The Rev. Phoebe Roaf was elected on the first ballot as the fourth Bishop of West Tennessee. Roaf, rector of St. Philip’s Church in Richmond, Va., since 2011, won among both clergy and laity by four votes more than the required majority.
She is a graduate of Harvard College, Princeton University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law, and Virginia Theological Seminary.
In her profile for the election, Roaf answered this question: “Select a vow in the service of Ordination of a Bishop. What gifts do you bring to the Church around that vow? How does living into that vow help lead the Church into the future?” She wrote:
The vow which resonates for me from the Ordination of a Bishop is the commitment to “boldly proclaim and interpret the Gospel of Christ, enlightening the minds and stirring up the conscience of your people.” First, the directive to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ. In today’s world, we cannot afford the luxury of waiting for people to walk through our doors to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. I have been actively engaged in the public square for years, accepting invitations to share my Christian faith in educational settings, religious institutions and other venues. These occasions are opportunities to interact with people who may not be connected to a faith community. When people ask to meet for coffee, I accept these invitations as a way to break bread with people just as Christ did during His earthly ministry. Where two or three are gathered, Christ is present, and these intimate gatherings help provide a glimpse of the kingdom of God here on earth.
Second, the directive to interpret the Gospel of Christ. I began reading the Daily Office as a 7th grader during a summer session at Camp Mitchell, the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas’ camp on Petit Jean Mountain. I still remember my appointment with the priest who heard my first confession and explained how to follow the daily readings in the back of the Book of Common Prayer. Before I can interpret the Gospel, I have to be knowledgeable about what is contained in Holy Scripture. My personal Bible reading and regular sermon preparation have solidified my Biblical foundation, along with completing Education for Ministry (EfM), serving as an EfM mentor since 2012, and graduating from Virginia Theological Seminary.
My grounding in scripture and prayer equips me to enlighten the minds and stir up the conscience of others through reminders of the central message of the Gospel. The question posed to each believer is what is the essence of the Gospel for you? Two passages of scripture summarize what the Gospel means to me: Paul’s reassurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Romans 8, and the vision of every nation, tribe, people and language worshipping the lamb of God from the Revelation to John.