MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The last Catholic Bishop of Memphis did something unprecedented in the modern American Church: he got fired by the Pope.
The new Bishop of Memphis is a very different kind of leader: a former social worker who once worked for the state of Georgia to protect abused children.
Bishop David Talley moves to Memphis in April, and many have already come to know he’s a leader with a humble touch.
“I stand before you as a 65-year-old man who has fallen more times than I care to imagine in my fervor, in my discipline, in my zeal,” Talley said.
The new bishop preaches with humility.
"We’ve all messed up,” Talley said. “We’ve all been redeemed. And now my job is to stay with the Lord and say yes, and he asked and I said yes.”
Talley said yes to leading the Memphis Catholic Diocese, the city where his hero, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gave his life.
Raised Southern Baptist in Columbus, Georgia, Talley says he broke with the denomination of his childhood over racial segregation.
"It’s all about Jesus and Dr. King showed that to me, to live an integrated, authentic life, proclaiming the Good News, proclaiming the Kingdom,” Talley said.
Much of the Bishop’s family follows the Baptist tradition, including his brother, a Baptist deacon.
"My brother and I both believe Jesus is the Lord,” Talley said. “And he’s the Savior and we’re called to be his children.”
For the new bishop and his Memphis flock, it’s a time to move on after a tumultuous two years of Bishop Martin Holley who was removed by the Vatican.
“Now I’m the one who sits in that chair and I have to be the one in humility, lead the people as the Lord asks me and directs me,” Talley said.
Talley’s Diocese covers all 21 counties of West Tennessee where Catholics (officially) number only four percent of the population.
But no one knows the actual number of Catholics because of the large number of undocumented immigrants who practice the Catholic faith in a language the bishop speaks.
"Every time in Atlanta or Alexandria that I spoke with my poor Spanish, the people were there to welcome me because they long to be welcomed by us,” Talley said. “There's one humanity and they know that.”
The faithful of the Diocese of Memphis have a new shepherd who will take office April 2.