Tennessee Elects Reynolds Bishop

Episcopal News Service. February 7, 1985 [85025]

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (DPS, Feb. 7) -- It took 38 ballots, but the Diocese of Tennessee emerged from the Jan. 24-26 ordeal with the Rev. George Lazenby Reynolds, rector of St. Stephen's Church, Edina, Minn., as bishop-elect of the diocese.

When the election was announced to the delegates of the 153d annual convention of the diocese, applause filled the nave of Christ Church, here. Following the adjournment of the convention, diocesan representatives were able to notify Reynolds by phone and to report his acceptance of the call to the remaining delegates.

In a telephone conversation, Reynolds reflected on the "marvelous creative possibilities" for spiritual growth within the diocese. Reynolds also stated, "I feel very much challenged and eager to take over in what basically is a new diocese. The diocese brings together rural and urban parishes that can feed each other. That will be the challenge of this new position."

Reynolds, 57, a native of Alabama, is a graduate of the University of the South and the Virginia Theological Seminary. He also holds a Ph.D. from New York University. A priest for 30 years, he has served parishes in Pennsylvania and Ohio and was chaplain to Sewanee Military Academy. He was in the Christian Education department of the Church Center for six years and has been rector of St. Stephen's since 1976.

The convention was deadlocked for more than 30 ballots. Delegates were split between Reynolds and the Rev. Canon Robert G. Tharp, assistant to the bishop in the Diocese of East Tennessee. Tennessee canons require a two-thirds majority in both lay and clerical orders to elect.

As the convention completed its 28th ballot on Friday evening before adjourning, the clergy vote was almost equally split between Reynolds and Tharp. Tharp had received a two-thirds majority from the clerical order on the 16th ballot but fell short in the lay vote.

When the convention reconvened Saturday morning, the voting pattern was nearly identical to the previous evening, although increased support for the Rev. James M. Coleman, rector of St. James', Baton Rouge, La., began to develop. After several ballots the convention was still deadlocked and a motion to adjourn was considered but defeated.

On the 31st ballot, Reynolds had a two-thirds majority from lay delegates but was still short of enough clergy votes. Then, close to noon, the convention reached consensus and elected Reynolds as the ninth bishop of the continuing Diocese of Tennessee.

Until 1983, the boundaries of Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee were contiguous with those of the state. On Jan. 1, 1983, the Diocese of West Tennessee was formed and included all of state between the Mississippi river and the western part of the Tennessee River.

The middle and eastern sections of the state remained as the one continuing diocese from Jan. 1, 1983 until Jan. 1, 1985, when they divided and the Diocese of East Tennessee was formed.

Episcopalians in the middle section of the state elected a new bishop because the Rt. Rev. William E. Sanders, eighth bishop of Tennessee, exercised his option under national canons and became the bishop of the new Diocese of East Tennessee when the dioceses were partitioned.

The middle section of the state retained the legal title, constitution and canons of the Diocese of Tennessee and continues the 155 year history of the diocese.