RIP: Bishop William Sanders, 101, who presided over Tennessee’s split into three dioceses

Posted Nov 22, 2021

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. William Sanders, who served as bishop of Tennessee from 1977 to 1984 during the creation of three dioceses out of the original statewide diocese, died Nov. 18, the Diocese of East Tennessee announced. He was 101.

Sanders was first consecrated as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Tennessee in 1962. After later serving as diocesan bishop, he became the first bishop of East Tennessee in 1985 and led that newly created diocese until retiring at the end of 1991.

At the time of his death, Sanders was the oldest living bishop in The Episcopal Church, East Tennessee Bishop Brian Cole said in his letter to the diocese. Sanders was among the bishops who participated in Cole’s consecration in 2017.

Sanders’ death occurred less than a week after the Nov. 14 death of the Rt. Rev. Alex Dickson, 95, who was consecrated as the first bishop of West Tennessee in 1983 after the division of the statewide diocese was approved by General Convention. Dickson retired in 1994.

The following is the text of Cole’s letter.

Dear East Tennessee Friends,

I write to you with the news that The Right Rev. William Evan Sanders died last evening, November 18th, at his home in Nashville. His family was present with him.

Bishop Sanders was the eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Tennessee and the first Bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee. At the time of his election as Bishop Coadjutor in 1962, he was serving as the Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Memphis. During his lifetime, his ministry included all three grand divisions of this state. At the time of his death, Bishop Sanders was the senior Bishop in the House of Bishops.

As Episcopalians, we share in ministry. The ministries entrusted to us now were stewarded well by those who served and have gone before us. Bishop Sanders, who served the Diocese of Tennessee and East Tennessee faithfully and well for decades, now goes before us to see God face to face.

At a later date, we will share details regarding the place and time for a Burial Eucharist. For now, keep the Sanders family in your prayers.

Almighty God, our Father in heaven, before whom live all who die in the Lord: Receive our brother William into the courts of your heavenly dwelling place. Let his heart and soul now ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the living God, and the God of those who live. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.


+ Brian