George Councell, 11th Episcopal bishop of New Jersey, dies at 68

Bishop George Councell

George Edward Councell, the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, died Monday evening. He was 68.

He was transferred to hospice care at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton in the afternoon and died at about 6 p.m., surrounded by family and friends, New Jersey Bishop William Stokes wrote in an email announcing Councell’s death.

Councell retired as bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey in the fall of 2013, five years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. After his diagnosis, he was determined not to let the disease hold him back, and he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2008.

He was elected bishop of the diocese on May 3, 2003, and consecrated on October 18, 2003, at Trinity Cathedral in Trenton. He was known as a gentle spirit who helped stabilize the Diocese of New Jersey, the eighth largest diocese in the Episcopal Church, after a period of turmoil during a previous bishop’s tenure. He was also a supporter of gay rights in the church and gay marriage.

Previously, Councell spent eight years serving as the rector of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois. From 1986-1995, he served as canon to the ordinary in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts following eight years as the vicar at St. George’s Church in Riverside, California.

A graduated of the University of California at Riverside, he earned his master’s of divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. and  was ordained a priest in 1975 in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

He served on numerous committees during his career. He was a trustee at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, president of the board of Episcopal Charities and Community Services in the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, and served as a member of the executive committee of the Episcopal Divinity School Alumni Association, among other positions.

Since 2014, he served as resident chaplain of the Doane Academy, an Episcopal college preparatory school in Burlington, where he also taught courses on ethics and world religions.

Councell, who lived in Pennington, is survived by his wife, Ruth, and daughters Martha and Sarah.

We will update this post with more details and funeral arrangements when the information becomes available. 

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