The Rt. Rev. John Stark RavenscroftBishop of North Carolina, 1823-1830
May 17, 1772 – March 5, 1830
Virginia planter John Stark Ravenscroft was a priest for only five years before his election as the first Bishop of North Carolina. Having lived a somewhat dissolute and irreligious life as a young man, he reformed his conduct under the influence of the Republican Methodists in Southside Virginia, but a careful examination of the claims of the Episcopal Church convinced him of the validity of the Church's ministry and sacraments, leading him to seek ordination at the hands of Bishop Moore in 1818. Although Ravenscroft served as Bishop for less than seven years before his untimely death in 1830, he made a lasting impact upon the Diocese and indeed upon the Church throughout the South. He consistently and passionately emphasized the distinctive tenets of the Episcopal Church, in pointed contrast with the ministry and teachings of other Protestant denominations. This "high church" position, derived in large measure from the work of New York Bishop John Henry Hobart, was intended to reawaken an appreciation of the Church within the North Carolina families who had at one time claimed membership in the colonial Church of England. It also served to attract a cadre of young men into the ordained ministry of the Church, five of whom would later serve as Bishops in the Southern United States: William Mercer Green, Leonidas Polk, George Freeman, Thomas Davis and James Otey.
The Rt. Rev. Levi Silliman IvesBishop of North Carolina, 1831-1852
September 16, 1797 – October 14, 1867
Levi Silliman Ives grew up in New York and entered the ordained ministry in 1822, serving parishes in New York and Pennsylvania before his election as Bishop. Initially regarded a fit successor to Ravenscroft, Ives subsequently received a favorable response in the Diocese for his engagement in educational and missionary enterprises. His first effort, an Episcopal school for boys in Raleigh, did not last, but it led to the creation in 1842 of the highly successful and influential St. Mary’s School for girls. Also successful was the effort to build a house of worship for Episcopalians at the campus of the University of North Carolina, the Chapel of the Cross, consecrated in 1848. In 1845, Bishop Ives proposed an ambitious plan for mission and education work in the North Carolina mountains at Valle Crucis, where he envisioned evangelism, training programs, a model farm and preparation for ordained ministry all going hand-in-hand. In 1848, rumors began to spread that Ives had in fact established a monastic community at Valle Crucis, using the isolation of that mountain retreat to foster Romish practices and beliefs associated with the new currents of the Anglo- Catholic movement in the Church. After four years of bitter contention, the issue of Bishop Ives’ faithfulness to the Episcopal Church was resolved by his submission to the Pope and his resignation from the Episcopate.
The Rt. Rev. Thomas AtkinsonBishop of North Carolina, 1853-1881
August 6, 1807 – January 4, 1881
Thomas Atkinson practiced law for eight years in his native Virginia before deciding to enter ordained ministry. After serving parishes in Norfolk and Lynchburg, he was called in 1843 to St. Peter’s, Baltimore, and then to Grace Church in that city, where he was serving as the rector at the time of his election as Bishop of North Carolina. Atkinson was already known widely throughout the Episcopal Church for his successful defense at the 1850 General Convention of a bishop’s right at parish visitations to administer Holy Communion. He played a prominent role again in the 1865 Convention, at which his attendance and actions helped to insure that the Church would not remain divided North and South after the Civil War. As Bishop, Atkinson quickly restored the Hobartian high church views of Bishop Ravenscroft and launched an ambitious program of mission and reform, including calls for the abolition of pew rents, the raising up of clergy from all levels of society and the establishment of new congregations in railroad and manufacturing centers. The Civil War disrupted his missionary initiatives, but he remained steadfast throughout his Episcopate in urging the Church to meet its obligations to minister to all of society. He was instrumental in the establishment of St. Augustine’s College in 1867, and he sought, albeit unsuccessfully, to revive Bishop Ives’ interest in building a school in Western North Carolina.
