A suffragan bishop is a type of in some . In the , a suffragan bishop is a bishop who is subordinate to a or (bishop ordinary) and so is not normally jurisdictional in their role. Suffragan bishops may be charged by a metropolitan to oversee a and may be assigned to areas which do not have a of their own. In the , a suffragan instead leads a within an other than the principal diocese, the ; the diocese led by the suffragan is called a suffragan diocese.

Anglican Communion

In the churches, the term applies to a bishop who is assigned responsibilities to support a . For example, the is a suffragan to the diocesan . Suffragan bishops in the Anglican Communion are nearly identical in their role to s in the Roman Catholic Church.



English diocesan bishops were commonly assisted by bishops who had been consecrated to sees which were ' (titular sees that had in most cases been conquered by Muslims) before the . The separation of the English Church from Rome meant that this was no longer possible. The allowed for the creation of new sees to allow these assistant bishops, who were named as suffragan. Before then, the term ''suffragan'' referred to diocesan bishops in relation to their metropolitan. The concept of a suffragan bishop in the was legalised by the Suffragan Bishops Act 1534. The first bishops consecrated under that Act were , and , on 19 March 1536. The last Tudor suffragan bishop in post was , , who died in post in 1607/8. No more suffragans were appointed for more than 250 years, until the consecration of as on 2 February 1870. At that point, the sees of suffragans were still limited to the 26 towns named in the 1534 Act; the allowed the creation of new suffragan sees besides the 26 so named. The appointment of bishops suffragan became much more common thereafter.


=Area bishops

= Some Church of England suffragan bishops are legally delegated responsibility by the diocesan bishop for a specific geographical ''area'' within the diocese. Such formal arrangements were piloted by the experimental London scheme in 1970. For example, the Bishop of Colchester is an ''area bishop'' in the . Such ''area schemes'' are presently found in the dioceses of: * (since 1979): Two Cities (overseen by the diocesan), Edmonton, Kensington, Stepney, Willesden. * (since 1983): Barking, Bradwell, Colchester. * (since 1984): Oxford (overseen by the diocesan), Buckingham, Dorchester, Reading. * (since 1991): Croydon, Kingston, Woolwich. * (since 1992): Shrewsbury, Stafford, Wolverhampton. * (since 2014): Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds (overseen by the Bishop of Kirkstall), Ripon, Wakefield. Area schemes have previously existed in (1993–2002; Worcester (overseen by the diocesan), Dudley), (1981–2009; Ramsbury, Sherborne), (2010 – 31 January 2013; Grantham, Grimsby) and (1984–2013; Chichester (overseen by the diocesan), Lewes, Horsham). Other suffragans have or have had informal responsibility for geographical areas (e.g. in , , and York), but these are not referred to as ''area bishops''.

=Suffragan bishops

= Only the small Dioceses and do not have a suffragan bishop. Until 2016/2017, the Dioceses and each had a stipendiary instead of suffragans, but these have since been replaced with suffragan bishops.

=Provincial episcopal visitors

= Suffragan bishops in the who have oversight of parishes and clergy that reject the ministry of priests who are women, usually across a whole province, are known as s (PEVs) (or "flying bishops"). This concession was made in 1992 following the General Synod's vote to ordain women to the priesthood. The first PEV was , , who was consecrated on 7 March 1994.


An early example of a suffragan can be seen in is , established in 1537, when the Welsh dioceses were still within the Church of England. The was a suffragan in the from 1890 till the erection of in 1923. Since disestablishment, was suffragan Bishop of Maenan in the , when the bishop diocesan was also .


The has no suffragan bishops, not even in the geographically large dioceses.

United States

Suffragan bishops are fairly common in larger dioceses of the (ECUSA), but usually have no responsibility for a specific geographical part of a diocese. is not within the jurisdiction of the English law that requires diocesan and suffragan bishops to be appointed as bishop to a specific place, and so suffragans are not given the title of any particular city within the diocese. For example, was titled simply “Suffragan Bishop of ”. and bishops are different episcopal offices than ''suffragan''. A coadjutor is elected by a diocesan convention to become the diocesan bishop (also called "the ordinary") upon the ordinary's retirement. A suffragan is also elected by a convention, but does not automatically succeed the diocesan bishop. However a suffragan's office does continue in the diocese until he or she chooses to retire. An ''assistant bishop'' is appointed by the diocesan bishop, and his or her office ends when the ordinary who appointed her or him leaves office.


Some Anglican Church of Canada suffragan bishops are legally delegated responsibility by the diocesan bishop for a specific geographical ''area'' within the diocese. *: York-Scarborough, York-Credit Valley, Trent-Durham, York-Simcoe.

Acting bishops

It is common for Anglican suffragan or assistant bishops to serve as acting bishop during a vacancy in the diocesan see (e.g., between the death or retirement of the bishop diocesan and their successor taking post). In order to achieve this, the commissions a suffragan/assistant (usually the full-time bishop senior by consecration) who becomes the ''episcopal commissary'', but may be referred to by any number of phrases (since the commission is held from the metropolitan archbishop, she may be called ''archbishop's commissary''; the most usual current term in the Church of England being Acting Bishop of Somewhere). In the Anglican Church of Australia, someone (not always a bishop) acting as diocesan bishop is the Administrator of the Diocese and a bishop so commissioned is called the Bishop Administrator. In 2013, between the retirement of and the confirmation of as , both of that diocese's suffragan bishops (, , and , , who were consecrated on the same day, therefore neither had seniority) served as acting bishop co-equally. In 2014–2015, during the vacancy between the episcopates of and , the diocese's sole suffragan bishop, , , became Acting ; however, when he resigned the commission due to ill health, (retired former and an of the diocese) was commissioned Acting Bishop for a fixed one-year term.

Roman Catholic Church

In the , a suffragan is a bishop who heads a . His , however, is part of a larger , nominally led by a . The distinction between metropolitans and suffragans is of limited practical importance. Both are diocesan bishops possessing ordinary jurisdiction over their individual . The metropolitan has few responsibilities over the suffragans in his province and no direct authority over the faithful outside of his own diocese. Bishops who assist diocesan bishops are usually called s. If the assisting bishop has special faculties (typically the right to succeed the diocesan bishop) he would be called a . Since they are not in charge of a suffragan diocese, they are not referred to as "suffragan bishops".

See also

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{{DEFAULTSORT:Suffragan Bishop Episcopacy in Oriental Orthodoxy