History of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas

The Diocese of Texas was the first mission field of The Episcopal Church. The Diocese of Texas is one of 109 domestic dioceses in the Episcopal Church and operates independently within the canons of the Church (a diocese is the primary unit in denominational structures). A diocesan bishop oversees each diocese.

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas is led today by Bishop C. Andrew Doyle. In addition to the Diocesan Center in downtown Houston, there are regional centers at the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin and at All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler. Bishop Suffragan Kathryn M. Ryan offices in Austin and Bishop Suffragan Jeff Fisher is in Tyler. Additionally, Bishop Hector Monterroso joined the staff in July, 2017 as assistant bishop and offices in Houston.

The history of the Diocese is a rich one. From 1838 to 1845, the Episcopal Church existed in the Republic of Texas as the first foreign missionary district of The Episcopal Church, administered by the Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, Bishop of Louisiana, and the Rt. Rev. George Washington Freeman, Bishop of the Southwest.

In 1845 Texas was admitted to the Union as a state, and the Church continued as a domestic mission under the care of Bishop Freeman. The Diocese organized officially in 1849 and elected its first bishop, the Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg ten years later. 

Bishop Doyle was invested as the ninth Bishop of Texas on June 7, 2009. He oversees more than 175 congregations (over 77,000+ parishioners) in 81 counties spread over nearly 70,000 square miles. The Diocese is one of five in the state. Congregations vary widely in size; as measured by attendance, six of the largest parishes in the top 35 in the United States are in EDOT, two of which are Spanish-speaking. Congregations throughout the Diocese offer a broad range of worship styles, from traditional to contemporary, from jazz to Taizé. Parishes similarly reflect a diversity of views–traditional to more liberal–on issues facing the Church today.

There are 58 Episcopal schools in the Diocese of Texas, and a number of institutions including: St. Stephen’s boarding school (Austin) and Episcopal High School (Houston); El Buen Samaritano (a social service agency in Austin) and St. Vincent’s House (clinic and care for the underserved in Galveston). Camp Allen, a nationally known diocesan camp and conference center, accommodates a variety of spiritual, social and educational events for all ages. The Diocese also has five foundations dedicated to the health and growth of the Church. The Episcopal Health Foundation, funded in 2013 from the transfer of St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System to Catholic Health Initiative, has a corpus of $1billion plus and is dedicated to funding transformational health initiatives throughout the Diocese.

Bishop Doyle
Bishop Doyle’s focus for ministry is service, evangelism and reconciliation, and he has a vision to plant 15 new churches and more than 50 new “missional communities” by 2020. An avid reader and fly fisherman, Bishop Doyle has written several books, often mixing references from pop culture’s music and movies with the latest in secular leadership trends in order to reach the broadest spectrum of readers and challenge Episcopalians to move into their communities with the Gospel in word and action.  His writings include: Unabashedly Episcopalian: The Good News of the Episcopal Church, 2012; Orgullosamente Episcopal, 2015; Church: A Generous Community Amplified for the Future, 2015; A Generous Community: Being Church In a new Missionary Age, 2015. 

Bishop Doyle received his MDiv from Virginia Theological Seminary and holds a fine arts degree from the University of North Texas. Previous to his election as bishop in 2008, Bishop Doyle served for five years as Canon to the Ordinary for Bishop Don Wimberly. He also served churches in Temple and College Station, as well as being elected deputy to several General Conventions.  He most recently served on the Structure Committee and is currently president of the Compass Rose Society, a global group of patrons and leaders making a difference in the Anglican Communion.  

History of Episcopal Oversight
From 1838 to 1845 the Episcopal Church existed in the Republic of Texas as a foreign missionary district. Christ Church, Matagorda, was the first Episcopal Church in the Republic and was founded in 1839.  Christ Church, Houston, later the Cathedral (and therefore official “see” of the bishop), was the second Episcopal church in the Republic of Texas, founded in 1839. 

