Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia
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|Diocese of West Virginia|
|Ecclesiastical province||Province III|
|Bishop||The Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer
Mark van Koevering
Location of the Diocese of West Virginia
The Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia is a diocese of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America encompassing all 55 counties within the state of West Virginia. The Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia was formed from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, one of the nine original Dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, by an act of the General Convention in 1877.
The first Episcopal Church in present-day West Virginia was established as a log structure that became known as Morgan Chapel near Bunker Hill in 1740 by Colonel Morgan Morgan. That chapel was occasionally served by a priest sent from Christ Church in Winchester, Virginia as well as by local lay readers. Although the church was disestablished in Virginia as the 19th century began, settlement continued in the region, particularly near the Ohio River.
Unlike most Virginia churches, due to the mountainous geography, churches in West Virginia were often planted by congregations from Pennsylvania, Maryland or Ohio. Thus, Bishop William White consecrated St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Wheeling, West Virginia as the 19th century began. By 1851, Episcopalians in the northwestern mountain counties petitioned Virginia's bishop William Meade, who had founded St. John's Episcopal Church in Charleston, West Virginia in 1837, and serviced these parishes both while affiliated with Christ Church in Winchester and later as assistant bishop of Virginia, for their own bishop. Bishop Meade demurred, on account of the small number of parishes (7). When John Johns became his assistant bishop, he likewise conducted periodic visitations into the western counties. However, with the outbreak of the American Civil War, such visitations ceased. In 1863, shortly before West Virginia's incorporation as a state, St. Matthew's-Wheeling asked permission for another bishop to visit the parish, but like his predecessor, Bishop Johns demurred, asking instead for a safe-conduct to visit the area, which he did not obtain.
After the Civil War, the six northwestern counties remained part of the Diocese of Virginia for more than a decade. By 1876, Virginia's diocesan council (a change it insisted upon returning from its affiliation with the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Confederate States) agreed to support the creation of a separate diocese for the state of West Virginia, which the national General Convention approved in 1877.
At the organizational meeting led by Virginia bishop Francis McNeece Whittle (who chose to remain with the larger diocese), 14 clergy and 16 lay delegates agreed to extend an invitation to Rev. J.H. Eccleston of Newark, New Jersey to become their new bishop, but his existin congregation pointed out to him the missionary nature of the new diocese and questioned its ability to financially support a bishop and other diocesan officers, and he refused the call. The following year, the clerical and lay delegates met again and finally decided to call Rev. George William Peterkin, who accepted the call and was consecrated by bishops of Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky at the new diocese's largest church, St. Matthew's Church in Wheeling on May 30, 1878.
Although the churches in Wheeling and Charleston had also offered to build rectories for the new bishop, Rt.Rev. Peterkin chose to accept the offer from the Parkersburg congregation. He thus made the town diocesan headquarters and ultimately succeeded in raising the funds and building the Church of the Good Shepherd in Parkersburg in 1891. When he found visitations increasingly difficult and asked for a coadjutor, the diocesan convention elected Rev. William Loyall Gravatt of Zion Episcopal Church in Charles Town, West Virginia. Upon Rt.Rev. Peterkin's death in 1916, Rt. Rev. Gravatt moved the diocesan headquarters to Charleston, West Virginia, the state capital, where they are again today, although moved to Wheeling under the episcopate of his successor, Robert E.L. Strider.
List of Bishops
- George William Peterkin (1878-1916)
- William Loyall Gravatt (coadjutor in 1899, bishop 1916-1939)
- Robert E.L. Strider (coadjutor in 1923, bishop 1939-1955)
- Wilburn C. Campbell (coadjutor in 1950, 1955-1976)
- Robert P. Atkinson (coadjutor in 1973, bishop 1976-1989)
- John H. Smith (1989-1999)
* Charles Vaché (1999-2001) (retired from the Diocese of Southern Virginia and assisting in West Virginia)
- W. Michie Klusmeyer (2001-current)
* Mark Van Koevering (assistant, 2016- )
- Official Web site of the Diocese of West Virginia
- Journal of the Annual Convention, Diocese of West Virginia