At a joint convention in October 2018, the Episcopal Dioceses of Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York voted by an overwhelming margin to begin an experiment for the sake of the gospel. In this experiment, our two dioceses will share a bishop, the Rt. Rev. Sean W. Rowe, and a staff for the next five years as we explore a deeper relationship focused on creating new opportunities for mission.

The vote was the culmination of a 14-month process during which more than 500 people attended one of eight listening sessions to discuss this new initiative.

The partnership, which is the first of its kind in the Episcopal Church, is about more than sharing a bishop, says Jim Isaac, who was president of the Standing Committee in Western New York when the vote was taken. “Our two dioceses have complementary strengths and we face similar challenges. Together, we are well aligned to respond to what God is doing in our corner of the church.”

Jack Malovich, then president of the Standing Committee in Northwestern Pennsylvania, says the partnership offers not only financial efficiencies, but opportunities for the two dioceses to work together on region-wide ministries. “The people of our dioceses share an industrial past, a respect for the beauty of the Lake Erie region and a history of resilience,” he says. “We are committed to being part of the Rust Belt resurrection that is already underway in Buffalo, Erie and elsewhere.”

In the first three years of the partnership, our two dioceses will work together to deepen relationships and develop shared mission priorities. During this period, the governing bodies of each diocese will work separately under Bishop Rowe’s leadership and with the support of a common staff. The two dioceses will, however, maintain a single Commission on Ministry, and committees and boards representing both dioceses will handle numerous other administrative functions.

In October 2021, having had the opportunity to develop a common mission strategy, we will re-evaluate the partnership and in October 2024, decide whether to continue.

Find out more about the process that led to the partnership on the Rust Belt Episcopal website.