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Former National Cathedral dean elected Bishop of Central Pennsylvania

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

Bishop-elect Nathan D. Baxter  

[Episcopal News Service]  The Rev. Dr. Nathan D. Baxter, 57, rector, St. James' Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and former dean of Washington National Cathedral, was elected July 22 bishop of the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

The election, on the fifth ballot, came during the diocese’s 136th annual diocesan convention, which began July 21 at Bucknell University, Lewisburg.

An election required a simple majority in both the clergy and lay order. Thus, of the 96 votes cast in the clergy order on the fifth ballot, 49 were needed for election and 84 of the 166 votes in the lay order. Baxter had 49 clergy votes and 88 in the lay order.

Under the canons the Episcopal Church (III.16.4(a)), a majority of the bishops exercising jurisdiction and diocesan Standing Committees must consent to Baxter’s ordination as bishop within 120 days of receiving notice of the election.

After this process is complete, the consecration of the new bishop will take place at Trinity Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, on October 21. Baxter will succeed Bishop Michael Creighton, 65, who has been bishop since January 1996 and will retire later this year.

Baxter has been rector of St. James, the largest parish in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, since October 2003. The diocese has more than 16,000 Episcopalians in 71 congregations and one mission.

A native of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the seat of the diocese, Baxter was graduated in 1976 from the Lancaster Theological Seminary. After canonical studies at the Diocesan School of Christian Studies, he was ordained deacon in June 1977 and priest the following December by Bishop Dean T. Stevenson.

From 1991 to 2003, Baxter was the dean of Washington National Cathedral. During that time, he led the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance Service following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and officiated at the memorial service for the crew of the space shuttle, Columbia. He presided over the funerals and memorial services of many prominent Americans including Thurgood Marshall, William Colby, William Fulbright, Clark Clifford, Pamela Harriman, Ron Brown and Katherine Graham, as well as the American memorial service for Princess Diana.

Previously, he was administrative dean at Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts; dean, Lancaster Theological Seminary; chaplain, St. Paul’s College Lawrenceville, Virginia; rector, St. Cyprian’s Church, Hampton, Virginia; and curate, St. John’s Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He serves as a member of the diocesan finance committee, Bishop's Council of Advice, and is chair of the diocesan deputation to General Convention.

In l984, he completed the Doctor of Ministry degree at Lancaster Theological Seminary, where he is presently adjunct professor of preaching. Lancaster Seminary and Washington National Cathedral have established endowed lectureships in his name. Harvard Divinity School named him a Charles E. Merrill Fellow in 1998 and Philadelphia Lutheran Seminary named a classroom in his honor in 2006.

A decorated veteran, he received the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm. He is an associate of Holy Cross Monastery and a chaplain in the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. His publications include "Visions for the Millennium" and the award winning "Challenge and Comfort: A Pastor’s Thoughts for a Troubled Nation."

In 1969, Baxter married Mary Ellen Walker Baxter of York, Pennsylvania. She is a musician and educator. They have two children, two foster children and 9 grandchildren.

The other nominees were: the Rev. Stephen T. Ayres, 51, vicar, Old North Church, Boston, Massachusetts; the Rev. Catherine A. Munz, 52, rector, St. Brendan's Church, Franklin Park, Pennsylvania; the Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi, 55, rector, St. Peter's Church, Morristown, New Jersey; the Rev. Canon Mark Scheneman, 57, rector, St. John's Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and the Very Rev. David Selzer, 54, rector, Church of the Good Shepherd, Buffalo, New York.

Information about all the nominees is available at