Bishop Candidates’ NJ Week Ends; Meet and Greet Recordings Available

Almighty God, giver of every good gift: Look graciously on your Church, and so guide the minds of those who shall choose a bishop for this Diocese, that we may receive a faithful pastor, who will care for your people and equip us for our ministries; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer
Page 818

Story updated 1/19/2023: Added the lists of questions candidates answered at each meet and greet; Corrected the label on one photo to show Christ the King,Willingboro

A gallery of photos from the candidates’ week in New Jersey. Mouse over an individual photo for a description; click for a full-size view

Candidates to be bishop of the diocese traveled the state the week of Jan. 10–13, visiting many locations, learning about the diocese and its ministries, and answering questions in five forums, one for clergy and four for the public.

The five candidates—The Rev. Canon Dr. Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew, Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Rhode Island; The Rev. Canon Dr. Sally French, Canon for Regional Ministry and Collaborative Innovation, Diocese of North Carolina; The Very Rev. Troy Mendez, Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona; The Rev. Janine Schenone, Rector, Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, San Diego, California; and The Rev. Dr. Mauricio Jose Wilson, Rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Oakland, California—began their journey with a Monday night dinner with members of the Standing, Transition, and Search Committees.

Throughout the week, the candidates not only participated in public forums, they also met at locations around the diocese to learn more about congregations and ministries throughout the state, and for the leaders of those bodies to learn more about the candidates.

On Tuesday, the candidates and their companions attended Morning Prayer officiated by Dean René John and attended by Bishop Stokes and his wife Susan, as well as by members of diocesan staff at Trinity Cathedral, followed by a tour of the cathedral. The candidates then met privately as a group with Bishop Stokes, and then toured Diocesan House before lunch and discussion with diocesan staff.

On Tuesday afternoon, candidates participated in a forum for clergy at the cathedral, with some clergy members joining in person and others via Zoom.

Public forums began on Wednesday, with candidates responding to questions submitted in advance through the Diocese of New Jersey’s Bishop Search Web site. The Search Committee selected venues for the forums—called “Meet and Greet” sessions—to ensure that geographically, no congregation would be any farther than one hour from one of the forums. All forums were also carried live on the diocesan Web site and also through social media channels, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the Live Video page on the diocesan Web site. Recordings of all four public Meet and Greets are included below and in a playlist on the diocesan YouTube channel.

There were two forums on Wednesday, one at Church of the Ascension in Gloucester City during the afternoon, and in the evening at Holy Trinity South River. Prior to the first forum, the candidates visited St. Wilfred Camden and San Andreas/St. Andrews Camden, with participants from various area churches.

During the day on Thursday and Friday, candidates continued their tour of the state, meeting with clergy and lay people at Christ the King Willingboro, Trinity Princeton, St. Luke’s Gladstone, Christ Church Millville, St. John-by-the-Sea Avalon, St. Augustine Atlantic City, and St. Mark and All Saints, Galloway. The Meet and Greets themselves were held Thursday evening in Gladstone and Friday evening in Galloway.

All this activity is intended to help both the candidates themselves and the diocese to discern who should become the 13th bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey. The diocese will hold a special Electing Convention on Jan. 28 to determine who will be our next bishop. Deputies officially designated by their congregations and canonically resident clergy will meet in person at Trinity Cathedral and online via Zoom to consider the candidates and to elect the bishop in a series of ballots.

The person elected by the diocese is expected to be consecrated the 13th bishop of New Jersey in June, which is when Bishop Stokes will retire. On 

Clergy Meet and Greet Recordings

Church of the Ascension, Gloucester City, January 11

Holy Trinity, South River, January 11

Questions asked of candidates in this session:

  1. Tell about a time when you have explored the missional opportunities and challenges in the communities you have served. How were you able to leverage parish strengths to engage with and shape missional presence in the wider community?
  2. We have several members of the LGBTQIA+ community in our diocese. Tell us about your work with these communities? What is your commitment to queer advocacy?
  3. What new and hopeful perspectives and ideas can you bring to the conversation about church decline that support and encourage long-term solutions?
  4. Communication is essential to effective ministry, however, it has been difficult to access clear and prompt avenues of communication particularly with diocesan staff. Emails go unanswered and resources are tough to access. How would you remedy this communication disconnect and work to establish a diocesan culture of prompt and effective response?
  5. We live in a time of great change and transformation as a diocese. With over half of the parishes in our community facing a five-year window, at the end of which they will not be able to afford full time clergy, what is your vision for the transformation of our congregational and clergy models of work, witness and ministry?
  6. Can you share with us a specific artwork that inspires you. How does this work of art inform your spirituality or theology.

Questions asked of candidates in this session:

  1. How will you support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and similar efforts in the diocese?
  2. According to Matt 25, we shall be judged by our feeding the hungry, refreshing the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. Please give examples of your leadership in this work, and in particular, in assisting prisoners.
  3. The Episcopal Church is challenged with a rising average age of clergy, and yet we seem to be ordaining fewer younger priests and clergy of color, church-wide due, in part, to the unsustainable rise in higher education costs and a systemic barrier against younger postulants/aspirants on the grounds that they “lack life experience.” How will you encourage and support young people discerning a call to the priesthood or diaconate if elected bishop?
  4. Based on what you know, name two or three strengths of our diocese and how you will leverage those strengths. (Follow on question) Now, please name two or three challenges and how you will address those challenges.
  5. How and why is the Holy Spirit calling you to lead the Diocese of New Jersey?

St. Luke's, Gladstone, January 12

Questions asked of candidates in this session:

  1. Share with us a time when you failed in your call as an ordained minister. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?

  2. Should you be called to serve as a Bishop of The Church, here in the Diocese of New Jersey, what are the top priorities you will address?

  3. As a Bishop, how would you work to support mental health concerns and needs of the clergy, laity, and those beyond the doors of our churches in this Diocese?

  4. Our diocese has worked diligently on racial reconciliation, and we still have tremendous work to do. Please share your own experiences working toward racial reconciliation and how you listen to the voices of those who have been ignored for far too long.

  5. One of the areas of challenge for the Diocese of New Jersey is our geographic distance; what are some things that a healthy diocese could do in order to navigate that challenges of being so far apart? 

St. Mark and All Saints, Galloway, January 13

Questions asked of candidates in this session:

  1. If elected bishop, what would you do to ensure a whole community approach to potential disasters (natural, technological) that would impact our diocese?
  2. Our nation is increasingly divided. Describe how you will bring the reconciling power of Jesus’s love to your ministry as bishop and how you will lead this Diocese to engage with the world.
  3. The Reparations Commission has been quite active in both advocacy and education around the issues of reparations. Do you have any experience with the work for reparative justice? What is your commitment to continuing that work in our diocese?
  4. The Diocese of New Jersey has a rich and varied ministry, led by both clergy and lay leaders. However, many ministries have emerged “ad hoc” and it is often left to ministry leaders to carve out their own sphere of influence. Frequently the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Some ministries overlap and end up duplicating efforts, and some areas fall through the cracks. How would you work to establish a coherent organizational framework for diocesan ministry, with clear and effective lines of communication with leadership and diocesan staff?
  5. You’ve read our profile, been interviewed by representatives of our Diocese. What do you think we really want and how do you envision addressing it?