Historical Marker Honors Bishop Payne Divinity School


Media Contact: Carol Kyber
Tel: 703-461-1764
Email: ckyber@vts.edu

Alexandria, Va. – On Sat., March 29 members of Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) will take part in celebrating the dedication of a historical marker commemorating the Bishop Payne Divinity School.

The Rev. W. Pegram Johnson III, Ph.D. (VTS 1965), first approached the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS about the historical significance and importance for a marker of the historic school. Johnson was familiar and remembered the school and its seminarians from growing up in the Petersburg area. As a result, VTS supplied the funds necessary for the marker to become a reality. As the final plans for the dedication unfolded, the Rev. Willis R. Foster, Sr. (VTS 2010), rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Petersburg stepped forward to host the dedication service.

“It has been such an honor to participate in this undertaking,” said Dean Markham. “Recognizing this important period in the history of the Episcopal Church will undoubtedly be a grand occasion for St. Stephen’s.”

Established in 1878, the school began as the Theological Department of the St. Stephen's Episcopal Church Normal and Industrial School. In 1884 the school was renamed in honor of the Rt. Rev. John Payne, an 1836 graduate of VTS. Payne was ordained an Episcopal clergyman and went on to do missionary work in Africa and became the first bishop of Liberia in 1851. For more than 70 years, the Bishop Payne Divinity School prepared black men for the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. The school eventually merged with Virginia Theological Seminary in 1949. Members of the Bishop Payne Library and the African American Episcopal Historical Collection at VTS will present at the celebration about the importance of the research work they do for the African American community and the Church.

The sign was approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources earlier this month. The unveiling ceremony will be at 11 a.m. at St. Stephen’s. The Rev. Canon Lloyd A. Lewis, Jr. Ph.D. (VTS 1972) will deliver the sermon during the Morning Prayer service and dedication. .


Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women, representing more than 42 different dioceses and 5 different countries, for service in the Church, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Visit us online at www.vts.edu.