By Mark Michael
The Rev. Phyllis Spiegel, rector of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in West Chester, Ohio, was elected as the 12th Bishop of Utah on the first ballot at a convention held at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Salt Lake City. She will succeed the Rt. Rev. Scott Hayashi, who has led the diocese since 2010.
In her response to the search profile, Spiegel said that she was excited by the opportunity to build “the type of community Episcopalians are just beginning to understand: community that begins in relationship with Jesus, a community of disciples; a just community honest about racial brokenness, past and present; a community equipping members for ministry; a community committed to innovative ministry honoring the past while dreaming a future into being.”
Spiegel has served congregations in Virginia and Ohio for the last 18 years, holding numerous leadership posts at the diocesan level, with a special focus on youth and ministry discernment. A native of Southwestern Virginia, she taught school in Kenya, was a Girl Scout executive, and owned and operated a retail store for birders before beginning her studies for ministry at Virginia Theological Seminary. She is a single mother, a vegetarian, and a nature lover.
She will lead a diocese of 22 congregations, with a total pre-pandemic membership of 4,241. In addition to Anglo congregations in Utah’s population centers, the diocese has two Spanish-speaking congregations and mission churches on the Ute Reservation. Its territory comprises the entire state, except the Navajo Reservation in Utah’s southeastern corner, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church in Navajoland.
Utah’s religious landscape is dominated by the Church of Latter Day Saints, with Mormons making up nearly 62% of the state’s 3.1 million residents. Despite its small size, the Episcopal Church has long played an outsize leadership role among non-Mormon religious communities. It founded Utah’s first non-Mormon school, Rowland Hall-Saint Mark’s, and operated Salt Lake City’s St. Mark’s Hospital until its sale in 1987. Saint Mark’s Cathedral, a prominent Neo-Gothic building just a block from Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, is the third-oldest Episcopal cathedral, founded by Utah’s first bishop, the Rt. Rev. Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, in 1871.
The diocese’s first female bishop, Carolyn Tanner Irish, was the scion of a prominent Mormon family, and opened significant dialogue with LDS leaders. Under Hayashi’s leadership, the diocese has advocated for progressive positions on immigration reform, gun control, and same-sex marriage, in the largely conservative state.
In an interview with Salt Lake City’s KSL News Radio, Spiegel expressed appreciation for Hayashi’s focus, and said she plans to follow his example: “Right now, we are facing so many issues on the environment. We are facing so many issues on immigration, on healing past harms that have been done, and certainly, by the church, all of those social justice issues are right at the top of my heart. That’s our reason for being in this world.”
The other candidates for bishop were the Rev. Canon Rob Droste, canon for congregational development and mission in the Diocese of New Jersey; the Rev. Canon Janet Waggoner, canon to the ordinary for the Episcopal Church in North Texas.
Provided that Spiegel’s election receives the necessary consents from bishops and standing committees, she will be consecrated by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry at a service on September 17 in Salt Lake City’s historic Capitol Theater.