The Episcopal Church was formally established in the State of Tennessee in 1834. In 1982 the western third of the state, between the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, was separated from the Diocese of Tennessee to become the Diocese of West Tennessee.
The Diocese of West Tennessee is small, both geographically and in terms of membership (about 11,000 baptized members). It includes 33 parishes and missions, 19 of them located in the Memphis metropolitan area, and ranging in size from just a handful of parishioners to over 2,000 members. The diocese has a rich history of developing unique programs and facilities, including St. Columba Center (a diocesan conference and retreat center), Emmanuel Episcopal Center (a ministry to public housing communities in south Memphis), The Good Shepherd Center (a training center for The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), Bridges USA (a community of young leaders committed to advancing racial, social and environmental justice), and The Haiti Partnership (an ecumenical ministry in service to St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Montrouis and St. Vincent’s Hospital and Orphanage in Port-au-Prince).
Our parish of Grace-St. Luke’s participates actively in the programs of the diocese, with a number of our parishioners presently or having in the past served in important diocesan posts, most notably as diocesan treasurer thrice in succession. Our youth are active in the Diocesan Youth Council and in programs for young people such as the Happening movement.
To learn more, visit the Diocese of West Tennessee website.
Bishop Roaf is a lifelong Episcopalian. She grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She was rector at St. Philip’s, the oldest African-American church in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, where she she had served as Rector since 2011. Before St. Philips’s, Bishop Roaf was associate rector for three years at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans.
Bishop Roaf, who earned a law degree from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, and clerked two years for Judge James L. Dennis, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, worked in commercial real estate before being ordained. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Harvard University and MPA at Princeton University. She attended Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. She is vice chair of the board of trustees at Virginia Theological Seminary.
Roaf was chosen in a balloting process in the diocese’s annual convention at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown. All clergy and elected lay delegates are allowed to vote. Under the canons of the Church, bishops are chosen by clergy and lay leader votes. They must receive a majority from each group on the same ballot in order to be elected.
The diocese, which covers all of Tennessee west of the Tennessee River, has 8,260 active members and an average Sunday attendance of more than 3,000.