Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky

Diocese of Kentucky
CountryUnited States
Ecclesiastical provinceProvince IV
Congregations34 (2021)
Members6,898 (2021)
DenominationEpiscopal Church
EstablishedJuly 8, 1829
CathedralChrist Church Cathedral
Current leadership
BishopTerry A. White
Location of the Diocese of Kentucky
Location of the Diocese of Kentucky
Christ Church Cathedral, Louisville

The Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky is a diocese of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, encompassing the western half of the state of Kentucky.


The first verifiable religious services in Kentucky were held on May 28, 1775, under an elm tree at Boonesboro by Rev. John Lythe. After the American Revolutionary War, in 1795, an Episcopal chaplain offered prayers at the beginning of the new state's first legislative session, and while one diocesan historian (the diocese originally comprised all of Kentucky) estimated that half of all early emigrants were Episcopalian, the church did not follow them for decades.[1] Between 1803 and 1806, Rev. Williams Kavanagh, formerly a Methodist deacon but ordained by Bishop John Claggett of Maryland, held services in a log building at Louisville used by various Protestant faiths, before he moved to Henderson.[2] Instead, revival meetings dominated, but in 1822 some organized themselves into Christ Church, Louisville.[3] Between 1824 and 1829, the state only had one clergyman, Dr. Chapman in Lexington.

The diocese of Kentucky was organized in 1829, 37 years after Kentucky became a state. The following year, Benjamin Bosworth Smith arrived to become rector at Lexington's Christ Church, although he had previously declined the position.[4] In 1832, he became the new diocese's first bishop. However, at the time, the entire state only had three parishes: Louisville, Lexington and Danville.[5] Nonetheless, Rt. Rev. Smith served until 1884, and as a result of his longevity became the ninth presiding bishop in 1868, after which time he was permanently resident in New York (though he had been partly resident there since 1866), episcopal duties in the Diocese of Kentucky being allocated to an assistant bishop.[6] However, the diocese was the subject of a schism related to a new prayerbook, with adherents of the older Protestant practices withdrawing under assistant bishop George David Cummins.[7]

During the episcopate of the second bishop, Thomas Underwood Dudley, the diocese was divided to form the Diocese of Kentucky covering the western half of the state and the Diocese of Lexington covering the eastern half. The establishment of the new diocese took effect in 1895, when Dudley, who continued as Bishop of Kentucky, took Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville as the episcopal seat.[8]

In spite of its history of nearly 200 years, the Diocese has had only eight diocesan bishops, including Smith's immensely long episcopate of 52 years, which is thought to be the longest single episcopate in Anglican history.

There are 35 parishes in the diocese, with about 8200 baptized members. A majority of the members live in the Louisville area, with the remainder scattered throughout southern and western Kentucky, primarily in communities with more than 10,000 residents.

The Episcopal Theological Seminary in Kentucky, the fourth seminary of the Episcopal Church, was established in 1834. Among the diocese's other major institutions, All Saints Retreat and Conference Center was founded in 1957 on Rough River Lake in Grayson County.

Edwin F. (Ted) Gulick Jr., was consecrated and installed as 7th Bishop of Kentucky on April 17, 1994. In October 2008, Gulick announced his retirement plans and called for the election of his successor. On June 5, 2010, Terry Allen White, Dean of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City, Missouri, in the Diocese of West Missouri, was elected on the second ballot. His consecration as the 8th Bishop of Kentucky occurred on September 25, 2010. He was seated at Christ Church Cathedral on September 26, 2010.[9]

Bishops of Kentucky[edit]

Honorific & Name Dates
1st Benjamin Bosworth Smith 1832–1884 (Presiding Bishop 1868–1884)
2nd Thomas Underwood Dudley 1884–1904 (Coadjutor Bishop, 1875–1884)
3rd Charles E. Woodcock 1905–1935
4th Charles Clingman 1936–1954
5th Charles G. Marmion 1954–1974
6th David Benson Reed 1974–1994 (Coadjutor Bishop, 1972–1974)
7th Edwin F. Gulick Jr. 1994–2010
8th Terry A. White 2010–present

Suffragan and Assisting Bishops[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Richard Lightburne McCready, History of Christ Church Cathedral:Louisville, Kentucky (1822–1937), pp. 13–15
  2. ^ McCready at p. 13
  3. ^ McCready at pp. 14–15
  4. ^ W. Robert Insko, Kentucky Bishop (Frankfort, Kentucky: Kentucky Historical Society 1952), pp. 1–2
  5. ^ McCready p. 17
  6. ^ Aldred Lee, Memorial Discourse to the 56th Annual Council of the Diocese of Kentucky September 24, 1884
  7. ^ McCready p. 17
  8. ^ 'Episcopal Church' in The Kentucky Encyclopedia, University Press of Kentucky, 1992, pp.295–296.
  9. ^ Episcopal Life Online item, January 25, 2010 Archived June 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]

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