The Rt. Rev. Theodore Benedict LymanAssistant Bishop of North Carolina, 1873-1881; Bishop of North Carolina, 1881-1893
November 27, 1815 – December 13, 1893
Theodore Lyman was born in Massachusetts and educated in New York at Hamilton College and General Theological Seminary. He was ordained in Maryland in 1841 and served in Hagerstown for nearly a decade before moving to Pittsburgh in 1850 and serving there for another ten years. He spent the 1860s abroad, traveling extensively in Europe and the Middle East, and serving for a time as chaplain at the American Embassy in Rome. Upon his return in 1870, he went to Trinity Church, San Francisco, where he was serving as the rector at the time of his election as Assistant Bishop. This election stemmed from Bishop Atkinson’s 1866 request that either an additional bishop be elected to assist with the work in a large and rapidly growing state or the Diocese be divided. The first part of his request was honored after seven years, and the second part in 1883, when the Diocese of East Carolina was created – over the objections of Lyman himself, by then the bishop diocesan. Lyman was known for his theological acumen and urbanity. His extensive travels continued, and for a time he served as Bishop for the American Congregations in Europe. He was especially effective as an apologist for the distinctive position of the Episcopal Church in matters of theology and practice, and, like Atkinson, he maintained cordial relationships with non-Episcopalians in the state.
The Rt. Rev. Joseph Blount CheshireAssistant Bishop of North Carolina, 1893; Bishop of North Carolina, 1893-1932
March 27, 1850 – December 27, 1932
Joseph Blount Cheshire was the first native North Carolinian to serve as bishop. He grew up in Calvary Church, Tarboro, where his father was the rector more than 50 years. Like Bishop Atkinson, he practiced law before deciding on the ordained ministry. As a deacon and a priest, Cheshire proved an able and effective missioner and evangelist, planting the missions that became St. Philip’s, Durham; St. Michael and All Angels and St. Martin’s, Charlotte; St. Paul’s, Monroe and St. Mark’s, Huntersville. During his tenure, St. Peter’s,Charlotte doubled in membership, established two hospitals and supported the creation of the Thompson Orphanage. As bishop, Cheshire continued to promote missionary activity. He re-established an effective mountain ministry in Western North Carolina and helped create a separate missionary district there in 1895. He appointed three archdeacons to oversee mission work, including one for work among African-Americans. He promoted education and supported St. Augustine’s College and St. Mary’s School. He recognized the importance of historical study for the life of the Church, serving as historiographer of the Diocese from 1886 to 1893 and continuing his historical research and writing throughout his episcopate.
The Rt. Rev. Henry Beard DelanyBishop Suffragan of North Carolina, 1918–1928
February 5, 1858 – April 14, 1928
A native of Georgia with roots in his family’s farm in Fernandina, Florida, the Rt. Rev. Henry Delany came to Raleigh to attend St. Augustine’s Normal School (now St. Augustine's University), graduated in 1885 and served on the faculty until 1908. Ordained both deacon (1889) and priest (1892) at St. Ambrose, Raleigh, he assisted there while teaching religion, music and education. He also served as college chaplain, vice-principal and supervisor of building projects at the school. He and his students helped construct the college chapel, the library and St. Agnes Hospital, among other buildings. First as a member of the Commission for Work Among Colored People, then as Archdeacon for Work Among Colored People, Delany visited congregations and helped organize schools in the Diocese. After his unanimous election as Bishop Suffragan in May 1918, he was consecrated in St. Augustine’s Chapel in November. As the second black bishop suffragan after Edward T. Demby of Arkansas, Bishop Delany supervised the work for ten years in North Carolina, East Carolina, South Carolina and occasionally Western North Carolina. He is remembered for his humility, gentleness, dignity and dedication to the improvement of life for African-Americans across the South.
