frgavin on May 5th, 2010

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of Utah’s Episcopal Diocese got acquainted Tuesday with a diverse group of candidates from which to select their next bishop, asking about everything from budgeting expertise to views on same-sex marriage and ordination.

The latter question is especially pertinent because one of the candidates — the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe of California — married his longtime partner in 2008, before Proposition 8 banned gay marriage in that state.

Barlowe and three other finalists spoke during rotating question and answer sessions at St. Mark’s Cathedral Tuesday night. He and two of the three other candidates said they would support and allow the church’s blessing of same-sex unions and that they would ordain gay clergy in the Beehive State.

The Rev. Canon Juan Andrés Quevedo-Boscho, of the Diocese of Long Island, N.Y., was the only candidate who declined to answer the question, saying it would be “irresponsible” until he has learned more about local Episcopalians and what their desires are.

The Rev. Canon Scott B. Hayashi, of the Diocese of Chicago and the Rev. Canon Mary C.M. Sulerud, of the Diocese of Washington, D.C., agreed with Barlowe that they would support the church’s blessing for such unions.

Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish, who has served the diocese for 14 years, has long said she favors such blessings, but the national Episcopal Church has stopped short of developing an official rite. The church did agree last summer to give latitude to bishops who wish to do so.

Bishop Irish announced her retirement last year, and the diocese in January began winnowing the list of 48 applicants to be her replacement. Tuesday’s meetings were the first time lay church members were able to hear from the four candidates.

Hayashi formerly served the as rector of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Ogden, and said he has a wide variety of contacts in Utah, including with leaders of the Mormon church. When newly called to that post, he said, “I bought my suit at ZCMI and got the missionary discount.” Because he has worked at being physically fit, the suit still fits, he said.

Quevedo-Boscho is a native of Cuba and has had church leadership experience both there and in Canada, as well as in the New York area. He said he has a heart for youth ministry and has had to raise funding after the stock market crash in 2009 saw half of the revenues in his diocese evaporate.

Sulerud said she sees Utah’s widely dispersed Episcopal population of 6,000 as “an enormous opportunity,” despite the struggles the church has had over many years in creating a feeling of unity. She said she would work to overcome the isolation that exacerbates the normal challenges of local parishes.

When asked why he came to Utah, Barlowe said he was drawn by the fact that Episcopalians are a minority in Utah. He sees an opportunity to do “pioneering work in active mission” to residents. He also said he would seek to cultivate a relationship with top LDS leaders, including President Thomas S. Monson.

“I’m not shy and I wouldn’t have a problem calling any one of you and saying, ‘I’m coming for coffee.’ I certainly would do that with the president of the Mormon church,” he said, to laughter from the audience.

Election for the new bishop by parish delegates and church leaders is scheduled for May 22.

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