PORTLAND (AP) – A historic church in the city’s Munjoy Hill neighborhood will serve as the cathedral in the regional diocese of a church established some three decades ago by dissidents dismayed by liberal trends within the Episcopal Church.

The selection of Old St. Paul’s Parish Church was made last week in Ellsworth at the 12th annual synod of the Anglican Church in America’s Diocese of the Northeast.

“St. Paul’s historic prominence in Maine’s Anglican community made it a natural choice to serve as the cathedral for the seven states that comprise the diocese,” said Bishop George Langberg of Tuxedo, N.Y. “The faithful community of this church will now have a new manner in which to serve in the worldwide Anglican communion.”

St. Paul’s, which is celebrating its 240th anniversary this year, is the oldest continuous parish in Portland, said its rector, the Rev. Lester York, who will assume new duties Oct. 1 as dean of the cathedral.

The consecration of St. Paul’s as a cathedral will take place in late January, York said.

Langberg will travel to Portland for diocesan functions but will maintain his residence in Tuxedo, said York, who indicated that the bishop’s lack of proximity to the cathedral did not pose a problem. “With the modern technology that we have – e-mails and fax machines – it’s almost like he’s here in my back yard,” York said.

All other things being equal, members would have preferred a more central location within the diocese, which includes the six New England states and New York, he said. But the relative spaciousness of St. Paul’s building, its history and its location in a major Northeast city were factors in its selection, according to York.

The parish, which dates to 1763, saw its first church destroyed by the British during the American Revolution. The second building was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1866, setting the stage for completion of the current building three years later.

The Anglican Church in America was established in the 1970s in response to the ordination of women within the Episcopal Church and “the drastic change in the traditions of the church,” York said.

He said interest in the Anglican church has increased amid the recent controversy over the ordination of an openly gay Episcopal bishop in New Hampshire.

The Anglican diocese, which claims between 1,000 and 1,500 members, has 17 parishes and missions, including five in Maine. In addition to Portland, the Maine parishes are in Raymond, Augusta, Ellsworth and Brooksville.

York noted that St. Paul’s will become the third cathedral in Maine’s largest city, joining the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Luke’s Cathedral of the Episcopal diocese.

St. Paul’s will be the first cathedral within the Anglican diocese. Its first bishop, the Rt. Rev. Bruce Chamberlain, had a “pro-cathedral” at his home parish of St. Margaret of Scotland, in Conway, N.H., until his death two years ago, York said.

AP-ES-09-22-03 1051EDT

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