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Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee: Wikis


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Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee
Arms of Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee
Province IV (Southeast)
Bishop Don E. Johnson
Cathedral St. Mary's Cathedral
Congregations 34
Membership 11,000[1]
Website Diocese of West Tennessee
Map of Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee

The Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee is the diocese of the Episcopal Church that geographically coincides with the political region known as the Grand Division of West Tennessee. The geographic range of the Diocese of West Tennessee was originally part of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee, which was partitioned into three separate dioceses during 1982–1985. The Rt. Rev. Don E. Johnson is the current Bishop of West Tennessee; his predecessors were Alex D. Dickson and James M. Coleman. It is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee.


History and development

Despite being located in the extreme southwestern corner of the state, Memphis served as the episcopal seat for most of the history of the diocese prior to the first territorial separation in 1983. This was largely because most of the early growth in the Episcopal Church in Tennessee occurred in Memphis and surrounding counties; the oldest Episcopal congregation in the present West Tennessee diocese is Immanuel Church in La Grange. A number of the early churches in this part of the state, such as Immanuel Church, primarily served plantations, both owners and slaves. After the Civil War, missionary emphasis in West Tennessee shifted to the city of Memphis, although the church gradually began appearing in larger towns outside the Mississippi River region as well.

Displayed in the west transept of St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Memphis, Tennessee, this stone is part of one of the columns of the balustrade that surrounded the ancient Pool of Bethesda. Brought from Jerusalem by Bishop Thomas F. Gailor, June 1, 1928.

After World War II, three large parishes, Calvary Church, St. Mary's Cathedral (founded in 1858 and a cathedral since 1871), and Grace-St. Luke's Church, began planting missions throughout the Memphis area. The success of these congregations, along with growth elsewhere in the state, prompted then-diocesan bishop John Vander Horst to establish additional offices in Nashville and Knoxville to more effectively serve the other two grand divisions of the state. Vander Horst took up residence in Nashville (while maintaining his cathedra in Memphis), while his bishop coadjutor, William E. Sanders, had his office in Knoxville. A suffragan bishop, the Rt. Rev. W. Fred Gates, Jr., worked out of Memphis from 1966 to 1982.

It was not until Vander Horst retired in 1977 that talks began to separate the statewide diocese into three territories. Upon the General Convention giving consent to plans at its 1982 meeting, the statewide diocese excised its westernmost counties first, with the new West Tennessee diocese beginning operations on January 1, 1983. Two years later, the easternmost counties of the remaining Tennessee diocesan territory became the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee.

During the controversies that racked the denomination nationally in the early 2000s over the consecration of a practicing homosexual, Gene Robinson, to the episcopacy, some clergy and laypeople in the diocese, mostly in suburban Memphis, departed their parishes in favor of continuing Anglican groups. Not a large number did so, however, and the diocese has not been as involved as some other conservative Southern dioceses have in the Anglican realignment movement.

The diocesan motto, Ubique Inter Flumina, means "everywhere between the rivers", referring to the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers, which bracket West Tennessee on two sides.

Most communicants of this diocese reside in either the city of Memphis or its surrounding suburbs in Shelby County.


There are currently more than 11,000 total baptized members worshiping in 34 Episcopal congregations in West Tennessee.

Bishops of Tennessee before the creation of the Diocese of West Tennessee


  1. ^ "About Us". The Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee. Retrieved 2007-12-11.  

See also

External links



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