Funeral services for the Rt. Rev. George Phelps Mellick Belshaw, the ninth Bishop of New Jersey, will be conducted March 6 at Trinity Church in Princeton, where he had been a faithful worshipper since retiring from 20 years of service as a bishop in 1995. He died at his home on February 29, aged 91.
“Mellick was old-school gracious and kind,” said Bishop Chip Stokes, New Jersey’s current bishop. “He loved the people God called him to serve from Hawaii to New York to New Jersey. His leadership in the Diocese of New Jersey was strong and stable during the years he was bishop suffragan and later bishop diocesan.” Stokes said he had gotten to know Belshaw as a seminarian, adding, “I will miss his wise care and counsel and am eternally grateful for the legacy he left for those of us who have succeeded to the office he occupied so faithfully and well.”
Belshaw grew up in a clerical family, the only son of the Rev. Harold and Edith Belshaw, and spent some of his formative years in Paris, when his father was serving as dean of the American Cathedral. His first call after ordination in 1951 was to a mission church, St. Christopher’s in Kailua, Ohahu, Hawaii. He returned to the Mid-Atlantic region a few years later, serving as rector of Christ Church in Dover, Delaware and St. George’s-by-the-River in Rumson, New Jersey.
He became New Jersey’s suffragan bishop in 1975, serving under the Rt. Rev. Albert W. Van Duzer, and was elected as Van Duzer’s coadjutor in 1982, succeeding him a year later. His leadership in the wider church focused on peace and justice issues, and he served as chair of the Episcopal Urban Caucus from 1986-1989, and he was a member of the church’s Economic Justice Committee. After retiring as bishop in 1995, he became chair of the Coalition for Peace Action, a grassroots organization that advocated for the global abolition of nuclear weapons and arms trafficking.
Belshaw served General Seminary, his alma mater, as a visiting fellow, lecturer and acting dean and president, and was the longest-serving trustee in the seminary’s history. He had a deep interest in ascetical theology, writing often on the subject in Anglican Theological Review, on whose board he served for many years. He published two much-loved Lent books, series of excerpts from the writings of two of his heroes, Archbishop William Temple and mystical writer Evelyn Underhill. He was awarded the doctor of divinity degree three times. Bishop Belshaw succeeded his father as summer chaplain of St. James Church, Prout’s Neck, Maine. At his retirement from the post in 1998, the two had served a combined 53 successive years in the coastal village.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth, in 2014, and is survived by three children and seven grandchildren.