Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan vote to combine as Diocese of the Great Lakes

By ENS staff
Posted Mar 18, 2024
Juncture vote

Clergy and lay leaders in the dioceses of Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan attend a special joint convention March 16 to vote for juncture, moving toward a possible merger of the dioceses by the end of the year. Photo: Ryan Prins/Episcopal Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan

[Episcopal News Service] The dioceses of Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan voted on March 16 to pursue juncture, a canonical process that would merge the two dioceses and build on a partnership over four years involving ministry collaboration and some shared leadership, including a bishop.

The planned juncture, which now heads for final approval in June by the 81st General Convention, also aims to set the two dioceses on a new path together following tumultuous leadership transitions involving bishop disciplinary cases spanning nearly their entire time as partner dioceses.

At the weekend’s special joint convention, held at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Grand Blanc, the votes in the two dioceses were overwhelmingly in favor of the juncture – 85% yes in the Diocese of Eastern Michigan and 82% in favor in the Diocese of Western Michigan.

The canonical process of “juncture” applies when two dioceses have not previously been a single diocese together. If the juncture is approved by bishops and deputies when they gather for General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, the first convention of the newly created Diocese of the Great Lakes would be scheduled for October in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Its business is expected to include the adoption of a new constitution and canons and elections to leadership bodies.

Eastern Michigan, based in Saginaw, and Western Michigan, based in Grand Rapids, are two of four Episcopal dioceses in the state. The Diocese of Michigan includes Detroit and the southeastern region of the state, while the Diocese of Northern Michigan encompasses the state’s more remote and sparsely populated Upper Peninsula.

Western Michigan was founded in 1874 after separating from the Diocese of Michigan, while Eastern Michigan separated from the Diocese of Michigan in 1995. Eastern Michigan has not had a diocesan bishop since 2017, when the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley resigned to join the presiding bishop’s staff as head of the Office of Pastoral Development.

In October 2019, the two dioceses voted at their conventions to establish a formal partnership that included sharing Western Michigan Bishop Whayne Hougland Jr., who was elected bishop provisional of Eastern Michigan. Hougland, however, was suspended for one year in June 2020 after admitting to an extramarital affair. A year later, the two dioceses announced they had chosen not to welcome him back as their bishop.

Instead, they sought a new bishop provisional and elected the Rt. Rev. Prince Singh to that role in October 2021. Singh, formerly bishop of New York’s Diocese of Rochester, began serving the two Michigan dioceses in February 2022 but resigned in September 2023 to face allegations of domestic abuse from his ex-wife and two adult sons under the church’s Title IV disciplinary canons for clergy.

Retired Bishop Skip Adams agreed in November 2023 to serve Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan in the interim as an assisting bishop as the dioceses work toward juncture.