St. Luke’s rector becomes bishop in Michigan

  • Posted: Monday, May 20, 2013 1:07 a.m.
Whayne Hougland
Whayne Hougland

SALISBURY — The Rev. Whayne Hougland, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, has been elected the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan.

Hougland, who has served St. Luke’s since 2005, was elected Saturday during a special convention on the eighth ballot from a field of four candidates. The election, which was held in Grand Rapids, followed a year-long search process.

Hougland said he had no expectations when he was asked to stand for election.

The four candidates were equally strong and similar in terms of theology, he said, “but different in how we see ourselves functioning in that role.”

As bishop, Hougland said he will work to help with healing that needs to take place in the diocese — the district that will be under his pastoral care.

“I hope to be able to bring some joy and some fun to their understanding of the ministry and life of the church,” he said. “They need someone who is a little more relaxed, maybe. I think I can help them with that.”

Hougland said he plans to work with members of the diocese to establish a vision and find common ground, noting he used a similar process when he arrived at St. Luke’s eight and a half years ago.

Now dubbed “the church that feeds people,” St. Luke’s has numerous hunger-fighting ministries, including a community garden that provides fruits and vegetables for the battered women’s shelter. St. Luke’s fills backpacks with food for more than 35 underprivileged students at Koontz Elementary School every week through Food For Thought.

Hougland said he worked with St. Luke’s members to help them “recapture that sense of self and vitality,” which he hopes to do in his new post as well.

Former chairman of the Salisbury Rowan Human Relations Council, Hougland has been outspoken on matters of civil rights and social justice.

Married to Dana Hougland, chairwoman of the Exceptional Children’s Department at Salisbury High School, Whayne Hougland said the couple would have been happy to remain in Salisbury.

However, the new job will bring the Houglands closer to daughters Leigha, who lives in Chicago, and Erin, who lives in Indianapolis.

“And to have the opportunity to move into a more responsible position and have your voice extended to a larger population of Episcopalians and beyond is really exciting,” he said.

Hougland’s election makes him the fourth rector of St. Luke’s to become a bishop, including one rector in the 19th century and two in the 20th century.

St. Luke’s has been in the news recently as the location of Ichabod Crane’s resurrection in the pilot for the new TV show “Sleepy Hollow,” which will air Monday nights on Fox starting in September.

Twentieth Century Fox filmed extensively at the church in March for the pilot but hasn’t yet decided where to shoot the TV series. St. Luke’s iconic tower is featured in a promotional photo for the show.

Hougland, who helped lure the film project, said he hasn’t heard anything from the studio, which made a significant, undisclosed donation to St. Luke’s after shooting the pilot.

Under Episcopal Church canons, the election of a bishop requires the consent from a majority of bishops with jurisdiction and standing committees of the Episcopal Church.

Assuming that consent is received, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, will consecrate Hougland Sept. 28 on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids.

Hougland will succeed the Rt. Rev. Robert Gepert, who is retiring.

The Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan covers the western half of the lower peninsula of Michigan with 10,153 members.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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