Carolyn Tanner Irish, first woman to lead large denomination in Utah, dies at 81


The Rt. Reverend Carolyn Tanner Irish announces that Reverend Canon Scott Hayashi has accepted the post of bishop in Salt Lake City on May 22, 2010. Bishop Tanner Irish passed away Tuesday at the age of 81. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Carolyn Tanner Irish, 10th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, died Tuesday at the age of 81.

The Right Reverend Scott Hayashi, who replaced Bishop Tanner Irish as bishop in 2010, said in a statement that she died surrounded by her family in her Salt Lake City home.

Bishop Tanner Irish led the way as the first female bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah and the first woman to lead a major denomination in Utah, as well as the first female recipient of the House Giant in Our City Award. of Salt Lake. She has also been involved in philanthropy and Utah politics, championing environmental protection and immigration reform, among other causes.

Daughter of prominent businessman Obert C. Tanner, she was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. His family’s deep connection to the church dates back to his early days.

She endured loss from an early age, as three of her five siblings died of unrelated causes before reaching adulthood. Later in life, she experienced divorce and alcoholism. Her struggles took her on a long journey to find the faith that led her to the Episcopal Church. In 1979, she enrolled in the seminary as a single mother with four children under the age of 10.

“He was a very resilient person,” said Bishop Hayashi. “And that she was still as generous as she was after everything she had been through – that says a lot.”

In 1996, she was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, the third female diocesan bishop ever to be elected in the United States and the fourth in the world. Before the election, she received notes and calls from Latter-day Saint women asking what they could do to help her get elected, said Bishop Hayashi.

“They were so excited to see a woman from Utah be considered for this office,” he said. “She crossed religious lines just with her election, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.”

After nearly four decades living away from her childhood home, she returned to Salt Lake City to lead over 6,000 people comprising 22 parishes across Utah and northern Arizona. She was a pioneer for women in the Episcopal Church, nominating Katharine Jefferts Schori for election as bishop, and Schori became the presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

And by finding her faith and her place in the world, she also found a happy life after all of her struggles.

“I love my life,” Bishop Tanner Irish told Deseret News in an interview in 2004. “I have four grown children. I have a wonderful husband. And I love my job.”

His legacy was a legacy of generosity, Bishop Hayashi said.

“When she gave, which she often did, there was no feeling that she wanted anything in return. It was given free of charge throughout the state of Utah, to all confessions and religious traditions It is a testament and a sign of his generosity, to give heart and soul, ”he declared.

The Episcopal Diocese of Utah has yet to release details of his funeral.

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