by Adam Bond
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — The Rt. Rev. Paul V. Marshall, accomplished scholar and eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, announced his resignation earlier this month for reasons of advanced age after serving as bishop for a remarkable seventeen years.
In a letter to the diocesan standing committee, Bishop Marshall writes, “It was my long-held intention to serve you as long as the canons permit. Life contains surprises, however. A number of circumstances and conversations have made it very difficult for me to continue as bishop of a diocese that I have come to love with all my heart.”
He laid out a clear timeline for his resignation: “I will turn over ecclesiastical authority to the Standing Committee at noon on August 1... I will move up my long-delayed sabbatical from 2014 to September of this year, continuing that terminal sabbatical until I lay down my crosier on December 31.”
With best wishes and blessings for the people and clergy of the diocese, Bishop Marshall concludes his letter, writing, “I doubt that there are many bishops who have had as much satisfaction over seventeen years.”
Bishop Paul’s leadership in ministering to the people of the Diocese of Kajo Keji in South Sudan is of special note. After visiting South Sudan in 2000, he said, “I have always known, intellectually, of the disparity between what we Americans take for granted and how most of the world actually lives. Seeing it, ... I was grateful, embarrassed, a little sick, but mostly convinced that it is not possible for a Christian to see this much suffering and not lower his own standard of living in order to help brothers and sisters.”
Bishop Paul set to organizing what is one of the cornerstones of his legacy, New Hope, which he described as “something unique, a capital campaign for others.” To date, the New Hope Campaign has raised 4.1 million dollars in pledges and supported the establishment of five primary schools, one secondary school, and a seminary and teaching college in Kajo Keji. It has also raised funds for parish ministries throughout northeastern Pennsylvania, helping provide for flood relief, food and shelter for the needy, and many other social outreach missions.
Long-time colleague and friend of Bishop Marshall, the Rev. Canon Bill Lewellis wrote in 2012, “Bishop Paul’s ministry among us has been broad and deep: teacher, pastor, preacher, administrator, author, advocate and participant in ministry with people in the developing world, children and youth, the poor and the marginalized, advocate and reconciler with those within the church who consider themselves progressive as well as those who consider themselves traditionalists, interpreter of family systems theory, communicator within and beyond the diocesan community, a leader who consults with colleagues, and a person whose ministry as bishop proceeds from prayer and a contemplative vision of God’s kingdom.”
As for the future, the Rev. Canon Andrew Gerns, president of the Standing Committee, writes that even as Bishop Paul takes time “to imagine how he will serve God in the next phase of his life, ...we as a diocesan community will begin our own process of listening for God and each other as we discern God’s will and together decide how we will act on it. There are many questions and there is much to do. It is important that we do this process one step at a time. ... During the rest of the year, we will also take time to remember and celebrate Bishop Paul’s ministry among us and his many accomplishments as our Bishop.”