Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island Article

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Diocese of Rhode Island
Diocese of Rhode Island seal.jpg
Ecclesiastical province Province I
Members17,482 (2016)
Current leadership
Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely
Location of the Diocese of Rhode Island
Location of the Diocese of Rhode Island

The Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island is a diocese of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, encompassing the state of Rhode Island. It is one of seven New England dioceses that make up Province 1.

The former Episcopal seat of the diocese, the Cathedral of St. John is at 271 North Main Street in the see city of Providence. It has subsequently been closed. There are 51 parishes in the diocese, with more than 17,000 communicants. The bishop is the Right Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely, the thirteenth office holder.


The diocese was founded in 1790 by two clergy and five members of the laity, representatives of the four charter churches of the diocese, King's Church in Providence (1722), Trinity Church in Newport (1698), St. Paul's in Narragansett (1707), and St. Michael's in Bristol (1720). [1] Without sufficient resources to support a bishop of their own, they elected Samuel Seabury, who was bishop of Connecticut, to hold the office of bishop of Rhode Island as well. Under Rhode Island's third bishop, Alexander Viets Griswold, the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island expanded from 200 communicants in four parishes to almost 2,000 in seventeen parishes. This growth continued under the next two bishops, John P. K. Henshaw and Thomas M. Clark, and this trend was supported by the immigration of many English Anglicans. By the end of the 19th century, the diocese had grown to 35 parishes.

In the first part of the 20th century, the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island focused on urban ministry with a focus on social concerns, led by Bishop William N. McVickar. The first deaconess was ordained in 1890, and from 1910 to 1914 the number of women serving in this position and ordained by Bishop James D. Perry had grown from one to seven. Under Perry and his successor, Gaylord G. Bennett, the number of parishes continued to grow.

From 1955 to 1972, the diocese was led by John Seville Higgins, who started campus ministries and a number of other missions. Bishop Frederick H. Belden led the church through the transitions occasioned by the ordination of women to the priesthood, ordaining Jo-Ann J. Drake to the transitional diaconate in 1977 and to the priesthood in 1978, ( Patrica A. Smith, ordained deacon by Bishop Belden in 1976, continued her studies for the priesthood and was ordained in 1980) and adoption of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Belden was succeeded by George Hunt, who served as bishop from 1980 to 1994. Hunt led a crusade for accountability by the state government on the issues of corruption, organized crime and gambling. He also insisted that the process for ordination in the diocese not discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. In 1996, Geralyn Wolf was consecrated, becoming one of the few women serving as a diocesan bishop.

There are a few parishes with a sizable percentage of African-American parishioners, and some congregations that have become the spiritual homes for people who have fled the civil war in Liberia. There is an active Spanish speaking congregation in Central Falls and another in Cranston. Most congregations make a point of openly welcoming gay and lesbian members.

Bishops of Rhode Island

Bishop McVickar

These are the bishops who have served the Diocese of Rhode Island: [2]

  1. Samuel Seabury (1790–1796)
  2. Edward Bass (1798–1803)
  3. Alexander Viets Griswold (1811–1843)
  4. John P. K. Henshaw (1843–1852)
  5. Thomas March Clark (1854–1903)
    * William N. McVickar, Coadjutor Bishop (1898–1903)
  6. William N. McVickar (1903–1910)
  7. James DeWolf Perry (1911–1946)
    * Granville G. Bennett, Suffragan Bishop (elected 1939)
  8. Granville G. Bennett (1946–1954)
    * John S. Higgins, Coadjutor Bishop (1953–1955)
  9. John Seville Higgins (1955–1972)
    * Frederick H. Belden, Coadjutor Bishop (1971–1972)
  10. Frederick H. Belden (1972–1979)
  11. George N. Hunt, III (1980–1994)
  12. Geralyn Wolf (1996–2012)
  13. W. Nicholas Knisely (2012–present)

Churches of Rhode Island

Bristol County

Kent County

Newport County

Providence County

Washington County

See also


  1. ^ Register of the Records of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island at the University of Rhode Island
  2. ^ The Episcopal Church Annual. Morehouse Publishing: New York, NY (2005)

External links