Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey elects first woman bishop

Sally French

The Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey has elected the Rev. Canon Dr. Sally French to serve as the 13th bishop of the diocese. She will succeed Bishop William “Chip” Stokes, who is retiring after almost a decade of service.

French, the first woman to be elected bishop of the diocese, will be installed on June 24. She was selected by clergy and lay leaders representing congregations in the diocese during a special hybrid convention on Saturday, Jan. 28. She was elected from among five nominees during the third ballot round, winning 68 percent of the clergy and 56 percent of the lay vote. A majority of both clergy and lay votes in the same round are required for election.

In brief comments via Zoom after the election results were announced, French thanked voters, the diocese’s transitional committee, and the other candidates. “I look forward to serving with love,” she said.

French is the canon for regional service and collaborative innovation in the Diocese of North Carolina. Previously she spent 20 years in church ministry, serving in churches of various sizes. She was ordained in 2001.

Raised in Toronto, Canada, French earned her bachelor’s degree in business and history from Trinity College at the University of Toronto, and her master’s of divinity degree from the Toronto School of Theology. She earned a doctorate of ministry degree from Virginia Theological Seminary. She and her husband Clarke have two children.

Stokes said French brings gifts and skills to ministry that are well-aligned to address the needs and challenges facing the church and Diocese of New Jersey.

“I believe the Holy Spirit has led us to a remarkable leader who is deeply rooted in faith and love for Jesus Christ,” Stokes said. “I look forward to welcoming you and your family to the Diocese of New Jersey and ministering with you during this exciting time of transition.”

The other nominees for the job were The Rev. Canon Dr. Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew, Canon of the Ordinary, Diocese of Rhode Island; The Very Rev. Troy Mendez, Dean, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Phoenix, Arizona; Rev. Janine Schenone, rector, Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, San Diego, California; and Reverend Dr. Mauricio Jose Wilson, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Oakland, California.

Founded in 1785 and headquartered in Trenton, the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey includes more than 130 congregations in the southern two-thirds of the state.