Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem

Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem
Diocese of Bethlehem
Ecclesiastical province III (Middle Atlantic)
Parishes 68
Cathedral Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Current leadership
Bishop Paul V. Marshall
Suffragans John P. Croneberger[1]

Location of the Diocese of Bethlehem

The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem covers fourteen counties in Pennsylvania to the north and west of Philadelphia. The bishop is Paul V. Marshall. The cathedral is the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The pro-cathedral is St Stephen's, Wilkes-Barre.



The first Anglican services in the area comprising the Diocese of Bethlehem were held in Perkiomen in 1700. Settlers of English and Welsh ancestry were visited there by the Reverend Evan Evans, rector of Philadelphia's Christ Church. Two years later, this group formed the parish of St. James. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was formed in London in 1701, with the initial goal of funding missionary clergy in America. Until the American Revolution brought an end the Society's activities in the United States, it provided support to the few itinerant Anglican clergy in rural Pennsylvania.[2]

In early Pennsylvania settlements, missionaries of the Church of Sweden and the Church of England had a cooperative relationship, and Anglicans often worshipped with the small Swedish congregations. As Sweden decreased support for these congregations, some were taken over by Anglican clergy.[3]In 1753, a former Swedish church near Hopewell Furnace became St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church.[4] St. Gabriel's later established a missionary parish in Reading, which at first met in member's homes.[5]This parish, St. Mary's, later became Christ Church parish.

In 1785, the Reverend William White convened a meeting at Christ Church in Philadelphia for the purpose of organizing the Episcopal Church in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The conference included laymen as well as clergy, an arrangement which had no precedent in England.[6] St. Mary's in Reading, St. Gabriel's in Morlatton (now Douglassville) and St. James in Perkiomen (now Collegeville) were among the fifteen parishes represented at the conference.[3] Plans were made for the first official convention of the Diocese of Pennsylvania and delegates were chosen to attend the first General Convention for the national Episcopal Church, held later that year at the same location. The Diocese of Pennsylvania received its first bishop in 1787 when William White was consecrated bishop at Lambeth Chapel.

The borders of the Diocese of Pennsylvania remained the same as those of the Commonwealth until the separation of the area west of the Alleghenies to form the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1865. In 1871 the area now comprising both Central Pennsylvania and Bethlehem became a new diocese. The original name was the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, and the cathedral[7] was in Reading. In 1904 the western part of the diocese was separated to form the Diocese of Harrisburg, and the name "Central Pennsylvania" retained by the eastern diocese. By this time, however, the seat of the diocese had been relocated to Bethlehem[8], and in 1909 it received its present name of the Diocese of Bethlehem. In the 1970s the name of Central Pennsylvania was re-adopted by the former Diocese of Harrisburg.

List of bishops

Bishops of Central Pennsylvania
From Until Incumbent Notes
1871 1884? Mark Antony De Wolfe Howe
1884 1897? Nelson Somerville Rulison
1898 1909 Ethelbert Talbot Previously Missionary Bishop of Wyoming and Idaho; became Bishop of Bethlehem.
Bishops of Bethlehem
1909 1927 Ethelbert Talbot Previously Bishop of Central Pennsylvania; Presiding Bishop (as senior bishop) 1924–1926.
1927 1953? Frank W. Sterrett Coadjutor bishop since 1923.
1953 1970? Frederick J. Warnecke
1970 1982? Lloyd E. Gressle
1982 1996? Mark Dyer
1996 present Paul V. Marshall


  1. ^ The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem Team Directory
  2. ^ Twelves, J. Wesley (1969). A History of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. pp. 2–7. 
  3. ^ a b Benton, A.A. (1884). The Church Cyclopedia. Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly. 
  4. ^ Walker, Joseph E. (1966). Hopewell Village: A Social and Economic History of an Iron-making Community. p. 366. 
  5. ^ http://berks.paroots.com/library/church/ChristChurchReading.html
  6. ^ Hodges, George (1906). Three Hundred Years of the Episcopal Church in America. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co.. p. 87. 
  7. ^ http://rdgchristchurch.org/ChristChurch.htm
  8. ^ http://www.nativitycathedral.org/

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