The Rt. Rev. Edwin Anderson PenickBishop Coadjutor of North Carolina, 1922-1932; Bishop of North Carolina, 1932-1959
April 4, 1887 – April 6, 1959
Son of an Episcopal priest, Edwin Penick was born in Frankfort, Kentucky. He was educated at the University of the South, Harvard University and Virginia Theological Seminary. Following ordination to the priesthood in 1913, Penick served missions in South Carolina and as rector of The Church of the Good Shepherd in Columbia. He was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Chaplain’s Corps in 1919, when he was called to be the rector of St. Peter’s Church in Charlotte. At the time of his election as Bishop Coadjutor, Penick was the youngest member of the House of Bishops, and at his death he was the senior member. As Bishop, he supported education by active involvement at St. Mary’s College, St. Augustine’s College, The University of the South, Thompson Orphanage and Vade Mecum Conference Center. He founded and served as the first president of the North Carolina Council of Churches, chaired the North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation and was Vice-President of the American Church Institute for Negroes. At his death, Bishop Penick was praised not only as a great leader and churchman, but also as a man who "wore the vestments of grace over the strongest faith and convictions."
The Rt. Rev. Richard Henry BakerBishop Coadjutor of North Carolina, 1951-1959; Bishop of North Carolina, 1959-1965
July 8, 1897 – April 13, 1981
During World War I, Norfolk-born Richard Henry Baker left Virginia for France and was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government for extraordinary heroism as an ambulance driver. He returned to graduate from the University of Virginia and Virginia Theological Seminary; then he served as chaplain at Virginia Episcopal School following his ordination to the priesthood in 1924. Baker served churches in Louisiana and Virginia before beginning his 20-year tenure as rector of Baltimore’s Church of the Redeemer. As Bishop of North Carolina, Baker oversaw a thorough-going restructuring of the diocese, reorganizing the staff and moving annual convention from May to January. Baker also initiated the effort to relocate the bishop’s office from the campus of St. Mary’s College to a new site where all the diocesan offices could be consolidated. This project was realized shortly after his retirement, when the new Diocesan House on St. Alban’s Drive was dedicated in January 1966.
The Rt. Rev. Thomas FraserBishop Coadjutor of North Carolina, 1960-1965; Bishop of North Carolina, 1965-1983
April 17, 1915 – October 20, 1989
A native of Atlanta who grew up in New York City, Thomas Fraser earned degrees from Hobart College and Virginia Theological Seminary. His ordained ministry began in the Diocese of Long Island in 1941. Fraser served churches in New York and Virginia before becoming the rector of St. Paul’s, Winston-Salem, from 1951 until 1960, when he was elected Bishop Coadjutor. During his tenure as Bishop of North Carolina, Fraser’s commitment to live the church doctrines was tested by the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. He called for the exclusive use of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer in public worship. He considered the issue of ordaining women to be about honoring a call to ministry, not about equal rights or women’s liberation. He established the Christian Social Relations program in the Diocese and helped organize the Land Stewardship Council to advocate for the connection of religion and ethics to environmental and land use issues. One of his most controversial decisions was to back the local committee he had appointed in their decision to recommend National Episcopal Church funding for Malcolm X Liberation University in Durham in 1969.
The Rt. Rev. William Moultrie MooreBishop Suffragan of North Carolina, 1967-1975; Bishop of Easton (MD), 1975-1983
June 11, 1916 - November 23, 1998
Born in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Moultrie Moore recalled that his preparation for church service began around age 12, when as he served as an altar boy at Emmanuel, Southern Pines. After attending Porter Military Academy, the College of Charleston and General Theological Seminary, Moore entered the priesthood in 1941 back in Mt. Pleasant. He served missions in South and North Carolina before becoming the rector of St. Luke’s, Salisbury, in 1944 and of St. Martin’s, Charlotte, in 1952. After Bishop Fraser called for the election of a bishop suffragan in 1966, Moore’s election took place at the 1967 Diocesan Convention. As Bishop Suffragan, he was responsible for diocesan missions, college work and specialized ministries. He also chaired the Committee on Liturgy and Worship. Upon his election as Bishop of Easton, Moore requested that any parting gifts be directed to the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund at St. Augustine’s College. A lifelong lover of the water, Moore was remembered by many as "the sailing bishop." Following retirement from the Diocese of Easton, Moultrie and Florence Moore returned home to Mt. Pleasant, where they had grown up together from early childhood.
