Deputies from West and East Michigan ask convention to order review of how bishops are disciplined – Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] When the Episcopal Church’s Office of Pastoral Development applies the Church’s canons of clergy discipline to a bishop, the resulting process can “perpetuate the systemic episcopal privilege of white males in a costly way for the Church. in terms of money, members and institutional integrity. according to a group of Episcopalians from western and eastern Michigan who have recently gone through such a process.

Episcopalians from the West and East Michigan Dioceses proposed Resolution D095 around 80e General convention to begin breaking what they call the “systemic cycle of privilege by virtue of position (and perhaps gender and race) [that] still has a hold on us,” according to their pointed explanation.

They called for a “task force for the review of the office of pastoral development of the presiding bishop and the Title IV process” to examine the implementation of Title IV cases in which a bishop is the defendant; consistency of Title IV processes for priests, deacons, and bishops; the process of episcopal transition, in particular the placement of interim or provisional bishops; and “other pastoral care offered and authority exercised by the office”. The disciplinary procedure is described in Title IV of the church constitution and canons.

The Rt. Rev. Whayne Hougland Jr., former bishop of the Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan dioceses, was suspended from episcopal ministry in June 2020 for one year after admitting an extramarital affair. Photo: Diocese of Eastern Michigan

Proponents of the resolution base their concerns on their experience of the disciplinary process when the Rt. June 2020 for a year after admitting an extramarital affair.

In a June 23 hearing, the House of Bishops Legislative Committee on Title IV Disciplinary Canons unanimously agreed to revise the resolution for the convention to direct the Standing Committee on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons to perform the examination. Committee members said the change would allow more time for a review than the little over a year that would be available for a working group before it has to report back to the 2024 gathering of 81st General agreement. The committee of bishops handled the review as the resolution was referred to the House of Bishops for initial action.

The Reverend Jennifer Adams, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan, in western Michigan and author of the resolution, told Episcopal News Service that the change is “a wise way forward.” She noted that a standing committee can continue its work in the following triennium, while a working group should complete its work and the convention should agree to reconstitute it.

Thirteen other lay deputies and clergy from both dioceses endorsed the resolution, 11 more than the required number. Two other people are listed as “supporters” of the resolution. The drafters consulted with Provisional Prince Singh, Bishop of West and East Michigan, according to Adams.

Adams said MPs offer the resolution ‘part of our healing to be able to tell the truth about what happened to the largest church’ and to help other members of the Episcopal Church avoid the harm they say to have suffered. “We are grateful to be in a church where we can raise issues like this and be heard,” she said.

Hougland’s suspension ended in July 2021 and he resigned from his position in both dioceses. He also had to fulfill other stipulations made in a disciplinary agreement, including receiving counseling. He was unanimously readmitted to the House of Bishops as a non-voting member in March 2022 after his colleagues were told he had “completely, generously and graciously fulfilled” the other stipulations of the agreement. discipline, including obtaining advice.

After the House vote, the Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, Bishop for Pastoral Development, hailed Hougland’s return as a “moment of reconciliation” that was an example of “living in the highest ideals of our process.” of Title IV”, according to a Press release from the church’s public affairs office.

The “highest ideals” to which Ousley was referring were enshrined in the Church’s clergy disciplinary canons by the 76th General Convention in 2009 when it approved their redesign, moving them away from a court-based system towards one based on safety, truth, healing and reconciliation. MPs who proposed D095 say what they experienced fell short of those ideals.

Their explanation argues that “the manner in which Title IV has been implemented in our situation has only reinforced some of our worst collective failures.” They say the dioceses felt compelled to fund the costs of the disciplinary agreement that Hougland and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry agreed to without following all the steps of the Title IV disciplinary process. They also said there was “inconsistent monitoring” of Hougland’s compliance with his terms.

Hougland took a 40% pay cut with full benefits, according to the deputies, who added that a few months earlier the bishop had received a 40% pay rise at his insistence on taking responsibility for the two dioceses. . MPs say, “the system has not only taken care of him [emphasis in original]he did so in extremely costly ways, to the financial and emotional detriment of those he had sworn to pastor, in the name of “healing” and “reconciliation.” They argue that the dioceses received “almost none” of the support that Hougland did.

Adams said MPs who introduced D095 hope the resolution isn’t about one person or one office. They hope that “our experience could speak to something larger that needs attention, particularly the processes, practices and policies of the Office of Pastoral Development as well as the need to better resource and support this work.”

The deputies say in their explanation that there are problems in the structure and lines of authority of the Office of Pastoral Development. They say there is “a lack of clarity about what is expected of this office given the multiple parties involved in disciplining a bishop and the lack of a public, documented process for this disciplinary situation.”

According to deputies, Ousley “seemed compelled to serve in conflicting roles in this matter”. He was the admissions officer who received Hougland’s admission of the case and was responsible for providing pastoral support and supplying candidates for provisional episcopal oversight. Additionally, Ousley had served as the Bishop of Eastern Michigan from 2007 until his appointment to the Office of Pastoral Development in 2013.

Proponents also argue that the Office of Pastoral Development is “underfunded” for the work it needs to do. The General Convention will also consider Resolution A143proposed by the church’s Executive Board, to add a permanent senior staff position to the Office of Pastoral Development.

Ousley was out of the office on June 24 when the ENS tried to contact him, but he already said The Living Church, it would be inappropriate to speak about pending legislation as an employee of the church.

Hougland was elected the ninth Bishop of Western Michigan in May 2013. The Diocese of Eastern Michigan elected him as its provisional bishop at his October 2019 convention. Hougland was to serve both dioceses as the two organizations began a three- to five-year period of conversation about relationships and shared resources.

He should become the acting rector of St. Chrysostom Episcopal Church in Chicago, Illinois, in July. The church announcement included information about Hougland’s suspension, saying parish officials believe his experience “could be an asset to our community – to help us be more open about where we miss and catalyze new conversations about our identity, our heritage and our future.”

– Reverend Mary Frances Schjonberg retired in July 2019 as editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service.

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