Anne Sawyer

[The Episcopal News] The Rev. Anne Sawyer — a former rector of New York City’s St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery and co-founder of Imago Dei Middle School in Tucson, Ariz. — will serve as interim dean and priest-in-charge of St. John’s Cathedral, Los Angeles, by appointment of Bishop John Harvey Taylor and under a vestry agreement ratified Feb. 19.

“Dean Sawyer is an institution builder, a prophet of justice, and a gifted pastor,” Taylor said. “She will bring experience and new vision to bear as our cathedral lives further into its destiny as a spiritual, cultural, and civic hub in the heart of our diocese and the city of Los Angeles. My diocesan colleagues and I look forward to walking with her, her fellow leaders, and the faithful cathedral congregation in the months ahead.”

“It is my great pleasure to welcome our new dean-in-charge, the Rev. Anne Sawyer, to our beloved cathedral,” Erik Knutzen, senior warden of St. John’s. “We are thrilled to have such a distinguished and experienced leader join our community.”

“I am truly grateful for the call to serve as interim dean and priest-in-charge of St. John’s Cathedral,” said Sawyer, whose ministry there is scheduled to begin mid-March. “I am excited to work with the good people of St. John’s as we live fully into their next phase of ministry and development in the heart of downtown L.A., and into our relationships with God through love.”

Sawyer’s appointment follows the Jan. 31 retirement of the Very Rev. Canon Mark Kowalewski and the Very Rev. Canon Dan Ade who served St. John’s as co-deans for 17 years. The Rt. Rev. Franklin Brookhart served the cathedral as bishop-in-charge for the past six months.

Sawyer, 58, was ordained to the priesthood in 2005 by Arizona Bishop Kirk Smith, who was previously rector of St. James in-the-City, Los Angeles, from 1991 to 2003. Elected in 2017 to serve as 14th rector of St. Mark’s in the Bowery, Sawyer there succeeded the Rev. Winnie Varghese, a priest ordained in the Diocese of Los Angeles who is now rector of St. Luke’s, Atlanta.

In Tucson, Sawyer and her spouse, the Rev. Susan Anderson-Smith, also an Episcopal priest, co-founded Imago Dei Middle School where Sawyer served as head of school from 2005 to 2017. From 2008 to 2012, Sawyer also assisted as affiliated clergy of St. Philip’s in the Hills Church, Tucson.

Sawyer holds a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School, a master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago, and a 1987 bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona. While in Chicago, Sawyer interned in that city’s Department of Health.

St. John’s Cathedral, Los Angeles. Photo: Douglas S. Santo

During her five years as rector of St. Mark’s, Sawyer assisted that Lower Manhattan parish in fund development – including a capital campaign that in its first phase raised $400,000 during the pandemic – also negotiating six tenant leases while overseeing major building renovation projects.

Upcoming building and retrofit projects are also planned for St. John’s Cathedral, whose Los Angeles landmark Romanesque Revival sanctuary will in 2024 mark the centennial of its completion.

Construction of housing and retail space on the city block owned by St. John’s at Figueroa Street and West Adams Boulevard is pending city approvals.

Named the diocese’s pro-cathedral in 2007 by then-Bishop J. Jon Bruno, St. John’s is known for liturgical and musical excellence together with progressive social ministries and community outreach. As pro-cathedral – a designation by which an existing parish church agrees to provide cathedral ministries – St. John’s is home to the cathedra, or historic bishop’s chair, originally located in L.A.’s former St. Paul’s Cathedral and subsequent Cathedral Center, both built as diocesan cathedral churches. More about St. John’s is online at