From the Funeral Service for Bishop Councell:
Photos: The Funeral of the Right Reverend George E. Councell
Photos: Remembering Bishop Councell
Video: A Video Playlist of Selections from the Service
Text: The Tribute, by the Right Reverend Alan M. Gates, Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts
George Edward Councell, 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, dies at 68
The Right Reverend George Edward Councell, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey from 2003 until he retired in 2013, died May 21 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton, NJ from complications from a stroke suffered the previous Thursday. He was 68.
Bishop Councell presided during a time of conflict in both The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Jersey. His gifts for listening, pastoral care, and healing became the hallmarks of his episcopate.
“I will always be grateful for the pastoral gifts that were embodied in George Councell,” said the Right Reverend William H. Stokes, Councell’s successor as Bishop of New Jersey. “He turned over to me a diocese that had been broken, but that had experienced tremendous healing through his ministry and his capacity to love Jesus and love God’s people.”
In a 2013 interview with the Times of Trenton, Bishop Councell laughingly noted: “I wanted to become a bishop to get closer to God, but with so many people here to look after, I thought, ‘Wow, I’ll really have to get closer to God to do this.’ But I feel that I have.”
Bishop Councell actively encouraged recognition and giving voice to marginalized communities within the church. As bishop, Councell allowed his clergy permission to officiate over same-sex marriages in their churches in 2013.
“It was very dear to me to keep everyone at the table, the Lord’s table, and not needlessly build these boundaries among one another,” he said in a 2013 interview. “The church isn’t the totally safe place I want it to be [for the LGBTQ community], but I think we’ve made it a safer place for them, and a place where they can come, and be seen as people who want the same things as all of us: to have a healthy, happy, strong, supportive family.”
Bishop Councell also made the dismantling of structural racism a priority within the Diocese. “Bishop Councell’s immense kindness and capacity to listen as a healer were instrumental in moving towards racial reconciliation in the Diocese of New Jersey, particularly in his unwavering support of our Anti-Racism ministries,” said Barbara Okamoto Bach, longtime member and a leader and educator in the Diocese’s Anti-Racism Commission. “His strong belief in our efforts, and that healing and reconciliation were attainable through the redemptive power of God’s love, made so many difficult paths of healing possible.”
“Never have I known a more spiritual, loving, compassionate man of God,” said The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Geitz, who served as Bishop Councell’s transition officer, a position dedicated to clergy placement, for the majority of his episcopate. “What a loss for us.”
Bishop Councell graduated from the University of California at Riverside Phi Beta Kappa with honors with a Bachelor of Arts in 1971. In 1975 he earned a Master of Divinity from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Councell was ordained a priest in 1975 in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Among other positions, he served as Rector of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Lake Forest, IL from 1995 to 2003 and as Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts from 1986 to 1995.
After retirement, Councell served as resident Chaplain of Doane Academy, an Episcopal college preparatory school in Burlington, New Jersey. He taught courses on Ethics and World Religions.
Councell lived in Pennington, New Jersey with his wife of 47 years, Ruth May Tietjen, an artist and illustrator. They met while undergraduate students at the University of Redlands. He is survived by Ruth and their two daughters; Sarah Councell Turner, who graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary with a Master of Theological Studies degree, Martha Councell-Vargas, Professor of Flute at Western Michigan University, his six-year-old granddaughter, Alma Susana Vargas, his sister, Pamela Plouffé, nephews Jerry Roberts III, and Justin Roberts, and his niece, Dawn Drootin and their families.
Visitations will be welcome on Monday, May 28, from 5 PM to 7 PM at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 801 West State Street in Trenton, NJ.
A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, May 29, at 10 AM at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 801 West State Street in Trenton, NJ. The Right Reverend William H. Stokes, Bishop of New Jersey, will preside; the Right Reverend Alan M. Gates, Bishop of Massachusetts, will offer the tribute. The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, will preach.
A reception will immediately follow the service. At 2 PM, a procession will leave Trinity Cathedral for St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 145 West Broad Street in Burlington, NJ for the interment.
In lieu of flowers, the Councell family requests donations be made to the George E. Councell Fund for UrbanPromise Ministries in the Diocese of New Jersey. UrbanPromise Ministries is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to equipping children and young adults in underserved communities with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth, and Christian leadership. In the Diocese of NJ, UrbanPromise currently serves the cities of Camden and Trenton.
“[Life is] too good not to try to live according to God’s will, and when we fall down, to get up again, for the sake of that loving mother, father and friend whom we’ve seen in Jesus Christ,” Bishop Councell said in a service celebrating his ministry in October 2013. “We have to rejoice, we have to celebrate, because He’s raised from the dead, so there’s nothing to stand between you and that love. May that love prosper among you; I’ll see you in church.”
ABOUT THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF NEW JERSEY:
Founded in 1785, the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey is one of the largest dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States, with 140 congregations in the southern two-thirds of the Garden State and approximately 44,500 members. The Right Reverend William H. (Chip) Stokes, was elected Twelfth Bishop of the Diocese in 2013. For more information, please visit www.dioceseofnj.org.
Directions, Transportation & Parking
- For driving directions, use the Cathedral address listed below in your navigation system/app
- The Cathedral parking lot will be reserved for the Councell family and guests, Bishops, staff, service providers, and attendees with mobility issues
- On-street parking around the Cathedral is available, but is expected to fill quickly
- Overflow parking has been reserved at the Cure Arena Parking Lot 1 – IMPORTANT; use Hamilton Ave. entrance.
- Two shuttle buses will run continuously between the Cure Arena lot and Trinity Cathedral from 8AM – 2PM
- Shuttle bus pickup and dropoff will be on Berkeley Ave. (behind the Cathedral)
- Monday, May 28, from 5 PM to 7 PM
- Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 801 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618
- Tuesday, May 29, at 10 AM
- Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 801 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618
- Presider: The Right Reverend William H. Stokes, Bishop of New Jersey
- Preacher: The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church
- Tribute: The Right Reverend Alan M. Gates, Bishop of Massachusetts
- Bishops are invited to process – Rochet and Chimere
- Vesting for Bishops will be in the Matthews Room in the back building at Diocesan House, 808 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618 (directly across West State Street from Trinity Cathedral)
- Clergy are invited to process – cassock, surplice, and white stoles
- Vesting for Clergy will be in the Undercroft at Trinity Cathedral
- Bishops & Clergy
- Bishops – procession will form in Matthews Room 9:45AM
- Clergy – procession will form in Undercroft 9:45AM
- Seating arrangements as follows
- Reserved seating in the Cathedral choir for Bishops
- Reserved seating in the Cathedral sanctuary for the Councell family and guests, clergy, current and past diocesan staff and Cathedral staff; any sanctuary seating remaining will be available to attendees on a first-come, first-served basis
- Cathedral Chapel will be set up for overflow seating with A/V capacity to view and hear the service; attendees with mobility issues not able to be accommodated in the sanctuary will be given preference for chapel seating; remainder will be available to attendees on a first-come, first-served basis
- Cathedral Crypt will also be set up for overflow seating with A/V capacity to view and hear the service
- Spanish Translation will be available – equipment will be distributed in the Narthex and seating will be in one of the side altar areas
- Communion stations will be set up in all locations
- Food & beverages will be available in Synod Hall and outside on the Front Lawn
- You may eat and mingle inside the Cathedral or on the front lawn