Bishop John P. Croneberger, 1938-2023

The Rev. Will Leckie, left, the Rev. Barry Stopfel, and the Rev. Jack Croneberger meet with reporters after Stopfel’s ordination to the priesthood in 1991. | James Solheim, Episcopal News Service photo

The Rt. Rev. John (Jack) P. Croneberger, Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, from 2000 to 2007, died February 23 in Reading, Pennsylvania, at 84.

Croneberger was elected bishop coadjutor in 1998, and succeeded the larger-than-life John Shelby Spong. Like Spong, he was an advocate for gay and lesbian clergy and for same-sex marriage, but he spoke in quieter tones. Croneberger was rector of Church of the Atonement in Tenafly when Spong ordained an openly gay man, the Rev. Barry Stopfel, to the priesthood. Stopfel served as a deacon at Atonement until his ordination at Atonement and his subsequent call to St. George’s Church in Maplewood.

Croneberger was born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, in 1938. He was a graduate of Lehigh University and Virginia Theological Seminary, and was ordained to the diaconate in 1963 and to the priesthood in 1964.

In the next year, Croneberger was a guest preacher at St. James Church in Jermyn, Pennsylvania, when he noticed a widow and her three young girls looking up from the front pew. Thirteen weeks later, he asked the widow, Marilyn Muehleisen Carey, to marry him, and he adopted her daughters, a family obituary said.

Croneberger served at several churches in Pennsylvania, including St. Mary’s Church in Reading, before he became rector of Church of the Atonement in Tenafly. While he served in Tenafly, Croneberger and his wife founded a chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, as it was known at the time.

He served at Atonement for 18 years before his election as bishop coadjutor. As bishop, Croneberger led the diocese through the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on Manhattan. One of his daughters, Rebecca Smith, worked in Manhattan and survived the attack.

He oversaw creation of a liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships, and brought Christ Hospital in Jersey City back under diocesan control when he served as its chairman of the board. Christ Hospital is now owned by CarePoint Health.

Croneberger resigned in 2007 as his wife dealt with Parkinson’s disease and they returned to Reading to live with their daughter Judy Innis. He served as assisting bishop in the Diocese of Bethlehem. Marilyn Croneberger died in 2013.

The bishop donated his brain for further research into Parkinson’s disease, as his wife had. He is survived by a sister, two brothers, four daughters, a son, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.


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