To the tune of hymns and and the words of prayer, Utah Episcopalians welcomed the Rev. Phyllis Spiegel as the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Utah on Saturday.
Spiegel is the second woman to head the state’s oldest Protestant denomination and most recently served as rector at St. Anne Episcopal Church in Ohio. She was officially consecrated as Utah’s bishop in a Capitol Theatre ceremony surrounded by her congregation.
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the former presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., presided over the ceremony as chief consecrator.
“I feel like the Holy Spirit is on the move in Utah,” Spiegel said in an interview. “The joy and the passion here for what God is calling us into is, is almost overwhelming, but it’s really incredibly uplifting.”
Spiegel was selected as bishop-elect in May after a yearlong process that included meet-and-greets, interviews and listening sessions with members of the 4,000-strong Utah diocese. She succeeded Bishop Scott Hayashi, who had served as the head of Utah’s Episcopalian Diocese since November 2010.
“Phyllis is good friends with God,” said the Venerable Jennifer G. McKenzie, who gave the consecration’s sermon. “Her native dialect is enthusiasm and laughter her punctuation. ... Her joy is infectious and so is her faith.”
The new bishop acknowledged the timing of her consecration, which fell a day after the anniversary of the allowance for female bishops in the Episcopal Church. She said she felt “blessed” to know that she falls not only second in Utah’s diocese but that she is also now part of a long line of women who have served the church overall.
“It’s humbling to the soul,” Spiegel said. “I feel like I’m walking the way of Jesus.”
With her move to Utah, Spiegel said she looks forward to getting to know the state’s outdoors, since she spent many years as a “professional naturalist,” and grew up in Girl Scouting, camping and hiking in southwestern Virginia.
“People who live in Utah sharing their joy of God’s creation with me,” the new bishop said, “those are the moments I’m going to treasure.”
Spiegel said she also embraces the uniqueness of serving in Utah, particularly in working with leaders from the state’s predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“It takes a lot of intention, but I think Jesus calls us to be in deep intention with people and especially people with whom we would say, ‘That person believes differently or looks different or lives differently than I do,’” Spiegel said. “That’s the work of Jesus. And so we’ve all been called to that work.”
Spiegel is the second woman to lead the diocese. The first, Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish, died in June 2021 at age 81.