My sources in northern Wisconsin told me moments ago that the Episcopal Diocese of Eau Claire and the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, both meeting in convention today, have voted to approve a merger of the two dioceses.
[Update - 2:58 p.m.:] A press release has just appeared on the Diocese of Fond du Lac website.
[Update - 3:44 p.m.:] An announcement has also appeared on the Diocese of Eau Claire website in which Bishop Edwin Leidel states:
Today our two dioceses made history. Never before have two dioceses in the Episcopal Church "junctioned" together. So, today we begin a new journey to create a new Diocese in northern Wisconsin.
The "junctioning," as it is being called (is there some reason why they want to avoid the term "merger"?), of the two dioceses has been a matter of study and discussion for the past several years and comes amidst losses in membership and attendance in both dioceses, but particularly the Diocese of Eau Claire.
Statistics for 2010 show that the Diocese of Fond du Lac has seen a decline in average Sunday attendance from approximately 2800 to 2100 (for the entire diocese) during the period from 2003 to 2010. The Diocese of Eau Claire has seen a decline in average Sunday attendance from approximately 1000 to 800 (again, for the entire diocese) in the past four years (2006-2010).
While this may be the first time in the history of the Episcopal Church that two dioceses have "junctioned," it appears that this solution may be adopted in other Episcopal dioceses with declining membership in the years ahead.