The Rt. Rev. Robert Whitridge EstillBishop Coadjutor of North Carolina, 1980-1982; Bishop of North Carolina, 1983-1994
September 7, 1927 – October 9, 2019
Robert W. Estill served as a priest in his native state of Kentucky and in Washington, DC, before joining the faculty of Virginia Theological Seminary in 1971. In 1976, he became the rector of St. Michael & All Angels, Dallas, Texas, and in 1980 was elected Bishop Coadjutor of North Carolina. As Bishop, Estill sought to deepen and extend the ordained ministry of the Church through a commitment to clergy continuing education, active encouragement of aspirants for Holy Orders, support for the ordination of women and the revival of the diaconate in this Diocese. At the time of his retirement in 1994, he could look with justifiable satisfaction at the growth during his episcopate in the number of clergy resident in the Diocese, including 50 women clergy and 22 deacons. Estill also sought to strengthen diocesan institutions and to honor long-standing mission commitments. He was a strong proponent of youth, campus and social ministries. A capital campaign conducted in the 1980s enabled the Diocese to expand the facilities of the Camp & Conference Center. But Estill warned as he left office that there was work to be done in countering parochialism and waning support for the diocesan budget in some congregations.
The Rt. Rev. Frank VestBishop Suffragan of North Carolina, 1985-1989; Bishop Coadjutor of Southern Virginia, 1989-91; Bishop of Southern Virginia, 1991-1998
January 5, 1936 – April 5, 2008
Frank Vest was born in Salem, Virginia, and attended Roanoke College and Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. Following his ordination in 1963, he served parishes in Roanoke and Radford, Virginia. As a young priest in the 1960s, Vest was an early civil rights advocate and member of the NAACP. While serving as the rector of Christ Church, Charlotte, from 1973 until 1985, he also served a three-year term on the board of Planned Parenthood and initiated hunger relief drives that raised more than $1 million. As Bishop Suffragan of North Carolina, Vest oversaw the ordination process, helped strengthen the Companion Diocese relationship with Belize, worked with college chaplains, served on the boards of the University of the South and the Appalachian People’s Service Organization (APSO), lectured at Duke Divinity School and served on the National Council on Social and Specialized Ministries. Bishop Vest was an early and strong supporter of women in the priesthood and was one of the few Southern bishops who attended the 1989 consecration of Barbara Harris as the first female Anglican bishop.
The Rt. Rev. Huntington Williams, Jr.Bishop Suffragan of North Carolina, 1990-1996
October 27, 1925 – January 28, 2013
Hunt Williams served in the Armed Forces during World War II and graduated from Harvard in 1949 and Virginia Theological Seminary in 1952. After his ordination, he served parishes in Maryland and New York before coming to North Carolina in 1956 to serve as the rector of St. Timothy’s, Winston- Salem. Williams had been the rector of St. Peter’s, Charlotte, for 27 years when he was called to be Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese. In Charlotte he was known for his public support of desegregation and his commitment to urban ministry. In the parish he was noted for his encouragement of the ministry of all the baptized, and in the diocese he was prized for his expertise in Constitution and Canons and for his skill as a consultant. A frequent member of the Standing Committee, as well as of the Committee on Constitution and Canons, Williams brought extensive knowledge of the Diocese to the office of bishop suffragan. His gifts of assessment and encouragement were especially well-suited to his work with the university chaplaincies, the camp and conference center, and the ordination process.
