[Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania] The Rt. Rev. Nathan Baxter, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, has announced his intent to retire due to health issues.
Baxter, who has recently returned from a three-month sabbatical, told members of the diocese that, although his recent health issues are much improved, “it has also become clear to me that my health challenges will not allow me to serve you with the sustained energy and consistency required for the future of this work.”
Baxter noted that he has continued to deal with migraine headaches, vertigo and fatigue and he felt these ailments would interfere with his ability to execute his duties fully. He noted that, by the time his successor is ordained, he will have served as bishop for eight years. Most bishops in the Episcopal Church serve an average of 10 years before retirement.
The bishop informed the diocesan Standing Committee earlier this month and then sent letters to the clergy and to the diocese as a whole. He noted in his letter that the selection process for a new bishop normally takes about 18 months. He pledged to continue to serve until a new bishop is ordained.
Bishop Clay Matthews, head of the Office of Pastoral Development for the Episcopal Church is scheduled to be at a joint meeting of the council of trustees and Standing Committee of the diocese July 9 to help guide the process of selecting a new bishop.
In the meantime, Baxter said, “I look forward to continuing with my visitations and working to carry forward the many projects that advance the mission and ministry of this diocese. In addition, I know that our dedicated diocesan staff will continue their fine work and will help us all work through this period of change.”
A third generation clergyman, Baxter was ordained as bishop of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania on Oct. 21, 2006 with retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu delivering the sermon. Before his election, Baxter was rector of historic St. James Episcopal Church, Lancaster, which was founded in 1744 and is largest parish in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.
Prior to his tenure at St. James Church, Baxter served for 12 years as dean of the Washington National Cathedral and chief administrative officer of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, which operates the cathedral’s eight schools, colleges and auxiliaries.
The Diocese of Central Pennsylvania comprises 66 parishes and institutions in the 25 central counties of the Commonwealth and covers the area between the Diocese of Pennsylvania — headquartered in Philadelphia — and the Diocese of Pittsburgh.