The Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee elected the Reverend Phoebe Roaf, rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, VA, as its fourth bishop. She was elected on one ballot.
Roaf will be in stalled in a consecration service May 4 at Hope Presbyterian Church. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, will preside.
Roaf is a lifelong Episcopalian. She grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She is rector at St. Philip’s, the oldest African-American church in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, where she has served as the parish leader since 2011. Before St. Philips’s, Roaf was associate rector for three years at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans.
Roaf, who earned a law degree from the University of Arksansas, 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 pursuing a call to serve the Episcopal Church as clergy.
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.
The other nominess for the position were the Rev. Marian Dulaney Fortner, rector, Trinity Episcopal Church in Hattiesburg, MS; and the Rev. Sarah Hollar, rector, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Huntersville, NC.
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 denomination, bishops are chosen by a clergy and lay leader votes. They must receive a majority from each group on the same ballot in order to be elected.
Roaf succeeds Bishop Don E. Johnson, who has served the Diocese of West Tennessee as bishop since 2001. 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.
The diocese announced the three nominees in late summer. They visited in late October, meeting with parishioners and clergy in Memphis and Dyersburg and responding to questions in a public forum.
In her application materials, Roaf referenced the divisions in the society and the role of the church.
“The Episcopal Church is ideally suited for a time such as this, when community building and reconciliation are needed. There is a deep hunger among many people to bridge our differences and to form meaningful connections. My life and ministry in multi-cultural and multi-racial environments make me uniquely suited to serve among the geographic, economic, racial and ethnic diversity found within in the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee.”