The story of the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield begins as early as 1821, when the General Board of Missions sent the Reverend Amos Baldwin to evangelize the American western frontier. During his journeys, Baldwin reportedly organized a congregation in Albion, Illinois. However, both the congregation and any records of it disappeared. A congregation did reemerge in Albion and today St. John’s Episcopal Church is the oldest surviving Episcopal house of worship in Illinois. The faithful have worshipped in there since Christmas 1842.
The story continued as other missionary priests evangelized Illinois, organizing parishes in communities like Jacksonville (Trinity, 1832) and Chicago (St. James, 1834) and establishing congregations in other areas. In 1835, three priests, and six laypersons from Peoria, Rushville, and Beardstown met in the upper room of a tavern to organize the Episcopal Diocese of Illinois. The Diocese began with 28 communicants and congregations in Jacksonville, Peoria, Rushville, Beardstown, Chicago, and Galena. Subsequently the Right Reverend Philander Chase became first Bishop of Illinois.
By 1876, the task of evangelizing the State of Illinois became so great that the Diocesan Convention established the mechanics by which the statewide diocese could grow into three separate regional dioceses. The General Convention of 1877 approved the division. Later that year, in December, the Primary Convention of the new Diocese of Springfield met in the city for which it was named. With Bishop Edward M. McLaren presiding, 13 clergy and 31 laypersons attended the meeting and elected Diocesan officers. The Very Reverend George Franklin Seymour, Dean of General Theological Seminary in New York was elected the Bishop of Springfield.
The following clergy have served the Diocese in the capacity as indicated:
- George Franklin Seymour (Bishop, 1878-1906);
- Edward William Osborne (Coadjutor 1904-1905; Bishop, 1904-1916);
- Granville Hudson Sherwood (Bishop, 1917-1923);
- John Chanler White (Bishop, 1924-1947);
- Richard Tuttle Loring (Bishop 1947-1948);
- Charles Asa Clough (Bishop, 1948-1961);
- Albert Arthur Chambers (Bishop, 1962-1972);
- Albert William Hillestad (Bishop, 1972-1981);
- Donald Maynard Hultstrand (Bishop, 1982-1991);
- Peter Hess Beckwith (Bishop, 1992-2010);
- Daniel Hayden Martins (Bishop, 03-19-2011 to 06-30-2021).
A more detailed history of the Diocese and our eleven episcopates can be found here.