 28th with a pastoral letter to the two dioceses. “While I hoped that this difficult and sacred work would lead to the return of Bishop Hougland to ministry in your two dioceses, the distinction has created the need to end your relationship as a bishop and dioceses,” said Curry. “I affirm both the integrity of your judgment and your resulting decision.”
The presiding bishop also offered his blessing as the dioceses move forward in partnership. “This bold experiment in mission is certainly born of the Spirit and offers a hopeful model for the rest of the Church,” he said.
Upon announcing the resignation, the standing committees invited Episcopalists in east and west Michigan to pray for Hougland and his wife. Anyone wanting to message them can do so by addressing them to the Western Michigan Diocesan Offices.
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.