Support the Café

Search our Site

An interactive timeline shows the history of the office of Presiding Bishop

An interactive timeline shows the history of the office of Presiding Bishop

Twenty-five men and one woman have held the office of presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church. Episcopal News Service offers an annotated timeline of the ministry of each presiding bishop. The dates listed indicate each presiding bishop’s time in office. This timeline has links to photos, news coverage and other resources where available. Questions, corrections and suggestions may be sent to

The presiding bishop is chief pastor and primate of the church, chair of theExecutive Council, and president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

Here is an interactive timeline of the 26 people who have been presiding bishop.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jay Croft

“PB resigning one’s diocesan role happened in the 40s. John Gardner Murray, first elected PB, remained the Bishop of MD until he died. As did his successors.”

I can’t figure out this sentence. Do you mean that all PBs after Murray were bishops of the Diocese of Maryland, and that they all died in office?

No, you must mean something else.

Prof Christopher Seitz

His successors did not resign their diocesan posts until 1944. Tucker of VA was the first to do that.

I am unaware of any other Province of the Communion that follows this practice.

And now the PB has disciplinary authority over Bishops Diocesan. That has been a hotly contested notion–firmly rejected previously–until 2012.

John Chilton

“I am unaware of any other Province of the Communion that follows this practice.”

Let’s suppose none do. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad practice. When The Episcopal Church made the change it made very good sense, and I think it still does. Being a diocesan is a very big job. One doesn’t want to hamper a diocese by making it’s diocesan into a part timer.

Perhaps the debate is over whether the position of Presiding Bishop should be part time in order to limit the extent to which office holder has time for the position — and exercise authority.

I know of plenty of Provinces in the Communion where the primate holds far more authority than in The Episcopal Church. That they may hold dual posts is irrelevant to the scope of their authority. It’s easier to be a diocesan, too, when you have more authority than US diocesans do — far less consensus building.

If the PB has more disciplinary authority in the past — well, we’ve plenty of justification why it’s needed, whether in dioceses where the bishop went off the rails, or, yes, in dioceses where the diocesan abandoned The Episcopal Church.

Prof Christopher Seitz

PB resigning one’s diocesan role happened in the 40s. John Gardner Murray, first elected PB, remained the Bishop of MD until he died. As did his successors.

John Chilton

“PB resigning one’s diocesan role happened in the 40s.” Yes.
“Henry St. George Tucker was the first Presiding Bishop who was required to re- sign his own jurisdiction under a new provision in the Constitution, to occur when he assumes office or within six months. Bishop Tucker resigned his diocesan post in Virginia in 1944, as soon as the new provision went into effect, which was six years after he became Presiding Bishop in 1938.”

Prof Christopher Seitz

If no one is writing anything (you regard as) of substance, well that’s your own problem. I agree that there seems to be a strange silence inhabiting this and other blogs. Perhaps it is because the progressives have won?

The hierarchical drift in the PB office is part of a new polity. The constitution does not envisage or permit this, but the Title IV disciplinary canon has set this in motion. It is doubtful that a new PB could dismantle that even if he/she wished.

That was the point of ‘substance’ in my comments. I can recall the time when the PB was simply the oldest or longest serving Diocesan. So it remains in the Scottish Episcopal Church and everywhere else in the Communion.

Jon White

Since the HoB’s has been electing PB’s since then 1920’s it seems unlikely that you have any personal recollection of the period before that.

That aside, your list of ideas above is worth engaging:
1. Suffragans dispatched to handle 25 dioceses no longer able to function independently;

I don’t see how this would work pragmatically, nor culturally. The most recent GC did pass legislation that should suggest merger of smaller dioceses as an option prior to entering into any episcopal elections. Some mergers should occur, undoubtedly. And yet, those allegedly unsustainable dioceses continue on somehow…
For this to work, all those Suffragans would need to be paid for, by whom? The Church Center? Wouldn’t that just result in more of the centralization you’re complaining about? By wealthier dioceses emerging from mergers? Could a 6000 person diocese afford two bishops when two 3000 person dioceses couldn’t? By Texas or Long Island? Why should they bear the burden?

2. A new PB role evacuating all legal expense and time–inordinate now already, and way cost inefficient;

I’m not exactly clear what you’re saying here. The PB shouldn’t be an executive officer of the DFMS? Can you be clearer on what you would want the PB to do exactly? Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church in tiny Scotland isn’t really the equivalent (organizationally) as PB of a church with 110 dioceses in multiple countries. Or are you suggesting there should be no Church Center at all? I’m not necessarily opposed to the notion, but there are some things which a unified effort of the whole church can better accomplish, and that needs to be organized in some way.

3. Closing of 4 seminaries; the proliferation of alternative ways of doing theological education may not be my cup of tea, but over 50% of ordinands no longer attend a TEC seminary; reality;

Once again, seminaries are independent entities with no support or oversight from the DFMS. They sink or swim on their own. However, let me just say that the notion of creating 110 diocesan “seminaries” instead of 9 or ten hardly seems a good idea. Seminaries are one of the unifiers of our church and we dispose of them at our peril. How about, we put some dollars into their support as a whole church (and I don’t mean the 1% ask of parishes). Also, though about half of ordained priests did not attend an Episcopal seminary, about 80% of those who are full-time stipended priests did. There is still value in attending an Episcopal Seminary.

4. anticipating yet further ASA decline and figuring out what to do about that.

Ah, this is the $64,000 question. And it is happening all around us, already, even if not as a centralized effort (yet). Episcopalians aren’t like dodo’s – there won’t be some sad lonely last Episcopalian wandering around someday. Despite overall downward trends, there are lots of congregations that are thriving and growing and doing great work. As long as these desire to be together there will be an Episcopal Church.

Prof Christopher Seitz

I grew up in a clergy family of three generations! Of course I have a personal recollection — my father and grandfather remarked on what they regarded as a bad development. And the PB remaining a Diocesan does not go back to 1920.

#1. You can tell folk how you will solve the problem. 35% of dioceses cannot sustain a Bishop and Staff. If merged, a single Diocesan would need a Suffragan’s assistance. This is cheaper than 2 Diocesans and the individual staff.

#2. Let the now-PB call off any further litigation. It is time-consuming, staff-consuming, costly and sends a terrible message to non-Christians.

#3. The main point is to do with the need for down-sizing and not pretending this is the Church of 1970.

#4. Immediately this must be Priority Number 1. One can see what happens to +Sauls.

Prof Christopher Seitz

I agree. I thought the point was obvious. CofE Bishops who wear black do so because a) they have no need of asserting prelacy, b) they have ecumenical concerns with Bishops of churches who do not wear purple.

The PB of TEC used to be a Bishop among Bishops.

Title IV has created an office the Constitution never allowed/envisioned, and this tracks with an odd desire to have a Single Hierarch in a church which never even had archbishops.

It will take the next generation to clean up the fallout from this.

Ann Fontaine

Yes- Christopher — I think you have made this point. Many times. Thanks.

John Chilton

I hasten to add I join all those who find it absurd how this comment thread is dominated by a discussion of shirt colors.

David Streever

Absurd and hard to take seriously. It reads like a bunch of Star Wars nerds arguing over the finer details of lightsaber construction while studiously avoiding talking about anything of real depth or personal importance.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café