Diocese of New Jersey elects William Stokes

The Diocese of New Jersey elected the Rev. Canon William “Chip” Stokes today on the fifth ballot.

Nominees for the 12th bishop of New Jersey included:

The Reverend David Anderson , 56, Rector of St. Luke’s Parish in Darien, CT

The Reverend Dr. Joan Beilstein, 52, Rector of Church of the Ascension in Silver Spring, MD

The Reverend Dr. Allen F. Robinson, 43, Rector of St. James’ Church in Baltimore, MD

The Reverend Canon Melissa M. Skelton, 62, Rector of St. Paul’s Church in Seattle, WA and Canon for Congregational Development and Leadership of the Diocese of Olympia

The Reverend Canon William Stokes, 56, Rector of St. Paul’s Church in Delray Beach, FL

The Reverend Martha Sylvia Ovalle Vásquez, 60, Rector of St. Paul’s Church in Walnut Creek, CA.

Three persons [were] nominated through the independent nomination process since the January 28, 2013 report. They are:

The Reverend Canon Dr. Francisco Pozo, 56, Vicar of Christ Episcopal Church in Trenton, NJ

The Very Reverend René John, 52, Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Trenton, NJ

The Reverend Canon Donald J. Muller, 59, Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Medford, NJ.

Please list the reasons you believe you are qualified to serve as Bishop of New Jersey.

I am:

an experienced priest, deeply committed to Christ and the Gospel, ordained for 22 years; rector of a thriving, resource-size parish in a racially, ethnically, socio– economically diverse South Florida city for 14 years.

one who celebrates diversity; a certified anti-racism trainer of The Episcopal Church; a certified multi-cultural trainer by the National Multicultural Institute.

a sensitive pastoral care provider who cares for my parishioners and also for clergy colleagues who come to me for guidance and care.

a dynamic preacher and Christian educator with innovative approaches to teaching children, youth and adults; passionate about the ministry of education and formation, including the use of technology to strengthen the partnership of the home and the congregation.

trained in a variety of congregational development models, experienced in developing growing, healthy congregations; a “change agent” who has successfully effected lasting “cultural” change in the parish setting .

an active leader at all levels of The Episcopal Church: parish, diocesan and denominational.

a recognized community leader and participant in interfaith relations at the local level.

an energetic administrator and financial manager with strong communications abilities, capable of overseeing substantial budgets, proactive stewardship and capital campaigns, large staffs and extensive programs.

What attracts you to being a candidate for Bishop of New Jersey?

Being Bishop of New Jersey in today’s environment, marked by “institutional decline, cultural change and economic distress,” presents enormous challenges that demand deep faithfulness and high creativity from the next bishop and all the people of the Diocese working together. Because the heritage and legacy of the Diocese of New Jersey is so rich and noble (as shown by your Diocesan Profile and the witness of so many of your parishes and people), I would be honored to be an active part of the future of the Diocese. The exciting, awesome, and somewhat frightening challenge facing the next Bishop, the leadership and people is to discern how the Spirit is calling the Diocese to live “right onward” in difficult circumstances, to respond adaptively and creatively, and to write the next chapter of the Gospel story in New Jersey. Without question, this challenge has been enormously deepened by the devastation suffered by many in the Diocese from Hurricane Sandy. The opportunity to respond to the Spirit’s call, and to work with others who are equally committed to healing, building up, and growing the Church amid these great challenges, is exciting, energizing and highly attractive to me.

What gifts for ministry would you bring to us?

Passionate about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I empower people to live out the Baptismal Covenant. At the heart of my vision is a Church that celebrates diversity and understands our differences as an expression of God’s Kingdom. For 13 years, I have been privileged to lead what had been a declining congregation into becoming one of the premier and most innovative parishes in our highly diverse Diocese. St. Paul’s has undergone considerable change since I was called as rector in 1999. It has become a growing, vibrant center of baptismal ministry for a wide variety of people. I have been able to identify volunteers and staff who complement my strengths and gifts for ministry, and have provided them with the resources they need to do their work successfully. I encourage entrepreneurial and collaborative endeavors in ministry rather than using a “top down” style, and believe this approach is the best way for the episcopate and the Church to operate in today’s challenging climate. I am an “adaptive leader” and proactively engage in ministry that is intentional and flexible by reaching out to the increasing numbers of “unchurched” and “dechurched” people in our society, especially in the 20s-30s age cohort.

How has your understanding of Jesus Christ changed in your life and who is he for you today?

Raised by a faithful family in the Church, I am a “Timothy” (see 2 Tim. 1:1–7). By the grace of God, I received the gift of faith through loving family members and trusted others. There was never a time when I did not know Jesus and his love, but like Timothy, I periodically need to “rekindle the gift of God” that is within me and rediscover Jesus as my Lord and Savior. The terms “Lord and Savior” have too frequently been tossed around in ways that reduce them to a cliché. But for me, they are central. As I have grown in faith, carrying out my ministry in the challenging circumstances of parish life and in a world whose “principalities and powers” (Eph. 6:12) continually work at dehumanizing and alienating us all, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of understanding and experiencing Jesus as Lord and Savior. This is who Jesus is for me today. Through close attachment to the Gospel and the Baptismal Covenant, I find that I am discovering anew each day, in richer and more meaningful ways, just who Jesus is as Savior and Lord for me, for the Church and for the world.

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