Bishop Carol Gallagher appointed assistant bishop in Diocese of Massachusetts

Bishop Carol J. Gallagher Courtesy photo The Rt. Rev. Dr. Carol J. Gallagher

Bishop Alan M. Gates has appointed Bishop Carol J. Gallagher to serve as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Massachusetts.  

The appointment comes as Bishop Suffragan Gayle E. Harris prepares to retire after 20 years of active episcopal ministry. A start date of Feb. 1 for Gallagher will allow for transition consultation as Harris completes her work in the diocese on Dec. 31 and then takes sabbatical time ahead of her official retirement date of March 31.

Gallagher has been serving in the Diocese of Massachusetts since November 2018 as a regional canon, providing transition ministry with congregations and clergy involved in search processes for new ordained leadership, along with lay leadership development and clergy wellness support for the congregations of the diocese's Central Region.   

"It has been a privilege to have served in the Diocese of Massachusetts as regional canon for these past four years. I am excited and honored to now work alongside Bishop Alan Gates as the assistant bishop. The Diocese of Massachusetts has been and continues to be a place of inclusion and justice, peopled by folks serving Christ as they love their neighbors," Gallagher said.

Regional canons Martha Hubbard and Kelly O’Connell and the canon for immigration and multicultural ministries, Jean Baptiste Ntagengwa, will temporarily share the duties for the Central Region, allowing for a review of the current regional staffing structure that has been in place since 2018.

"I am so grateful that Bishop Gallagher has accepted my invitation to join in episcopal leadership here in the Diocese of Massachusetts.  She brings to us lengthy experience as a bishop in a variety of contexts.  She is especially knowledgeable about ministry in small churches, which represents a growing portion of our congregations.  She is dedicated, humble and kind, and possesses the heart of a pastor.  Because she has been serving our diocese as regional canon these past four years, she knows many of our communities and begins with a deep relational base already established," Gates said. 

In The Episcopal Church, an assistant bishop is appointed from among those who are already bishops and meet eligibility requirements outlined in church canons.  An assistant bishop serves under the direction of the bishop diocesan, who determines the assistant bishop's term of service.  (This is different from a bishop suffragan, who is elected as such by a diocese and whose tenure there is not determined by the bishop diocesan.) 

Gates opted not to call for the election of a successor bishop suffragan following Harris's retirement.  In his annual address to the Diocesan Convention on Oct. 29, he said that compelling reasons for his decision included the financial expense and length of time required to undertake a search, election and consecration process.

In accordance with Episcopal Church canons, the Diocesan Convention voted to create the assistant bishop position and authorized Gates to appoint an eligible bishop to that position with the advice of the Executive Committee of Diocesan Council and consent of the Standing Committee.

The Standing Committee on Nov. 11 gave its unanimous approval for Gallagher's appointment.  "On behalf of the Standing Committee, I will say, we look forward to Bishop Gallagher's transition into the assistant bishop role. This decision provides continuity during a time of change," Louise Gant, the president of the Standing Committee, said. 

The Diocesan Council's Executive Committee provided its counsel when it met on Nov. 17, expressing appreciation for the appointment of a bishop who can continue work on diocesan mission strategy, including its priorities of racial and environmental justice.

Gallagher was a member of The Episcopal Church's virtual delegation to the United Nations "COP27" climate conference in Egypt in November.  She has also been providing supplemental episcopal pastoral support in the Diocese of Albany since December 2021 as that diocese began a process to come into compliance with the 2018 General Convention resolution on provision of marriage rites for same-sex couples.  

Gallagher, who is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, previously served as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Montana, beginning in 2014, developing relationships with Native leaders and congregations there, educating and training clergy and lay leaders in issues of race, gender and inclusion, and leading the Task Force on Native Issues.  She also served during that time as the bishop missioner to the Bishops' Native Collaborative, working with the Episcopal Church Executive Committee to do assessments and respond to needs, and to provide materials and trainings for lay leadership and clergy.  She brings a passion for training and formation for all the baptized and for using her skills in culture, leadership development, pastoral care, and faith and relationship to empower others.

Gallagher served for six years prior to her ministry in the Diocese of Montana as assisting bishop in the Diocese of North Dakota and for two years as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Newark.  She was ordained and consecrated bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Southern Virginia in 2002 and served there until 2005, with oversight of 61 mission and rural small churches in that diocese and responsibility for implementing church growth programs for them, developing ordination guidelines and recruiting young and diverse leadership, and developing ministry with ecumenical partners and Virginia Native tribes.

While a bishop, she served in an interim capacity at St. Peter's by the Sea in Sitka, Alaska, and All Saints' Church in Harrison, N.Y.  Before her consecration as bishop, Gallagher was for five years the rector of St. Anne's Church in Middletown, Del.  She also served at Trinity Church in Collingdale, Penn., as priest-in-charge; at St. Martin's Church in Radnor, Penn., as assistant for education; and as assistant at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and communications from Antioch College, a Master of Divinity degree from Episcopal Divinity School, a Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in urban affairs and public policy from the University of Delaware.  She received the Louisville Institute Award in 2009 and was an Episcopal Divinity School Proctor Fellow, and has been an adjunct faculty member at Villanova University, Virginia Theological Seminary and Drew Theological Seminary.

She has served on numerous church and civic committees and boards, including the Episcopal Church Council on Indian Ministries, the Anglican Indigenous Network, Anglican Peace with Justice Concerns, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Episcopal Divinity School Board of Trustees and the United Way of America National Board.

She is married to Mark Gallagher and has three daughters and three grandchildren.