The Right Reverend Scott Anson Benhase was born and raised along the Ohio River. As the son of a football coach, football was the center of his life. He recalls that, while growing up, most of life’s problems could be solved by doing twenty push-ups. After high school, he accepted a scholarship to DePauw University to get an education and play football. He injured his knee during his sophomore year and quit the football team.
By that time, God was doing other things in his life. Until then, his faith life was formed primarily through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. During his second winter semester at DePauw his life changed dramatically. He was asked by Chaplain Fred Lamar to be a project leader for the semester program in Guatemala. During the semester, his team was responsible for constructing a health clinic run by the Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala. During this time, he began attending daily mass (the young priest there, Sylvestre Romero, would later become Bishop of Belize and then Assisting Bishop in New Jersey. Bishop Romero was one of Bishop Benhase’s consecrators on January 23, 2010). This discipline of daily mass began his journey to the Episcopal Church. He returned for two other winter semesters in Central America before graduating in May 1979. He was confirmed in the Episcopal Church two months before graduation.
After college, he spent a year as a missionary of the Episcopal Church in Honduras. During that time, he was discerning a vocation to ordained ministry. In 1980, he was accepted as a postulant and entered Virginia Theological Seminary. While at VTS, he reacquainted himself with Kelly Jones with whom he had worked in Appalachia during their college summers. Kelly was working for a public interest law firm and preparing to go to law school. They were married on May 12, 1984, eight weeks after Bishop Benhase was ordained a priest. Kelly, by then, had discerned a call to teaching rather than law. After two years as a curate at Trinity Church, Indianapolis, he accepted a call to be Rector of St Paul’s, East Cleveland, an urban parish in one of the poorest communities in the country. He spent five years there helping the parish transition from a predominantly white parish to a predominantly black one. Kelly and Scott’s two sons, John & Charley, were both born while they were serving in East Cleveland.
In 1990, Bishop Benhase was called to be Vicar of Trinity, Charlottesville, an historic black church that discerned a call to become an integrated community to witness next door to Mr. Jefferson’s University. While in Charlottesville, Kelly completed her Masters in English Education from UVA and also gave birth to their third child, Mary Grace. By 1995, Trinity Church had expanded their facilities and was on the verge of becoming a fully integrated parish, so Bishop Benhase accepted a call to St Philip’s Church in Durham, North Carolina, the mother church of Durham. The parish had been in decline for a few years and was struggling to define itself in downtown Durham surrounded by homeless persons. In his eleven years leading St Philip’s, Bishop Benhase helped the parish through two capital campaigns and expansion of their facilities as well as the expansion of the 130 bed homeless shelter next door to the parish.
In 2006, Bishop Benhase accepted a call to be Rector of St Alban’s Parish in Washington, DC, the parish church next to the National Cathedral. The parish was facing a financial challenge that was exacerbated by the subsequent national financial crisis. In 3 ½ years at St Alban’s, he was able to help the parish stop the financial deficits, refocus parish ministries in a healthy direction, and begin growing again with young adults and young families. Before he could see the fruit of his part in the ministry at St Alban’s, he was elected Bishop of Georgia in September of 2009 and consecrated as the 10th Bishop of Georgia on January 23, 2010.
Now in the sixth year of his episcopate, he knows of the vitality and commitment of many diocesan and congregational leaders. He understands his primary task to be the renewal and revitalization of the Diocese’s congregations. In this, he and his staff work with stable, healthy congregations to support their mission and with those in decline to redefine and reshape their mission focus. Much of this work comes through capacity building in leaders, training them in developmental skills, and equipping them to lead in a rapidly changing cultural context. He is hopeful for the future because the Diocese is blessed with two indispensable resources: an abiding faith in Jesus and a strong core of disciples.
Bishop Benhase and family at his consecration.