Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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Diocese of Virginia

The basic unit in the Episcopal Church is the diocese. A diocese is a geographical area under the oversight of a bishop. The Diocese of Virginia consists of the northern portion of the state – roughly from the James River in Richmond across through Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, and points northward. Our bishop, The Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston is assisted by The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff and The Rt. Rev. Edwin F. "Ted" Gulick. There are approximately 180 parish churches and missions in the diocese.


Being a part of a diocese is central to our understanding of being Episcopalian – being a part of a larger church and not just an isolated congregation. At some point, every Episcopalian is expected to profess his or her faith in the presence of a bishop – bishops being the cornerstones of our unity. Bishops also have oversight over the congregations and the clergy. Bishops are pastors to the clergy; hence, much of our energy and money supports the bishop in respect to adequate compensation, clerical support, offices, equipment, etc. The diocese also maintains missions (congregations which are not self-supporting) and establishes new congregations in areas where the population is growing and no Episcopal church exists. We are one of the few dioceses in the Episcopal Church that is actually growing in number of churches and parishioners. We have a number of new congregations which are not yet financially self-supporting, several which meet in rented space and do not as yet even have land or buildings, and some older congregations serving small communities that can exist only through our financial assistance. This includes the congregations serving Korean, Hispanic, and Vietnamese communities. Dioceses also enable us to do things together that no individual parish could take on alone. We unite our resources to support a great number of other facilities – schools, retreats, conference centers, prison and college chaplainries, and the like. The Diocese has six parochial schools (Christ Church, St. Catherine’s, St. Christopher’s, St. Margaret’s, St. Stephens & St. Agnes, and Stuart Hall) and two retreat centers (Roslyn and Shrine Mont).

Specific priorities in the Diocese of Virginia include youth ministries through programs at Shrine Mont and on college campuses, building new churches to meet the needs of growing populations, maintaining strong bishops to support the work of local clergy and congregations, and supporting missions and churches overseas through various companion relationships. We also support several prison ministries.

The business of the diocese is conducted by several bodies. The diocese has an Annual Council, similar to our Annual Meeting. The Annual Council elects various committees to run specific aspects of the diocese and elects delegates to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Council also adopts the budget for the diocese, and generally debates a number of resolutions relating to diocesan life. Our delegates to Annual Council, elected by St. Mary’s Vestry, is Ms Edwina Mason and Ms. Maurita Powell; Ms. Nadine Pluchinsky and Ms. Carolyn Gordon represent Grace Church.

The Diocese of Virginia is one of the largest in the country, in number of churches, number of communicants, and in number of clergy. It is a very diverse diocese with metropolitan, cosmopolitan, suburban and rural parishes. We are also very diverse in theological stance (conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical, liberal, etc.) This has caused some tension in the diocese, particularly this year following some controversial decisions in the Episcopal Church at General Convention. Our greatest strength is not in our unilateral thinking on issues, but rather in our love and respect for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. This has led to some degree of tension among various members of the diocese as some very different views are held regarding several issues facing the Church.