In a letter to their dioceses on September 22, 2017, the bishops of the Dioceses of Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania, along with the chairs of their respective standing committees, unveiled an idea they had been discussing quietly for several months: to create a unique partnership in which the two dioceses would share a single bishop, a single staff.
The idea was not simply to save money, but rather to collaborate closely in mission and revitalize the Episcopal Church along the southeastern shores of Lake Erie.
Over the next 13 months, Bishops R. William Franklin of Western New York and Sean W. Rowe of Northwestern Pennsylvania convened listening sessions attended by more than 500 people and won the approval of the relevant governing bodies. Then, on October 26, 2018, at a joint convention in Niagara Falls, both dioceses approved the plan by an overwhelming margin.
On April 7, 2019, Bishop Franklin, who had reached mandatory retirement age, passed his crozier to Bishop Rowe, who became bishop of both dioceses.
Since that time, Bishop Rowe and the dioceses’ leaders have announced formation of a single staff, commenced a mission planning process, and formed several joint commissions and boards to carry out ministerial and administrative functions. On October 25-26, the dioceses met in convention in Erie. The meeting had a common program and common worship, but each diocese conducted its business separately.
The Diocese of Western New York was created in 1838 when the Diocese of New York was split in two. Originally it encompassed the entire state east of Utica. Since the creation of the Diocese of Central New York (1868) and the Diocese of Rochester (1931), it comprises the seven westernmost counties in the state. Its offices are in Tonawanda and its cathedral in Buffalo.
The Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania was created from the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1910 and was initially called the Diocese of Erie. It comprises 13 counties in the northwestern quarter of Pennsylvania. Its offices and cathedral are in Erie.