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Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island

Diocese of Rhode Island
Ecclesiastical province Province I
Congregations 51
Members 18,349 (2014)
Rite Episcopal
Current leadership
Bishop The Rt. Rev. 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 18,000 communicants. The bishop is the Right Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely, the thirteenth office holder.


  • History 1
  • Bishops of Rhode Island 2
  • Churches of Rhode Island 3
    • Bristol County 3.1
    • Kent County 3.2
    • Newport County 3.3
    • Providence County 3.4
    • Washington County 3.5
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6


The diocese was founded in 1790 by two clergymen 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 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 S. 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

  • Official Web site of the Diocese of Rhode Island
  • Official Web site of the Episcopal Church
  • Journal of the Annual Convention, Diocese of Rhode Island at the Online Books Page
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