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Who We Are

The Episcopal Church in Iowa

Eleven thousand baptized members in 61 congregations, large and small,
Configured to grow “in mission with Christ through each and all.”

Our Diocese is the geographic state of Iowa with 61 congregations, divided into 10 regional Mission Chapters.


Introducing the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, USA

By Bishop Scarfe for Lambeth Conference, Summer 2008  

The state and people of Iowa have been on the news in recent weeks because vast flooding that has affected tens of thousands of households. The city of Cedar Rapids saw four hundred blocks of businesses and homes flood out. In one small town 98% of the 851 homes were declared uninhabitable. No parish church was affected, but many families have suffered. Iowa is also a great agricultural state, and the loss of crops by flooding at a crucial seeding phase is estimated into the billions of dollars.

The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa has already organized itself into crews for assistance with clean up and even potentially with rebuilding. This latter phase is months off. We have been helped with expert advice from those who endured the aftermath of Katrina and Rita hurricanes. The New Orleans Diocese of Louisiana has sent their leading coordinators to help us envision our response. For several years now Iowa has sent teams to New Orleans and Mississippi to help rebuild those areas. Now it was their turn to come an help us. This is the stage we are in.

The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa is heavily committed to its partnership with the Dioceses of Swaziland and Brechin. Bishop Mabuza and I have held a healing mission in Iowa teaming up as prayer teams with our wives. Ironically, our most recent mission effort has been the Waters of Hope bicycle ride covering more than 1000 miles around Iowa to raise funds and awareness of the need for clean water in the Sudan and Swaziland. Little did we now how our project called Waters of Hope would lead us into a different experience with water. The Waters of Hope project is aiming to raise money for chlorinators for Swaziland and to build a couple of wells for the Sudan.

Water is significant to us as Christian people because of our baptismal identity with Christ. We see ourselves as in mission with Christ through each and all - a mission statement which sits on every Diocesan staff members' desk, and outlines our letterhead and our communications. Through each and all refers to the baptismal community where the ministers of the Church are all the baptized. We have a number of churches in isolated towns and in small numbers where we raise up leaders and train them in ministry development teams for local leadership. Some members are ordained for local ordained ministry as priests and deacons.

At my consecration five years ago, I invited the people to engage in a bible study of Isaiah 58, and the call of God for a fast which is appropriate to God's pleasure. An artist priest called for written testimony to the myriad of ministries people did in their daily lives as Christ's followers. Each ministry was painted onto a banner until the whole Convention Center in Des Moines was filled with depictions of God's Spirit at work through God's people in mission with Christ. This is the people of Iowa. They are a dedicated people, keen to live up to Christ's two great commissions - seeking to balance Matthew 25 with Matthew 28. We proclaim Christ's good news in word and deed.

As a graying population, the Episcopal Church in Iowa needs to focus on its next generations of faith. Youth and young adult leadership is vital at this stage in our common life. Finding new ways to invite them to worship and to hear God's word is important. This includes going on pilgrimage as part of their young faith development. It might even mean using worship forms of a contemporary nature such as with the U2-Charists. Continuing to bring young newly ordained people back to the Diocese from seminary is another of our goals. I ran 187 miles for sponsorship from the two Cathedrals in Iowa from Davenport to Des Moines to help raise such funds for curacies to be established.

The people of the Iowa Diocese enjoy their connections with the Anglican Communion. Next year we hope to receive Bishop Mabuza back to Iowa as a co-leader of an evangelism mission. Right now we benefit from hosting a Swazi priest in the south west of the state, who is teaching multiple point parish ministry, and increasing our sense of evangelistic mission. We hosted the Bishop of Brechin in conversation about the difficulty and challenge of taking the Gospel to a secularized society like Europe. Over the next five years we have set goals within four distinct strategic areas: Strengthening Congregations, bringing the Gospel to the next generations of faith; learning how to share our resources together as a diocese and in partnership; exploring and affirming the gift of being an Episcopal Anglican for our time, and seeking out those whom God is calling through the Episcopal expression of Christ's saving grace through His life, death and resurrection.

A History of the Diocese of Iowa, 1853-2003
By Loren N. Horton

The Diocese of Iowa was formed at a convention called by Missionary Bishop Jackson Kemper and held at Trinity Church in Muscatine on August 17, 1853. On October 7 and 8 of the same year the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America admitted the Diocese of Iowa to membership. On June 1, 1854 the first annual diocesan convention was held in Davenport, and the Reverend Henry Washington Lee was elected the first bishop.

The boundaries of the new diocese corresponded with the boundaries of the State of Iowa. Thus, the sesquicentennial of the formation of the new diocese was celebrated in 2003.

Nine bishops have served the Diocese of Iowa. Alan Scarfe, the Ninth Bishop of Iowa, was ordained in April of 2003. Three of the bishops had long tenures, and it is interesting to note that from 1854 until 1929, the Diocese of Iowa had only three bishops. That continuity undoubtedly aided the growth of the Church in the state.

Men and women priests and deacons, priests of Native American Indian and African-American heritages have served the Diocese of Iowa. Although the number of preaching stations, missionary stations, Missions, and Parishes has changed over time, there are 63 congregations gathered to worship in many parts of the state after this one hundred-fifty years. Many beautiful church buildings have been built. It is also worth noting that eleven Iowa Episcopal Church buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

As we look back on the successes and the challenges of the past, we consider the present, and look forward to the future. Publication of a sesquicentennial history of the Diocese, the information becomes known and will be used as a foundation of for future growth the development. We can never stand with out eyes looking to the past, but we also must remember that it was that same past that created the context in which we live today.

“The Beautiful Heritage” A History of the Diocese of Iowa, 1853-2003 by Loren N Horton. This beautiful book was commissioned for the Diocese's Sesquicentennial Celebration and includes photos and historical information. You may order a copy in either hardback or softcover. ORDER FORM>>

Episcopal Diocese of Iowa | 225 37th Street | Des Moines, IA 50312 | 515.277.6165 | Site Map

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