The district was first administered by Bishop Leonidas Polk, Bishop of Louisiana, and Bishop George Washington Freeman, Bishop of Arkansas, until Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845. The Diocese officially organized in 1849 and elected Alexander Gregg its first bishop. He served until 1893 when his coadjutor (elected to succeed), the Rt. Rev. George Herbert Kinsolving, became Bishop of Texas.  His coadjutor, the Rt. Rev. Clinton Simon Quin, succeeded Kinsolving 35 years later in 1928. 

Bishop John Hines served as coadjutor under Bishop Quin for ten years and became diocesan in 1955.  Nine years later, in 1964 Bishop Hines was elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church where he served for a decade. Bishop Milton Richardson was consecrated the fifth Bishop of Texas on February 10, 1965, and served as diocesan until his death in 1981. The sixth Bishop of Texas, the Rt. Rev. Maurice M. Benitez, was elected in 1980.  In June 1993 Bishop Claude E. Payne was elected the fourth bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Texas and became the seventh Bishop of Texas February 10, 1995. Bishop Don Wimberly became the eighth bishop of Texas in June, 2003, retiring at the mandatory age of 72 on June 6, 2009.  Bishop Doyle, elected in May, 2008, was consecrated at St. Martins, Houston on November 22, 2008 and invested and seated on June 7, 2009.

Additionally, Texas has had ten bishops suffragan and six assistant bishops since becoming a diocese:  F. Percy Goddard, James P. Clements, and Roger H. Cilley; Scott Field Bailey; Gordon T. Charlton; William E. Sterling, Sr., and Leopoldo J. Alard, Rayford B. High, Jr. and Dena A. Harrison served as bishops suffragan. Bishops Jeff W. Fisher and Kathryn M. Ryan currently serve as bishop suffragans. Bishops Anselmo Carral, William J. Cox, Bishop John Hines, James B. Brown, Ted Daniels and John Buchanan served as assistants. Bishop Héctor Monterroso currently serves as bishop assistant. 

The Reunion Between the Episcopal Church in North Texas and the Episcopal Diocese of Texas

Background: The Episcopal Church in North Texas was born out of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas (1849), becoming part of the Missionary District of Northern Texas (1874), then part of the new Diocese of Dallas (1895), then becoming the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (1982). 

In February of 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to hear the appeal of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, which let stand the decision of the Supreme Court of Texas awarding most of the property – including the name of the diocese – to people who left The Episcopal Church in 2008.

Just as they did in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 schism, the resilient faithful people of the diocese found new places to worship and missed not a beat in carrying on the vital ministries and outreach to their neighbors. The diocese also decided on a new name – the Episcopal Church in North Texas.

Episcopal Church in North Texas Discernment Process and Standing Committee Discussions
In the Fall of 2021, Bishop Mayer called together a discernment group of clergy and lay leaders to begin the process of identifying and evaluating options for the future of the Episcopal Church in North Texas. The Discernment Group eventually concluded that exploring a reunion with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas made sense.

In January of 2022, the Discernment Group sent to the Standing Committee of Episcopal Church a recommendation that the Episcopal Church in North Texas reunite with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. 

On April 12, the Standing Committee of Episcopal Church in North Texas voted to engage in conversations with the Diocese of Texas about potential reunification. On behalf of the Standing Committee, Bishop Mayer reached out to Bishop Doyle with an invitation to visit the Episcopal Church in North Texas and open formal conversations between the dioceses. Those conversations were successful and offered great hope to the people of what is now referred to as the North Region.

Both Dioceses Vote to Move Forward with Reunification Pending the 80th General Convention
During the summer of 2022, both dioceses held their respective subsequent council and special convention, and it was approved that the reunion would move forward, pending a vote to confirm the reunification at the 80th General Convention.

Reunification Confirmed at the 80th General Convention in July 2022
At the 80th General Convention, held in July of 2022, both Houses of General Convention voted to confirm the reunion of the Episcopal Church of North Texas, formerly, the Diocese of Fort Worth, with the Diocese of Texas.

Diocesan Council 2023 Marked First Post Reunification
The 174th Diocesan Council, held in Galveston, February 24-25, 2023, marked a milestone in the life of the diocese, with the North Region participating for the first time.

Image: Christ Church, Matagorda
Mother Church, Diocese of Texas
Photo credit: Gene Brown

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