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Carolyn Tanner Irish

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Carolyn Tanner Irish (b. 1940) is the 10th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah. At the time of her election and consecration in 1996 she became the fourth woman in the Episcopal Church to hold the office of bishop.


Bishop Irish received a B.A. degree with high honors in philosophy from the University of Michigan in 1962 after having transferred from Stanford University where she began her studies in 1958. Also at Michigan she was granted membership in the Phi Kappa Phi Honorary Society.

In 1968, she earned a Master of Letters (M.Litt) degree in moral philosophy from Oxford University.

Having enrolled in seminary in 1979, Bishop Irish received a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree, cum laude, from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1983.

She holds honorary doctoral degrees from Virginia Theological Seminary, Westminster College in Salt Lake City, the University of Utah, The Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Salt Lake Community College, and Utah State University.


Bishop Irish was born in 1940 and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, daughter of Utah businessman, philanthropist, and University of Utah philosophy professor Obert Clark Tanner. During her upbringing, her family was active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but she stopped attending church after she left home for college. In 1960 she married Lee Irish, and together they had four children; Stephen, Jessica, Thomas, and Emily.

Because of her children, she began attending church again in 1975 and said of the Episcopal Church "I was surprised when I realized that this was my home." By 1977 she was considering entering the ordained ministry and two years later began seminary. Having been raised and baptized in LDS Church, there has been debate in some circles over the validity of her baptism and subsequent ordination because of differences in theology between the two churches. However, at the time of her confirmation into the Episcopal Church, her baptism was recognized as valid. The sacraments of baptism and confirmation are both prerequisites of ordination in the Episcopal Church.

In 1983, Bishop Irish was ordained to the diaconate, followed in 1984 by her ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. As a priest, she served congregations in the dioceses of Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Michigan. She was appointed archdeacon in the Diocese of Michigan in 1986, and later served on the staff of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the Washington National Cathedral.

In addition to her episcopal duties, she also currently serves as Chair of the Board of O.C. Tanner Co., the employee recognition company founded by her father. Bishop Irish also serves on the Standing Committee on Ecumenical Relations for the National Episcopal Church, and the Advisory Board of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation as well as the boards of directors of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values and the Nature Conservancy of Utah. The Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building at the University of Utah bears her name.[1]

In 1988, she was divorced from Lee Irish after 28 years of marriage. In 1999, she took a leave of absence to cope with her alcoholism. In 2001, Bishop Irish married the Rev. Dr. Frederick Quinn, a retired foreign service officer and author.

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Preceded by
George E. Bates
10th Bishop of Utah
Succeeded by

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