New Episcopal bishop will serve WNY and NW Pennsylvania

Apr 8, 2019

Western New York's new Episcopal bishop was installed Sunday as Bishop Sean Rowe was welcomed to St. Paul's Cathedral. Rowe will continue as bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania, sharing staff and doing some travel back and forth.

Bishop William Franklin will be retiring soon and moving to New York City. That's why the new cleric is the "provisional" bishop.

Provisional Episcopal Bishop Sean Rowe was installed Sunday and will replace the retiring Bishop William Franklin.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

At a reception, the new 44-year-old bishop could look around himself and see many Episcopalians who are much older. The new bishop said he is going to head out into the marketplace of ideas and try to reverse the long-term decline in his church membership in this area.

"Our message has not been exactly the most compelling," Rowe said. "What we're hoping is to adapt, to the culture around us, to maintain the truths that we believe, but also to invite this group that doesn't have any use for "organized religion" and to plug them in to something that is historic and ongoing and I really believe that we can do that."

Rowe said he will be using experimentation and adaptation.

"Really, what it's about is continuing to experiment, ways to become more relevant, to be able to connect to the culture around us, to get out into the community and make ourselves more relevant, to experiment, to try and to fail and to continue to reiterate," Rowe said, "I think it's this process of experimentation and doing things a bit differently that I think is going to characterize the next season."

Rowe said there are 8,000 Episcopalians in Western New York and 4,000 in northwestern PA, based in Erie. He said there will be a big push to attract younger people who have no ties to organized religion and have somewhat inaccurate perceptions of organized religion.

"We've got millennials who actually attend church, but don't identify themselves as Christian because that whole idea of being a Christian has been taken over by a very small group of people who do preach a message of exclusivity," Rowe said. "That's not the Christian message, not the message of Jesus. Jesus was with the people that were marginalized, that were outcast."

The new bishop will move here with his wife and six-year-old daughter.