Oldest Bishops in the Episcopal Church at Time of Their Consecration

The oldest person to be consecrated bishop by the Episcopal Church is Edward Bass who was born in 1726 and consecrated to be bishop of Massachusetts in 1797. He turned 71 in the year of his consecration.

Most commonly, those elected bishops have been in their 50s or 40s. They must be at least 30. Initially bishops served until death or resignation. After the Church Pension Fund was created in 1914, a mandatory retirement age of age 72 was introduced, though renewable one-year appointments after that age are permitted.

For these reasons 203 years elapsed before another septuagenarian was made bishop. David E. Bailey was consecrated to be bishop of Navajoland in 2010 at the age of 70. He became the second oldest person to be thus consecrated. The Episcopal Church in Navajoland is an ”area mission,” not a diocese. It bishop is appointed by the general church’s house of bishops and so can operate on a year-to-year term. At present (2020) Bailey remains bishop of Navajoland.

The third oldest was William E. Toll consecrated to be bishop suffragan of Chicago in 1911, at age 68.

The next oldest are two who were consecrated in the year they turned 67. Francis M. Taitt was consecrated to be bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1929. He became the diocese’ ninth bishop in 1931. Clarence W. Wallace was consecrated to be the sixth bishop of Panama in 1995. Panama is one of several dioceses of the Episcopal Church located outside of the United States.

The only other bishop to be over 65 in the year he was consecrated appears to be Alfred A. Watson, the first bishop of the Diocese of East Carolina, who turned 66 in August 1884, four months after his consecration. He was the sixth oldest person to be made bishop.

On June 27, 2020, Glenda S. Curry will be consecrated to be the bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Alabama. She will have recently turned 67 years of age. She will be the oldest person elected to lead a U.S. diocese since 1929. She will be the oldest woman to be consecrated bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Americans are turning to older leaders these days. The younger of the two presumptive nominees for president of the United States this year is seven years older than Curry.

Sources

The Episcopal Church Annual 2020. New York: Church Publishing, 2020.

Online biographies.

Updated: June 20, 2020

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