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Steven Charleston appointed interim dean of Oklahoma's St. Paul's Cathedral

[Episcopal News Service] Bishop Edward J. Konieczny of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma announced July 29 that he has appointed retired Bishop Steven Charleston to serve as the interim dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in Oklahoma City.

Charleston, retired bishop of Alaska and dean of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, most recently served in a similar capacity as provost of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. He assisted the congregation during the transition after their dean retired from a 25-year tenure.

"Bishop Charleston has deep roots in Oklahoma. He was born in Duncan and is a member of the Choctaw Nation," Konieczny said in a letter announcing the appointment. Charleston will begin his new post Aug. 16. Konieczny added that Charleston was confirmed by Bishop Chilton Powell and attended Church of the Resurrection in Oklahoma City.

An internationally recognized advocate of indigenous people and the environment, Charleston has been an administrator, a parish priest, and seminary professor and dean. A popular preacher and teacher, he also is known as a champion of reconciliation within the Anglican Communion.

He has served as executive director of Native American ministries in the Episcopal Church and lived and worked on the reservations of North and South Dakota for the Dakota Leadership Program. He became a tenured professor in systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he taught for eight years. He served as a parish priest in both the Dakotas and Minnesota.

In 1991, he was elected on the first ballot as the 6th bishop of Alaska and the diocese's first Native American bishop. He lived in Fairbanks, Alaska with his family until his wife Suzanne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and they returned to the east coast. He then became the president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School where he served for 10 years.

Charleston hails from a long line of preachers and pastors. His great-grandfather Martin Charleston was a senator in the government of the Choctaw Nation and founded several Presbyterian churches in southeastern Oklahoma as an ordained pastor of that denomination.

His grandfather, Simeon Charleston, also was an ordained Presbyterian pastor and preached in the Choctaw language for many years throughout the state. His father, "Choc" Charleston, owned and operated The Choctaw Trading Post in Oklahoma City for over 20 years.

On the advice of his priest, Steven Charleston attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, earning a bachelor's degree in religion in 1971. He graduated in 1976 with a Master of Divinity degree from Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Charleston has now returned to his home in Oklahoma to care for his parents and to be near his son, Nicholas, who lives in Durant and works as a Choctaw language teacher.

He and Suzanne Charleston, an artist trained at the Museum School in Boston with an M.F.A. from the University of Minnesota, will celebrate their 32nd anniversary this July.

In this latest role, he will assist St. Paul's Cathedral members during their search for a new dean. The Very Rev. George Back retired in May after 28 years as cathedral dean.

The Diocese of Oklahoma encompasses the entire state, some 20,000 baptized members and approximately 150 resident clergy in its 72 congregations.

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