Bishop Niederauer: A Willing Working Partner

Friday, Feb. 03, 2006
Bishop Niederauer: A Willing Working Partner + Enlarge
Episcopal Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish

SALT LAKE CITY — As to the news of Bishop Niederauer’s selection to lead the Archdiocese of San Francisco, I was surprised and not surprised, I was sad and I was happy. Of course, on all counts!

We have been friends and colleagues over the nearly 10 years that I have served in Utah, beginning with the beautiful prayer he offered at my consecration in Abravanel Hall. It was such a gracious way to welcome me, particularly as my gender could have discouraged his participation. And in fact that subject never came up in our many conversations.

George has also been a willing ecumenical partner in nearly all of the moral and social issues we have met (and often protested) in this very ‘majority’ state, yet he is never divisive or dismissive in his manner. He is always a voice for the interests of the poor and minorities, for reason over prejudice, and for the broader concerns of civic as well as religious communities. I can only hope my new colleague will be as available and as generous.

I think of our shared concern about guns in churches, English-only laws, capital punishment, the practice of torture, the federal budget, and probably the current Intelligent Design campaign. In some ways we are voices in the wilderness, yet George’s constancy is often what keeps me engaged.

I think, too, of his extraordinary literacy and humor—a delight to all who hear him speak. One might imagine these as distractions from the primary work of a bishop, but they never are with George. Deeply prayerful and centered in Christ he never lets anything but the main thing be the main thing.

In these last few years we have worked with others in the Alliance for Unity, to seek understanding and harmony across the many divides in our larger community. I think we all find both frustrations and satisfactions in this work, but the fact is we are still together, in conversation, and I am confident that it well bear fruit in ways we cannot always see in the moment.

Like everyone in Utah I can only hope for the good in his new San Francisco assignment – good for him personally, for the church, and for the larger community. I cannot begin to know what all that goodness looks like, but I do know that his faithful presence, acuity, and kindness will be a blessing to all.

I wish him strength, and I wish him joy.

The Right Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish

10th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah

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