Jim Thompson (bishop)

Last updated

James Thompson
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Diocese Diocese of Bath and Wells
In office1991–2001
Predecessor George Carey
Successor Peter Price
Other post(s)
Ordination1966 (deacon); 1967 (priest)
Personal details
Born(1936-08-11)11 August 1936
Died19 September 2003(2003-09-19) (aged 67) [1]
Devon, England, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Denomination Anglican
SpouseSally [1]
ChildrenBen and Anna [1]
Profession Broadcaster; Chartered Accountant
Alma mater Emmanuel College, Cambridge

James Lawton Thompson (11 August 1936 – 19 September 2003) was a British Anglican bishop. He was firstly the suffragan Bishop of Stepney (one of five Episcopal Areas of the Diocese of London in the Church of England since the 1979 creation of the London area scheme) [2] from 1978 to 1991 [3] and later the diocesan Bishop of Bath and Wells in succession to George Carey who had become Archbishop of Canterbury. He retired in 2001.


Thompson was probably best known to many as a regular contributor to the "Thought for the Day" segment on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Following his death in 2003, obituaries in the national press praised his deep humanity and lively sense of humour. One obituary referred to his gift of "conveying the warmth of his physical presence in his voice and in his words", adding that "his reflection on the events of 11 September 2001 was nominated for a Sony Broadcast Award, uniquely for religious broadcasting." [4] He used his seat in the House of Lords to express his concerns for equality and education. The Telegraph described him as "the Church of England's best known commentator on social and political matters as well as a prominent advocate of religious and racial tolerance." [5] Thompson wrote that "a bishop who doesn't give offence to anyone is probably not a good bishop." [6] Thompson was also an important figure in interfaith relations in Britain, chairing the British Council of Churches advisory committee and co-chairing the Interfaith Network for the United Kingdom. He believed that when Christians helped to create opportunities for all faiths to participate in public and in institutional life (such as in educational and health care chaplaincy) they were being good neighbours in a multi-faith world.


Thompson was born in Birmingham and was a theology graduate (Cambridge Master of Arts {MA(Cantab)}) [7] of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1959 and National service saw him commissioned into the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (1959–1961) with the rank of Second Lieutenant, stationed mainly in Germany. [8] before going to Emmanuel College, Cambridge and then Cuddesdon Theological College, Oxford. He was ordained deacon in 1966 and priest in 1967. He was a curate in East Ham from 1966 to 1968 and became chaplain to Cuddesdon Theological College under Robert Runcie (then Principal) in 1968. From 1971 he was Ecumenical Team Rector of Thamesmead. He became Bishop of Stepney in 1978, succeeding Trevor Huddleston and the first area bishop in 1979. In 1991, he was translated to the historic diocesan see of Bath and Wells. He retired in 2001 although continued to minister as an honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of Exeter. [9]

Ideological clashes

Before beginning his ministry as a bishop in 1978, Thompson, for a public figure, attracted perhaps more than the usual share of criticism – particularly from supporters of the Thatcher Government in the 1980s. This was largely due to his championing of the causes of those he viewed as disadvantaged; these particularly included the urban poor of East London, where Thompson served as bishop.

Some of his public comments were perceived by some as unduly political. This was undoubtedly behind Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's decision to overrule the Church of England's appointment procedure by not appointing him Bishop of Birmingham (the second name on the list submitted to her was appointed).

In later life, however, Thompson could not have been said to be party political, instead aiming – perhaps idealistically – to apply the values of the Kingdom of God to everyday life and issues, which lead him into the political arena, intentionally or not. Thompson's clergy – whether or not they agreed with him on particular issues – tended to regard him as a good man, a warm-hearted pastor and an engaging personality.

