SALT LAKE CITY — On the eve of Pentecost, nearly 200 clergy and layperson delegates from Episcopal Church parishes across the state gathered together to elect a new leader for their diocese.
After only two ballot sessions — in a deliberate process that typically takes up to five or six to whittle out a clear choice — came the decision to elect Scott B. Hayashi, a former rector at Ogden's Church of the Good Shepherd. The announcement drew cheers and applause from the congregation, and bells atop St. Mark's Cathedral rang out for several minutes while hymns of praise were sung inside.
Bishop Hayashi, 56, immediately accepted the position during a phone call with Utah's current bishop, the Right Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, to lead the state's approximately 5,000 active followers, who worship among 25 diverse congregations.
Saturday's electing convention was only the 11th in the state in 143 years. Being so occasional, "there is a great deal of discernment that goes into it," said Richard Tanner, president of the standing committee of the Utah diocese.
"It is an important decision that stays with us for a very long time," he said. In addition to the beauties of Utah, Tanner said that all of the nominees "are taken" by the local mission work and the unique challenges that being a minority religion in the state entails.
Bishops do not serve a set term, but they tend to lead their diocese at least a decade and sometimes as long as 20 years. Bishop Irish has held the position 14 years, and although she'll keep a residence in Utah, she plans to move to Washington, where she has some family and a history of church service.
"Each bishop comes with his or her own strengths, and she has brought some real gifts here," said Trace Browning, chaplain at Salt Lake City's Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School. The decision of electing a new bishop, he said, "really shapes what our diocese will look like."
It is a process that is taken seriously by anyone involved, and one that has risen out of centuries of tradition, spawning from the Anglican Church.
"Prayerfulness is essential to our task today," said Bishop Irish, 70, who last year announced she would be retiring as Utah's diocesan bishop this November. "Help us receive a faithful pastor who can equip us with our ministries," she said.
Bishop Hayashi was elected after receiving 73 of 128 lay order votes and 20 of 38 cast in the clergy order. He needed 65 lay votes and 20 clerical to win the majority. He was selected from four finalist clergy members, who were among 48 that applied from all over the country, including a Cuban national, a woman and an openly gay priest.
Jay Stretch, a member of Good Shepherd's congregation, said the new leader is "good-spirited and a fun-loving guy."
"He turns his whole body to listen to a person's question, something a normal person would not do," said another member, Bill Bangert. "He is that pastoral and focused and interested in the people."
Because the Episcopalian denomination is quite small and spread out in Utah, large meetings that bring everyone from the urban and mission churches together are rare, but the modest size does give people a chance to interact with the presiding bishop on a fairly regular basis.
Bishop Hayashi, who developed influential youth programs while he served as rector in Ogden from 1989 to 1998, will likely arrive in Utah in the coming weeks. He and his wife, Amy, have three daughters — Elisabeth, 27, Miyuki, 23, and Katherine, 15. He holds a degree in social work from the University of Washington, has attended Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and received a master of divinity from Harvard University's Divinity School, as well as a certificate of theology from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Bishop Hayashi currently serves as Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Chicago and has served the church in California, Utah and Washington states.
"What I learned in Utah was that effective outreach, combined with pastoral care, formation, meaningful worship and attention to history, is the best way to do the work of congregational development," Bishop Hayashi wrote in his application for the bishopric.
He will be consecrated Nov. 6 by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the Grand America Hotel.
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