The Rev. James R. Harlan serves as the twelfth rector of the Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea.
Having served in parishes in Colorado and as a Navy Chaplain all over the world, Father Harlan brings a breadth of parish leadership experience and education to his ministry at Bethesda-by-the-Sea. James has served in large and small congregations, in urban, suburban, and small-town resort congregations, each of them experiencing a time of growth and vitality under his leadership.
Alongside parish ministry, James served in Colorado on the Standing Committee, the Commission on Ministry, the diocesan Board of Examining Chaplains, the Commission on Youth Ministry, and the board of directors of Cathedral Ridge, the diocese’s camp and conference center. He also taught Liturgics and Church History at the Iliff School of Theology in the Anglican Studies program and served for many years as a reader for the General Ordination Examination for the Episcopal Church’s General Board of Examining Chaplains. In the Diocese of Southeast Florida, he currently serves as chair of the Constitution and Canons Committee, and recently concluded a term as Dean of the North Palm Beach Deanery and as a member of the Executive Board of the Diocese.
James’ passion for helping congregations grow and thrive centers on learning about and appreciating the rapidly-changing culture in which we all live. He wants Bethesda’s rich Episcopal tradition to continue to speak the love of God to all who come through the doors: by thinking creatively about programs and ministry; and by being responsive to new needs and opportunities. He loves working closely with staff and other leaders in collaborative ways that unleash everyone’s gifts for ministry.
James first felt called to be a priest in fifth grade. He grew up, the fourth of five children, in a faithful family that was always active in the Episcopal Church. As a teenager his parents responded to a call to live in a Christian community setting, and so he had as many as sixteen fellow residents in his house. He has solely focused on serving the church since the age of twenty when he became an assistant youth minister at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver.
James and Eli, his wife of 24 years, enjoy life in Palm Beach. They are certain that they do not miss icy sidewalks and snow tires. They both love being able to go out for a run or a walk almost every day of the year and have discovered that each season offers wonderful ways to enjoy south Florida. Having served in the Navy, but never on a ship, James likes to take advantage of living just down the street from the ocean to get out on the sea as often as possible. Eli and James have an adult daughter who lives and works in Gainesville, Florida.