William Ragsdale Cannon

William Ragsdale Cannon

William Ragsdale Cannon

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William Ragsdale Cannon (5 April 1916 – 1997) was an American Bishop of the United Methodist Church, elected in 1968.

Birth and Family

William was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the son of William Ragsdale and Emma McAfee Cannon. Bishop Cannon was raised in Dalton, Georgia. He never married.


William graduated from the University of Georgia in Athens in 1937, and from Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut in 1940. He earned his Ph.D. degree from Yale University in 1942.

Ordained and Academic Ministry

Cannon served churches in Oxford before joining the faculty of Candler School of Theology, Emory University in 1943. From 1953 until 1968 Cannon served as the Dean of the Seminary. In the mid-1960’s Dean Cannon defended Emory’s retention of Religion Professor Thomas J.J. Altizer, a proponent of the death-of-God position. This position later came to be known as the God is Dead controversy. Cannon also guided Candler through racial integration.

Dr. Cannon was regularly elected as a delegate to U.M. Jurisdictional and General Conferences, beginning in 1948. During the administration of Jimmy Carter, Cannon served as an unofficial envoy of the President.

Dr. Cannon had the high honor of being a Protestant observer at the Vatican II Council of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome in 1965. Later, as a Bishop, he also observed the Extraordinary Synod of the R.C. Church in 1985. He became friends with Pope John Paul II, who sent a statement to be...
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