As we continue through this difficult season – including the pandemic, violence on the national stage, the continuing devastation of systemic racism, and especially our bishop’s suspension – the joint Standing Committees of Eastern and Western Michigan invite you to participate in an Affinity Group Conversation.
We believe that we would all benefit from processing together our feelings around our bishop’s misconduct and resulting suspension in the midst of these other challenges. This conversation will be about us, both as individuals and as a community and will be focused on wellness and pastoral care.
As a participant in an “Affinity Group Conversation” you will be placed in a small group of individuals that share similar characteristics of their life and ministry within the church – from our clergy, to our youth, to the every day member of a congregation. These groups will meet at least once over Zoom during February, March, and early April with the specific schedules to be determined by the participants’ availability. Each small group will have a facilitator, either someone from outside our dioceses or someone that might reside within our boundaries but are not part of the Episcopal Church.
It is important to understand that these Affinity Group Conversations are intentionally not for the purpose of information gathering or decision-making. The facilitators of the conversations may relay to the Standing Committees overarching themes they hear, but there will not be members of Standing Committee or our staffs present to record data from the group or individuals. However, you should also be aware that if a concern arises that would indicate a violation of Title IV of our Canons, this would be shared with the appropriate parties and would require private follow-up with the individual raising the issue. We will gather closer to the end of Bishop Hougland’s suspension to do some intentional data collection and listening sessions ahead of the decision that must be made of whether the dioceses would invite Bishop Hougland back into relationship with us.
We hope you will consider joining an Affinity Group. We believe that time spent intentionally processing our experience and feelings ahead of the difficult conversations ahead will be truly beneficial to our individuals, our various communities, and our dioceses at-large.