Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee: Wikis


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Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee
Arms of Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee
Province IV (Southeast)
Bishop John C. Bauerschmidt
Cathedral Christ Church Cathedral
Congregations 52
Membership 15,000[1]
Website Diocese of Tennessee
Map of Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee

The Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee is the diocese of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America that covers roughly Middle Tennessee. A single diocese spanned the entire state until 1982, when the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee was created; the Diocese of Tennessee was again split in 1985 when the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee was formed.[1] It is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

The diocese includes 52 parishes and mission outposts. Most of its present communicants reside in the metropolitan Nashville area (chiefly Davidson, Rutherford, Sumner, and Williamson counties). St. Paul's Church in Franklin is the diocese's oldest congregation.


Episcopate and offices

The Right Reverend John C. Bauerschmidt was consecrated as the eleventh Bishop of Tennessee on January 27, 2007. He is the third bishop to serve since the final territorial separation in 1985; his predecessors were George L. Reynolds (1985-91) and Bertram N. Herlong (1993-2005).

The seat of the bishop is Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville, which was designated the diocesan cathedral in 1997. Weekday diocesan offices are located in the MetroCenter area, north of downtown Nashville. From 1871 until the division of the diocese (1982-1983), the seat of the bishop was St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Memphis; it continues today as the cathedral for the West Tennessee diocese.

History and development

In a history of the diocese published in celebration of its 175th anniversary, Herlong, the 10th bishop of the diocese, writes:

For 175 years, the Diocese of Tennessee has proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Episcopal manner and tradition. On July 1-2, 1829, the fledgling church gathered at the Masonic Hall in Nashville to hold the primary convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Tennessee. Three clergy and six laymen representing four congregations met with Bishop John Stark Ravenscroft of the Diocese of North Carolina presiding. In that same year, the 16th general Convention meeting in Philadelphia on August 12-20 admitted the church in the state of Tennessee into union with the General Convention.

Since that time, the Episcopal Church in Tennessee has grown and now consists of three dioceses with 137 congregations and 37,518 baptized members.

Someone recently told me that the past is the prologue to the future. I believe that is true. We have a "goodly heritage" as Episcopalian Christians and we can face the future with confidence and hope. In our time and generation may we be faithful and continue the mission and ministry so well begun by those who have gone before.

Much of the early growth of the Diocese of Tennessee occurred in plantation regions, mainly centered in the hilly, fertile tobacco-growing region south of Nashville and in the cotton-producing lands of the Mississippi River region in southwestern Tennessee, the church being imported by Anglican loyalists from Virginia and North Carolina. It was not until after the Civil War that the Episcopal church penetrated much of East Tennessee, and well into the 20th century before many other towns elsewhere in the state got their own churches. The University of the South, located on the Cumberland Plateau in Sewanee, Tennessee, however, helped the fledgling diocese in matters of clergy development. As with much of American Protestantism during the period after World War II, the Episcopal Church flourished in newly-developing suburban areas, a large number of the new churches being missions founded by long-established in-town parishes.

By the 1960s and during the episcopate of John Vander Horst, enough growth had taken place that the diocese had established offices in Nashville and Knoxville in addition to the cathedral in Memphis in order to economically provide episcopal care to parishes and missions throughout the state; Vander Horst maintained his office in Nashville while keeping his seat in Memphis. The process for division of the state into three territories began when Vander Horst retired in 1977, under the aegis of his successor, William E. Sanders. Upon approval by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1982, the diocese excised its western counties first, followed by the eastern counties two years later. The remaining territory in Middle Tennessee became the legal successor to the statewide diocese.

Recent controversies

Beginning with the Herlong episcopate in the 1990s, the diocese embarked on an aggressive church extension program, particularly to the fast-growing suburbs of Nashville. Many of the clergy recruited to serve those missions were conservative evangelical in orientation, and some of them, along with their laity, expressed sympathy for the Anglican realignment movement after V. Gene Robinson, a practicing homosexual, was consecrated to the episcopacy of New Hampshire in 2004. Some established parishes and missions called conservative priests and rectors during this period also. The diocese became highly polarized as these theologically conservative clergy and some of their laity, supported by the Bishop, objected to increased social and theological liberalism within the Episcopal church and came into conflict with other clergy and laity, mostly in the city of Nashville, who supported a more Broad Church tradition.

Matters came to a head when the diocese attempted to a elect a successor bishop upon Herlong's retirement in 2006. With delegates to the diocesan convention sharply divided and thus unable to come to a decision from a first slate of nominees, another slate had to be submitted, and even then, the voting required numerous ballots and several adjourned sessions to complete, a situation highly unusual for an American Episcopal diocese. Finally, the diocesan convention settled on Bauerschmidt, a moderate.

Disappointed in the results of the election, and fueled by the national church's refusal to reconsider its socially liberal positions on numerous issues including homosexuality, some conservatives began to withdraw from the Diocese and align with alternate Anglican structures.

Some of the effects from the dismay on the part of conservatives include the following:

  • Some communicants and members of St. Bartholomew's Church in Nashville, St. Barnabas' Church in Tullahoma, and All Saints' Church in Smyrna (the latter a recent new church start) left their respective congregations in order to form continuing Anglican churches.
  • Most of the membership of Winchester's Trinity Church left, including its rector. It is now dependent on the Diocese for clergy supply.
  • Two conservative-oriented missions started during the Herlong episcopate, the Church of the Good Samaritan in Franklin and the Church of the Apostles in Thompson Station, closed due to membership defection and leadership changes.
  • A small mission near Sewanee, St. Agnes' Church in Cowan, separated itself from a group ministry arrangment in order to have a conservative vicar of its own.
  • Another conservative mission, St. Francis' Church in Goodlettsville, will merge in early 2010 with the nearby St. Joseph of Arimathea Church in Hendersonville. Both of those churches' memberships have declined due to the fallout of departing traditionalists.[2]
  • On October 30, 2009, the Diocese filed a complaint in the Chancery Court of Davidson County, seeking the property of St. Andrew's Church in Nashville, a historically Anglo-Catholic parish that has, according to the Diocese, discontinued participation in the Diocese in order to realign itself with the Anglican Diocese of Quincy, based in Illinois.[3][4] After the 2004 approval of the Robinson consecration, the parish removed the word "Episcopal" from its signage and its official name, to signal its sharp disapproval of the actions of General Convention. The parish has a long history, as do many other Anglo-Catholic parishes in the U.S., in involvement in conservative protest against national policies, going to back to its opposition to the revision of the Book of Common Prayer and women's ordination in the 1970s.

Some conservatives have remained loyal to the Diocese, but it appears that the balance of power now rests with a coalition of liberals and moderates. There are no signs the the Diocese as a whole will join groups such as the American Anglican Council, which several of its congregations (and several other dioceses elsewhere) hold membership in.

Gallery of bishops


External links



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