Eastern and Western Michigan Bishop Whayne Hougland Jr. suspended for extramarital affair

By ENS staff
Posted Jun 16, 2020

The Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland Jr. Photo: Diocese of Eastern Michigan

[Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan] Eastern and Western Michigan Bishop Whayne Hougland Jr. has been suspended for one year as part of a Title IV disciplinary action after admitting to an extramarital affair, according to a June 15 notice from the two dioceses’ standing committees.

“Today, we were notified of an accord reached between the presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, and our bishop, the Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr., as part of a Title IV disciplinary action,” the dioceses said. Final action on the accord is pending action by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops.

Hougland, in a meeting with Bishop Todd Ousley, who leads The Episcopal Church’s Office of Pastoral Development, disclosed that he had made “serious mistakes” and admitted his participation in an extramarital affair. The other person involved in the affair is not an Episcopalian and is not a member of the staff of either diocese. No state or federal laws have been broken, according to the dioceses.

“Under the Canons of The Episcopal Church, an accord is a written resolution to the disciplinary process, which is negotiated by and agreed to by both parties,” the notice said.

Hougland was elected the ninth bishop of Western Michigan in May 2013. The Diocese of Eastern Michigan elected him as its bishop provisional during its October 2019 convention. Hougland was to serve both dioceses concurrently as the two bodies entered into a three- to five-year period of conversation around relationship and shared resources.

According to the notice, the two dioceses’ standing committees have met and are working out the details of the one-year leave, including a plan for maintaining the daily operations of the dioceses. Specifics will be available next week.

“We also are committed to affirming the vote taken last fall to explore mutual relationship between our dioceses for three to five years, by making decisions together as much as is possible and appropriate, maintaining our now-regular joint meetings of Standing Committees and staffs, as well as continuing all other ongoing and potential ministry collaborations,” the notice said.

In an apology from Hougland that followed the standing committees’ notice, the bishop wrote: “I do not yet fully understand why I behaved in this manner, but I alone am responsible for my actions and the discipline that the presiding bishop and I have agreed to. Over the next year, I will carefully and fully examine what I need to do to be the person you and I expect me to be. During this time, I will be repentant, take the steps I need to amend my life, and request forgiveness from those I have wronged. I am thankful for the grace of the Holy Spirit and the promise of forgiveness for those who are truly repentant. I will do the work.”