Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal retires after 13 years leading diocese

By David Paulsen
Posted Dec 10, 2020

[Episcopal News Service] Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal retired at the end of November after revealing to his diocese in the fall that he was in recovery for alcoholism. He preached a final sermon Nov. 29 at Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati.

Thomas Breidenthal

Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, who retired last month, had led the diocese since 2007.

Breidenthal first announced his plans to retire on Sept. 18, after undergoing treatment in a nursing facility for a debilitating infection that had impaired his ability to walk. On Oct. 23, he updated the diocese to say that he was feeling much better thanks to that treatment, but he said he had spent the past month in a residential treatment program for “a problem with alcohol.”

Breidenthal, 69, had said initially he was retiring to tend to his health and focus more attention on his family, after leading the diocese for 13 years. In revealing his alcoholism, he further acknowledged “it is also time for me to give primary attention to my continuing recovery.”

“This has been intense, at times painful, but ultimately spiritually restorative time for me,” he said in his Oct. 23 message to the diocese. “As anyone recovering from any kind of addiction knows, the spiritual work is never over. Recovery is a lifelong road lived one day at a time. I am blessed to engage the early steps of that journey in your midst.”

Since Breidenthal’s retirement, Assisting Bishop Kenneth Price Jr. has taken over updating the diocese on pandemic precautions for worship, though it wasn’t immediately clear what leadership transition plans were underway in the diocese.

“This diocese has benefited greatly from your scholarship, your knowledge of scripture, your preaching,” Price said to Breidenthal in a tribute video that was shown with the cathedral’s Nov. 29 online service. “You will long be remembered for being a very forceful bishop for us.”

Breidenthal was consecrated in 2007 in Columbus as the ninth bishop of the diocese. Previously, he had served as dean of religious life at Princeton University in New Jersey. Before that, he taught ethics and theology at General Theological Seminary in New York.

In the House of Bishops, Breidenthal has served as chair of that body’s Theology Committee, which in September issued a 52-page report on “White Supremacy, the Beloved Community and Learning to Listen.” He was one of four nominees for presiding bishop in 2015, the year Presiding Bishop Michael Curry was elected.

“Your faithfulness, your leadership, your teaching have enriched our lives,” the Rev. John Johanssen, canon to the ordinary, said in the tribute video. “We wish you a rich and wonderful retirement, with good health and much joy.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at