The Diocese of the Southeast

A Diocese of the Reformed Episcopal Church and ACNA

Our History

Bishop George David Cummins
Pictured: George David Cummins , First Presiding Bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church- 1873-1876

The Reformed Episcopal Church was organized in New York City in 1873 by eight clergymen and twenty laymen who were formerly presbyters and members of the Protestant Episcopal Church

History of the Diocese of the Southeast

Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

Romans 9:17

The following history is a compilation of information token from the writings of Reverend Ferguson and other sources.

As the Scriptures teach again and again, God frequently uses the least likely among men to accomplish His will. And so it was with the founding of the Reformed Episcopal Church in the state of South Carolina. For her birth was the direct result of the efforts primarily of two men, Reverend Peter Fayssoux Stevens and Mr. Frank Crawford Ferguson. Reverend Stevens, later Bishop Stevens, was a white, southern-born, Citadel graduate and Confederate Army Colonel, who is remembered for ordering the first shot of the Civil War. Mr. Frank Crawford Ferguson, later Reverend Ferguson, was a member of Immanuel Church in Berkeley County, where he served as Sunday School teacher, and was Catechist in the Protestant Episcopal Church from 1870-1875.

The Reformed Episcopal Church in the South, once the Missionary Jurisdiction of the South and now The Diocese of the Southeast of the Reformed Episcopal Church, enjoys a proud history that began in the Lowcountry of South Carolina in 1865, immediately following the Civil War. Rev. Stevens had resumed his work among the Freedmen, as he had done during the War. He successfully gathered a number of former parishioners and new converts, among whom was Mr. Frank Crawford Ferguson. Rev. Stevens then called a meeting of all members living on adjacent plantations, where he had previously preached during the war to arrange the business of building a church where all Freedmen could conveniently worship with him on Sundays. A substantial number met on or about the site where Immanuel Church was later erected. This meeting resulted in the organization of the Immanuel congregation. Approximately four years later, Rev. Stevens had organized three large congregations of Freedmen: one in St. Stephen, and two in St. John's Parish.

In 1866, Mr. Ferguson felt the Lord's call into the ministry, and offered himself for this service. In 1868, Rev. Stevens, with the consent of Bishop Davis, sent Mr. Ferguson to Raleigh, NC, where he entered the Normal School of the Protestant Episcopal Church, which was supported by the Evangelical Educational Society. Following a brief stay in Raleigh, Mr. Ferguson returned and spent the remainder of his training under the instruction of Professor Pocher and Rev. Stevens. After four or five years of study, Rev. Stevens recommended Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Lawrence Dawson to the Bishop as candidates for the Diaconate. They appeared before the examining Chaplains of the Diocese of South Carolina; passed the examinations; and were instructed to make application to the Bishop and Standing Committee. They did so three times, and were rejected each time. In December 1874, a convention was held in Pinopolis, consisting of delegates from Calvary Church, Charleston; Redeemer Church, Pineville; Nazareth Church, Pinopolis; and Bethlehem Church, Oakley. The purpose of the convention was to consider the course to pursue to bring about a permanent organization among the "Colored" Episcopalians. For, by this time, four Black men had been turned away from the doors of ministry in the Protestant Episcopal Church, Diocese of South Carolina. The following were major actions of the Convention of 1874: the body decided to leave the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of SC; the body decided to seek affiliation with the Reformed Episcopal Church; and the newly elected President, Reverend Ferguson, was asked to write to Bishop Cummins, on behalf of the Convention. Approximately eight months later, in early June 1875, the President received a letter from the Reverend Benjamin Johnson explaining that the General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church had sent him to receive all "Colored" people desiring to unite with the Reformed Episcopal Church.

From 1875 to the present, the Diocese of the Southeast has faithfully served the community. She is the home of the renowned Cummins Theological Seminary in Summerville, SC; the Bishop Jerdan Conference Center, which is located on more than 80 acres on the Coastal Waterway in Awendaw, SC; is comprised of 33 churches; and has steadily increased her numbers to more than 2,300 parishioners in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. These blessings reflect a great work, all of which began with God's use of two least likely among men to carry forth His will. Praise God!

Bishops of the Diocese of the Southeast

Bishop Tenure
The Right Reverend Peter F. Stephen 1879-1909
The Right Reverend Arthur L. Pengelley 1909-1922
The Right Reverend Joseph E. Kearney 1922-1958
The Right Reverend William S.H. Jerdan 1958-1986
The Right Reverend Sanco K. Rembert 1986-1998
The Right Reverend James C. West 1998-2006
The Right Reverend Alphonza Gadsden, Sr. 2007-present