The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts Logo

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The Diocese of Massachusetts is among the oldest and largest, in terms of baptized membership, in the Episcopal Church. It officially dates from 1784 when delegates from a few struggling parishes around Boston met with others in the first convention of the Episcopal Church since the Revolutionary War. It took a great sense of mission to build a diocese out of a handful of 18th century parishes, but the spirit matched the purpose. With the 19th century leadership of bishops Griswold, Eastburn, Paddock and Brooks, the church in Massachusetts entered the 20th century as the second largest Episcopal diocese in the country—growth that resulted from a focus on ministry in mill towns and emerging cities.

The accelerated pace of social and economic change in the late 19th century gave enormous opportunity for mission. By 1900 the church’s responsibilities threatened to become unwieldy. Bishop William Lawrence pushed for the establishment of the new Diocese of Western Massachusetts in 1902, and immediately sought to unify the now compact eastern Diocese of Massachusetts in a common mission around a physical symbolic center. The vision for a cathedral church was brought to fruition in 1912, when the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston was commissioned to be the “People’s Church.”

The Diocese of Massachusetts is known for some auspicious firsts. In 1970 the late Rt. Rev. John M. Burgess was installed as the diocese’s 12th bishop, thus becoming the first African-American diocesan bishop in the Episcopal Church. In 1989 the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris (bishop suffragan, now retired) was ordained and consecrated, becoming the first woman to be consecrated a bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion.


The Bishops of the Diocese of Massachusetts


  Diocesan Bishops
Suffragan Bishops
1797-1803 Edward Bass
1804-1804 Samuel Parker
1811-1843 Alexander V. Griswold
1843-1872 Manton Eastburn
1873-1891 Benjamin H. Paddock
1891-1893 Phillips Brooks
1893-1927 William Lawrence
1913-1938   Samuel G. Babcock
1927-1930 Charles L. Slattery  
1930-1947 Henry K. Sherrill
1938-1954   Raymond A. Heron
1947-1956 Norman B. Nash
1956-1970 Anson P. Stokes, Jr.
1956-1968   Frederic C. Lawrence
1962-1969   John M. Burgess
1970-1975 John M. Burgess
1972-1982   Morris F. Arnold
1976-1986 John B. Coburn  
1986-1995 David E. Johnson
1989-2002   Barbara C. Harris
1995-2014 M. Thomas Shaw III, SSJE  
2001-2011   Roy F. Cederholm, Jr.
2003-   Gayle E. Harris
2014-Alan McIntosh Gates