The Diocese of Western Michigan has elected a priest from the Diocese of North Carolina as its ninth bishop. The Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Jr., was one of four nominees. He has been rector of St. Luke’s Church in Salisbury since 2005.
The nominees included two priests of the diocese — the Rev. Jennifer Adams, rector of Grace Church, Holland, and the Rev. William Spaid, canon to the ordinary — and the Rev. Canon Angela Shepherd, canon for mission, in the Diocese of Maryland.
Numbers shifted among the four nominees so much that it took eight ballots, and the withdrawal of Spaid and Shepherd along the way, to settle the election.
In the diocese’s election booklet Hougland explained the atypical spelling of his Christian name: “It is my great-great-great grandmother’s maiden name and is Welsh for wagon maker — one who makes a way to carry the heavy stuff of life. I like my name and strive to live into it in helping others carry the heavy stuff of life by making a way for God.”
Hougland wrote that he believes the Church is in a “New Apostolic Age” and that “God is seeking bishops to be sent forth into the world as the Apostles of old; on a mission to boldly and bravely preach prophetically to a world starving for spiritual truth. The world doesn’t need administrator bishops or ‘princely’ bishops. The world needs hands-on bishops unafraid to serve the poor, serve their clergy and demonstrate the love of God in Christ by being with and bearing with people in their times of trial. As guardians of the faith, bishops are called to believe when others can’t and to proclaim their faith when others won’t.”
Hougland will succeed the Rt. Rev. Robert Gepert, who is retiring after serving as bishop for 12 years. Bishop Gepert and his wife, Anne Labat-Gepert, will move to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in September to be closer to their family.
The Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan covers the western half of the lower peninsula of Michigan with 10,153 members worshiping in 61 faith communities.