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Diocese of Newark announces nominees for 10th bishop

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

The Very Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe   

The Rev. Mark Beckwith  

The Very Rev. Petero A. N. Sabune  

The Rev. William H. "Chip" Stokes  

[Episcopal News Service] 

he Diocese of Newark announced a slate of four nominees June 28 to succeed Bishop John Palmer Croneberger.

The nominees are:

  • the Rev. Canon Michael Lee Barlowe, 50, officer for congregational development, Diocese of California,

  • the Rev. Mark M. Beckwith, 54, rector, All Saints Church, Worcester, Massachusetts

  • the Very Rev. Petero Sabune, 53, pastor and chaplain, Sing Sing Correctional Facility and associate at Trinity Church, both located in Ossining, New York, and   

  •  the Rev. William "Chip" Stokes, rector, 49, St. Paul's Church in Delray Beach, Florida.

More biographical information about each of the nominees is available at Barlowe has lived with his male partner, also an Episcopal priest, for 24 years. The other three have been married between 24 and 30 years.

Newark's announcement came a week after the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed a resolution (B033) that called upon standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

The nominating committee felt that B033 was "indeed a challenge to us," according to the Rev. Sandye A. Wilson, but after what she said was a time of prayerful consideration the committee decided that it had to continue with the mandate given to it by the diocesan convention to provide the diocese with the best slate of candidates it could.

The committee gave all of its potential nominees the chance to withdraw after the action of General Convention and none did, Wilson said. Four potential nominees, all women, withdrew at various points in the process before the start of General Convention. It is not unusual in a nomination process for a person's name to be put forward, for that person to initially agree to engage in the process's mutual discernment and then to withdraw.

"Newark has had a history of radical invitation and inclusion," Wilson said. "And we are continuing in that tradition, not thumbing our nose at the process but wanting to leave space for the Holy Spirit to be at work and for God's mercy to be at work."

"We really are trying to leave room for the Spirit to do its work and that we know that God has already chosen a bishop for this diocese and in the next few months it will be our job to discern who that is," she said.

A press released posted on the diocese's website ( said that the nominating committee "based its choices solely on how the nominees matched the profile of the diocese and did not eliminate anyone because of their race, gender or sexual orientation."   

"These nominees, as well as those who may be nominated by petition, will provide an outstanding opportunity for our amazing diocese, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to discern who would best lead us into the next phase of Christ's mission in northern New Jersey," Edgar Kim Byham, president of the diocesan standing committee, said in the release.

Beckwith and Sabune have served in the Diocese of Newark. Beckwith was associate rector at St. Peter's Church, Morristown, from 1982-1985, and was rector of Christ Church, Hackensack, from 1985-1993. Sabune was rector of the Church of the Incarnation, Jersey City, from 1987-1990 and then served as dean of Trinity & St. Philip's Cathedral in Newark from 1992-1998.

Barlowe served in the Diocese of New Jersey, Newark's neighboring diocese to the south. He was an assistant rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Westfield, from 1983-1986 and was rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Plainfield from 1986-1991.

The diocesan standing committee will accept nominations by petition until 6 p.m. on July 5. The candidates, who have all agreed not to give interviews to the media, will participate in a series of meetings with the electors and others in the diocese September 9-12.

The diocese will meet September 23 to elect one the diocese's 10th bishop. Croneberger, 67, plans to retire after the new bishop is consecrated and installed on January 27, 2007. He became bishop coadjutor November 21, 1998 and succeed Bishop John Shelby Spong January 2000.

As in all episcopal elections, Newark's choice will require the consent of a majority of the church's diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction. Those consents must be given within 120 days of the electing diocese's standing committee sending the Presiding Bishop a certificate of election.

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold has made it a practice to not comment on diocesan election processes.