Who We Are
For highlights of our parishes in action and a full listing
The Diocese of Bethlehem
The Diocese of Bethlehem is comprised of 58 parishes spread over 14 counties in northeast Pennsylvania (Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Northampton, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming) and numbers approximately 12,000 baptized members. Its main city is Bethlehem, where the Cathedral Church of the Nativity and Diocesan House are located. The Pro-cathedral of St. Stephen is located in Wilkes-Barre. The diocese was derived from the Diocese of Pennsylvania more than 125 years ago and represents several historical iterations including the Diocese of Pennsylvania, the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania and, finally, the Diocese of Bethlehem.
Of the 58 parishes in the Diocese, 9 have an average Sunday attendance of more than 100 persons. Fifteen have an average Sunday attendance of 50 - 100, and the balance of 34 parishes have an average Sunday attendance of less than 50. In light of changing circumstances, many parishes are learning to do more with less. For example, only 16 parishes are served by full-time clergy. Yet, there is an increasing participation of laity in parish leadership apart from the usual Vestry and committee positions. In spite of these challenges, parishes are actively engaged in ministry to refugees, homeless, hungry, young children, aged, prison ministry, people in recovery, and issues related to life in Appalachia.
Parishes take on several configurations for mission and ministry. For example, North Parish consists of two congregations, Holy Apostles Church, St. Clair, PA and Memorial Church of St. John, Ashland, PA. Additionally, St. James, Dundaff, exists as a summer chapel, while St. Matthew’s, Stevensville, no longer operates as a parish, but stands today as the oldest church building in the diocese.
The heart of this diocese is found in the faithfulness and witness of our congregations in the communities in which they live and move and have their being. Our congregations are mostly small in number and are located in urban, suburban, and rural contexts. The great challenge for all of our congregations is continuing to do mission with shrinking membership and resources. This is an articulated concern for many, yet it is obvious by our congregations' commitment to mission that there is a rich spirit among us.
Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
In addition to the mission and ministry of parishes in the diocese, the Diocese of Bethlehem actively engages in ecumenical and interfaith collaboration on many levels. In addition to the work of the diocesan Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Commission, our Bishop and Canon for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations meet regularly with the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the President of the Eastern District of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church, and other leaders. On the diocesan level, we collaborate with Christian Communities Gathering of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Additionally, congregations of the diocese participate in a broad range of ecumenical and interfaith activities and educational programs, including co-sponsoring a refugee family. As a sign of increasing ecumenical collaboration, just this year, an Episcopal church and an ELCA church in Sayre, PA jointly called an Episcopal priest to serve both congregations.
Along with other canonically mandated organs of administration (e.g., Standing Committee and Commission on Ministry), the Diocesan Council assists the bishop in the administration of the diocese. The bishop presides over the Council, which constitutes the executive leadership of the Diocese. The Council is responsible for the oversight of strategic and program planning, administration of diocesan programs and their review. Additionally, Council provides general oversight for the temporal affairs of the diocese including but not limited to the Diocesan Investment Trust (DIT) and the Board of the Episcopal Ministries of the Diocese (New Bethany Ministries). Members are elected to Diocesan Council by Diocesan Convention for three-year terms subject to a single renewal. Council reports annually to Diocesan Convention. In addition to the bishop, the diocesan treasurer serves as an ex officio member.