Otis Charles dead at 87

With great sadness and in prayer, The Rt. Rev. Scott B. Hayashi has announced the death of the Eighth Bishop of Utah, The Rt. Rev. E. Otis Charles.  Bishop Charles died on the afternoon of the Feast of St. Stephen, December 26, 2013, at the Coming Home Hospice in San Francisco.  Services will be held at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco and at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Salt Lake City on dates and at times to be announced.

Bishop Hayashi offered the following statement after learning of his death:

The Rev. Rev. Otis Charles was a friend, companion, guide and mentor for me as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.  He carried the diocese forward during a time of great challenge and few resources.  Where others might see scarcity, Bishop Charles saw an abundance of spiritual resources from God and in the hearts and wills of the people of the Diocese of Utah.

Bishop Charles demonstrated fidelity to the vows of Baptism.  He steadfastly modeled, proclaimed by word and example, and strove always ‘for justice and peace among all people,’ and he ‘respected the dignity of every human being.’  He was especially joyful when Amendment 3 in Utah was struck down just before Christmas.

As a bishop, I have been privileged to be with Otis as a fellow bishop, colleague and friend.  My prayers are being offered for Otis and all his family and friends who, like me, will always be grateful for his life and witness, and who will miss him terribly.

Into paradise may the angels lead him.  At his coming may the martyrs receive him, and bring him into the holy city Jerusalem.

Bishop Charles served as the first Bishop of Utah upon the establishment of the area as a Diocese after it transitioned from being a Missionary District in 1971.  With few resources, he led the Diocese through a period of growth in southern Utah, the calling of priests from congregations, and the church’s opposition to the Vietnam War.   He also was Bishop during a period of change that saw the ordination of women and the adoption of a new Book of Common Prayer.  Bishop Charles was a champion of the new prayer book, having served on the Standing Liturgical Commission, which authored it.  The 87-year-old retired bishop was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 1926.  He was ordained a priest in 1951 and served churches in Connecticut prior to being called to Utah.

He and his former wife Elvira Charles raised five children during his episcopate in Utah, which lasted from 1971 to 1986.  He served as the Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School upon retiring from Utah, as well as serving two years as the Bishop in Charge of Navajoland.  He then moved to San Francisco.  Bishop Charles became the first Bishop to announce he was gay and later wrote a book, Breaking the Silence: Out in the Work Place, in 1995.  He married Felipe Sanchez-Paris in 2008 (who died earlier this Fall) and continued living in San Francisco, where he remained in active parish ministry.  He also continued regular attendance at the House of Bishops until this year.

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