Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of Rhode Island


 The Rev. Canon Dr. Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew is the Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Rhode Island. She serves as Bishop Knisely’s Chief of Staff and assists him with the management, oversight, and operations of the Diocese, functioning as the chief operating officer, and in the support of clergy and congregations. Canon Dena specializes in visioning, mission development, strategy, systems and processes, congregational development, conflict resolution, raising up leaders, stewardship and financial sustainability, and equipping people to serve in the Church. She is the transition ministry officer for the Diocese, working with churches and clergy in discernment; acts as the interim director of the Center for Reconciliation, promoting anti-racism and racial reconciliation ministries; and is the case manager for Title IV clergy misconduct concerns. She seeks to be a faithful leader who listens to, discerns with, and facilitates the joyful transformation of God’s people.

Canon Dena earned a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, as well as a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She has served congregations in the Dioceses of Atlanta, Los Angeles, Michigan, Ohio, and Central New York prior to being called to Rhode Island in August 2019. Her parish ministry experience includes large, medium, and small churches that are rural, urban, and suburban. Before being ordained, Canon Dena was a legislative assistant for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where she drafted and analyzed bills and amendments, wrote committee reports, and presented information to Representatives in caucus. 

Canon Dena is married to the Rev. Dr. David Cleaver-Bartholomew, who serves as the Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations for the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ. They have two adult daughters who live in Boston. Audrey is a lawyer and is married to Matt, who works in business operations; they have a much loved cat named Donut. Lydia is the College Access and Success Coordinator for a public charter school. 

Canon Dena grew up in a military family, married another clergy person, and believes in going where one is called to serve. She was born in France, has lived in eleven states, and is open to learning about new people and places. Canon Dena loves to travel and explore with family and friends, read, walk, practice centering prayer and yoga, and follow politics. She has a special fondness for Boxers and French Bulldogs. 


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