Matthew Cowden elected bishop of West Virginia

Posted Sep 27, 2021

The Rev. Matthew Cowden. Photo: Diocese of West Virginia

[Diocese of West Virginia] The Rev. Matthew Cowden was elected to become the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia during the 144th diocesan convention on Sept. 25. 

“I am honored,” said Cowden shortly after being notified of the election. “It will be a joy to serve you. Melissa and I are grateful, honored and humbled to join you in West Virginia.” 

Cowden was selected from a slate of three candidates after a discernment process spanning almost two years. Beginning with a list of interested applicants, a diocesan search committee reviewed and selected the candidates to put before the church. The balloting process requires a 50-percent-plus-one vote occurring simultaneously from the two voting bodies. The voting members are lay delegates from each parish in the state and voting clergy. Cowden was selected on the third ballot. 

Cowden is the rector of St. Michael and All Angels in South Bend, Indiana. With family roots in West Virginia, he was born and reared in northern Virginia. After an early career as a college theater professor, he received his Master of Divinity degree at Virginia Theological Seminary in 2006. He has led rural and suburban congregations in developing a shared vision for implementing new ministry and serves on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church. 

“This discernment brought three wonderful, gifted candidates to West Virginia,” said the Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer, the diocesan bishop. 

“Through meditation and prayer, our voting clergy and delegates selected the person who will lead the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia into the future. We welcome Matthew and his wife, Melissa, and look forward to having them as part our church family.” 

“To Abbot Bailey and Patrick Collins, the two other candidates, we experienced and saw the Holy Spirit working through you,” Klusmeyer added. “We wish you the best and know you will continue to carry forth the work of the church.” 

Cowden will be consecrated bishop coadjutor on March 12, 2022, at West Virginia Wesleyan College. This ceremony will position him to assume responsibilities for the pastoral and administrative work of the diocese in October 2022. The chief consecrator will be the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church. 

Cowden officially becomes the eighth diocesan bishop on Oct. 13, 2022, which is also Klusmeyer’s consecration anniversary. Klusmeyer was consecrated in 2001 and has chosen his anniversary date to retire.