Rev. Phoebe Roaf

 WEST TENNESSEE — Rev. Phoebe Roaf never saw a priest who looked like her as she grew up as an Episcopalian in Pine Bluff so her role models were white men. She was ordained as a priest when she was in her 40s. 

Road first earned a law degree and clerked two years for Judge James Dennis, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and worked in commercial real estate.

Now, Roaf is the first woman and first African-American to lead the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee. She joins three other African-American women, Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Rev. Carlye Hughes and Rev. Kym Lucas in the United States.

She was rector at St. Philip’s, the oldest African-American church in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, since 2011. Before that, Roaf was associate rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans.

Roaf said she’s part of a trend in the Episcopal Church of more women becoming ordained almost half of Episcopal seminarians are women.