The Rt. Rev. Robert Carroll Johnson, Jr.Bishop of North Carolina, 1994-2000
July 18, 1938 – January 3, 2014
Bob Johnson came to the Episcopate having served in the Diocese for 30 years as a deacon and a priest, including 19 years as the rector of St. Luke’s, Durham, where he developed a reputation as a preacher and a pastor. Born in Georgia, he was raised a Southern Baptist and ordained at an early age. While at Yale Divinity School in the early 1960s, he came to seek Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church and was ordained by Bishop Fraser in 1965. As Bishop, Johnson encouraged the Diocese to engage in healthy and hospitable practices and to honor the ministries of all the baptized, including gay and lesbian members. He spoke out strongly against capital punishment and racist behavior and on behalf of weak and marginalized members of society. In response to growing controversies in the national Church and Anglican Communion, Bishop Johnson appealed to the unity of the Church and the practice of mutual forbearance. He pointed to signs of continuing faithfulness and ongoing mission work as evidence of the Church’s vitality. Yet he himself met the solemn but painful duty of serving on the House of Bishops’ Ecclesiastical Court which heard, and then dismissed, charges against a fellow bishop, Walter Righter. Johnson was further pained by what he saw as signs of a lack of charity at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. He subsequently announced his retirement and called for the election of his successor in 2000.
The Rt. Rev. James Gary GlosterBishop Suffragan of North Carolina, 1996-2007
June 6, 1936 –
Gary Gloster began his ordained ministry in Indiana before moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, and then to Pulaski, Virginia. At the time of his election as Bishop Suffragan, Gloster was in his seventh year serving as the vicar of the Chapel of Christ the King in the underserved and impoverished Optimist Park neighborhood of Charlotte. He had previously served as the associate rector of Christ Church, Charlotte, for eight years. Staying in Charlotte and serving a newly-formed inner-city mission reflected Gloster's long-standing commitment to urban ministry and his passionate advocacy on behalf of social justice. As Bishop, Gloster brought this generous, passionate and pastoral sensibility into the life of the Diocese. He also made good use of his well-established talents in clown ministry, most notably at his own consecration, when he invited the Presiding Bishop, among others, to don clown noses. He consistently called upon the Church to witness to the truth of and to give voice to the suffering and the neglected. In the aftermath of the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, he recalled the Diocese to the historic witness of Richard Hooker and the ongoing, reconciling work of Christ.
The Rt. Rev. Michael Bruce CurryPresiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, 2015 - Present; XI Bishop of North Carolina, 2000-2015
March 13, 1953 -
Michael Bruce Curry was elected 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina on February 11, 2000. He was consecrated on June 17, 2000, in Duke Chapel on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. On June 27, 2015, he was elected the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, officially assuming the office upon his consecration at Washington National Cathedral on November 1, 2015. He was elected overwhelmingly on the first ballot.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, on March 13, 1953, Bishop Curry attended public schools in Buffalo, New York, and graduated with high honors from Hobart College in Geneva, New York, in 1975. He received a Master of Divinity degree in 1978 from Yale University Divinity School. He has also done continued study at The College of Preachers, Princeton Theological Seminary, Wake Forest University, the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary's Seminary, and the Institute of Christian Jewish Studies.
Bishop Curry was ordained to the diaconate in June 1978 at St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo, New York, by the Rt. Rev. Harold B. Robinson and to the priesthood in December 1978, at St. Stephen's, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, by the Rt. Rev. John M. Burgess.
He began his ministry as deacon-in-charge at St. Stephen's, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1978 and was rector there 1979-1982. He next accepted a call to serve as the rector of St. Simon of Cyrene, Lincoln Heights, Ohio, where he served from 1982 until 1988.
In 1988 he became rector of St. James', Baltimore, Maryland, where he served until his election as bishop.
In his three parish ministries, Bishop Curry was active in the founding of ecumenical summer day camps for children, the creation of networks of family day care providers and educational centers, and the brokering of millions of dollars of investment in inner city neighborhoods. He also sat on the Commission on Ministry in each of the three dioceses in which he has served.
During his time as Bishop of North Carolina, Bishop Curry took the Diocese into 21st-century Galilee, the complex modern world that churches must engage in order to continue spreading the Gospel. He instituted a network of canons, deacons, and youth ministry professionals dedicated to supporting the ministry that already happens in local congregations and refocused the Diocese on The Episcopal Church’s Millennium Development Goals through a $400,000 campaign to buy malaria nets that saved over 100,000 lives. Throughout his ministry in North Carolina, Bishop Curry was also active in issues of social justice, speaking out on immigration policy and marriage equality.