Committees back Wisconsin dioceses’ merger and a plan to combine Micronesia with Hawai’i

By David Paulsen
Posted Jun 22, 2024

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] The three Episcopal dioceses in Wisconsin took a step closer toward reuniting as the combined Diocese of Wisconsin, and the area mission that includes Guam is on a path to join the Diocese of Hawai’i after committees voted June 22 to recommend both to the 81st General Convention, which convenes June 23-28.

The resolutions were considered and recommended by General Convention’s committees on Governance & Structure. Bishops and deputies serve on distinct but parallel committees that typically meet together to deliberate and vote on resolutions.

All Saints' Cathedral, Milwaukee

All Saints’ Cathedral in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is one of 48 congregations in the Diocese of Milwaukee, one of three Episcopal dioceses in the state: Photo: All Saints’ Cathedral

Resolution D051 would authorize the merger of three Wisconsin dioceses – Milwaukee, Fond du Lac and Eau Claire – based on a plan adopted at a joint convention in May.  The Rev. Jana Troutman-Miller, a deputy from Milwaukee, spoke in favor of the resolution, saying it was the product of a thorough process of discernment – the Trialogue – that receive widespread input from clergy and lay leaders in the state. They also sought advice and encouragement from Episcopal leaders outside of Wisconsin.

“The resolution would not have been before you if it wasn’t for all of these voices we listened to along the way and journeyed with,” Troutman-Miller said.

If approved by General Convention, the reunited Diocese of Wisconsin will include 101 congregations and more than 11,500 baptized members. It would be led by the Rt. Rev. Matthew Gunter, who currently serves as bishop of Fond du Lac and bishop provisional of Eau Claire, while also serving as assisting bishop in the Diocese of Milwaukee during its leadership transition.

This is the second of three diocesan mergers that bishops and deputies will be asked to affirm at the 81st General Convention. In March, the dioceses of Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan voted to combine through a similar canonical process known as juncture, building on a cross-diocesan partnership over four years involving ministry collaboration and some shared leadership.

The Governance & Structure committees in an online meeting in May voted to recommend that merger as proposed in Resolution C025.

And Resolution B006, if approved, would merge the area mission of Micronesia with the Diocese of Hawai’i. It was proposed by Hawai’i Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick on behalf of Episcopalians in Micronesia, and he testified in favor of it at the June 22 hearing.

“This is a return home,” Fitzpatrick said, noting that Guam once was part of the Missionary District of Honolulu, which later became the Diocese of Hawai’i.

The Micronesia mission currently includes the Pacific islands of Guam and Saipan. There is one Episcopal congregation on each island. Fitzpatrick already serves as Micronesia’s bishop in charge, and all clergy in Micronesia are canonically resident in Hawai’i.

The committees voted in favor of Resolution B006, which would create The Episcopal Church’s largest geographical diocese. Guam is about 4,000 miles from Hawai’i – which, as Fitzpatrick said, is about as far as Hawai’i is from Louisville.

The three mergers would follow two years after bishops and deputies at the 80th General Convention authorized the reunion of the Episcopal Church in North Texas, a Fort Worth-based diocese, with the larger Diocese of Texas.

The 81st General Convention also is poised to elevate The Episcopal Church in Navajoland, another area mission, to the status of missionary diocese.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service based in Wisconsin. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


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