In 1995, Thompson chaired the Church of England's Board for Social Responsibility's sub-committee, who produced the report Something to Celebrate. The report stirred controversy by suggesting that partners who were faithful in relationships outside marriage should not be thought as of living in sin. From some of his colleagues, says Ruth McCurry, "he met with little support for his passionate concerns – for gay and women's rights, for Bangladeshis, for all who were marginalised". [10]

British Council of Churches and interfaith relations

In 1983, Thompson was chosen to succeed David Brown (Bishop of Guildford) as moderator of the Committee for Relations with People of Other Faiths (CROPOF) working closely with Kenneth Cracknell, executive secretary until 1987 and also with his successor, Clinton Bennett. As moderator Thompson also sat on the council's general committee. On taking up his appointment as Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1989 he stepped down from the committee and was succeeded as moderator by David Silk, Archdeacon of Leicester (later Bishop of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia). Thompson was also co-chair of the Inter-Faith Network for the United Kingdom from its formation in 1987 until 1992. He enjoyed an excellent relationship with leading members of the various faith communities, not least of all with his co-chair, Holocaust survivor and fellow Thought for the Day presenter, Rabbi Hugo Gryn and with Zaki Badawi, Chair of the Imam and Mosques Council. Interfaith relations were becoming increasingly important in Britain's multi religious and multi cultural society. The Salman Rushdie affair, the 1988 Education Act's clauses on school worship and religious education and the first Gulf War were among the many issues on the CROPOF agenda under Thompson's leadership.

Thompson chaired the Children's Society from 1997 to 2002. From 1995, he was Joint President of the English Churches Housing Trust. He was awarded a Doctor of Letters (DLitt) degree from the East London Polytechnic (now the University of East London in 1989 [7] and from the University of Bath (awarded 1 December 1998). [11] In 1995 Exeter University gave him an honorary Doctor of Divinity (DD) [7] and Queen Mary, University of London made him an honorary fellow in 1986. In 1987, he was presented with the Sigmund Sternberg Award for Christian-Jewish Relations. Emmanuel College, Cambridge elected him to an honorary fellowship in 1992. [10]


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Chartres</span>

Richard John Carew Chartres, Baron Chartres, FBS is a retired bishop of the Church of England. He was area Bishop of Stepney from 1992 to 1995 and Bishop of London from 1995 to 2017. He was sworn of the Privy Council in the same year he became Bishop of London. He was also Gresham Professor of Divinity from 1987 to 1992. In October 2017, Chartres was made a life peer, and now sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher; he had previously sat in the House as one of the Lords Spiritual.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Ramsey</span> Archbishop of Canterbury

Arthur Michael Ramsey, Baron Ramsey of Canterbury, was an English Anglican bishop and life peer. He served as the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. He was appointed on 31 May 1961 and held the office until 1974, having previously been appointed Bishop of Durham in 1952 and the Archbishop of York in 1956.

Wilfred Denniston Wood KA is a Barbadian-British Anglican who was the Bishop of Croydon from 1985 to 2003, the first black bishop in the Church of England. He came second in the "100 Great Black Britons" list in 2004.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Scott-Joynt</span> English bishop

Michael Charles Scott-Joynt was an English bishop and a Prelate of the Order of the Garter. He was appointed Bishop of Winchester, one of the five senior bishoprics in the Church of England, in 1995. He had previously served as Bishop of Stafford in the Diocese of Lichfield from 1987 and before that as a canon residentiary at St Albans Cathedral. On 10 October 2010, it was announced that Scott-Joynt intended to retire, which he did in May 2011.

Kenneth R. Cracknell is a British specialist in interfaith dialogue and the Christian theology of religions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frank Griswold</span>

Frank Tracy Griswold III is a retired American bishop. He was the 25th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pete Broadbent</span> English Anglican bishop

Peter Alan Broadbent, known as Pete Broadbent, is an English Anglican bishop. He served as the Bishop of Willesden, an area bishop in the Church of England Diocese of London for twenty years, 2001–2021. During the vacancy in the diocesan see from 2017–2018, he served as Acting Bishop of London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Curry (bishop)</span> Presiding bishop of the US Episcopal Church since 2015

Michael Bruce Curry is an American bishop who is the 27th and current presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church. Elected in 2015, he is the first African American to serve as presiding bishop in The Episcopal Church. He was previously bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina.

David Nigel de Lorentz Young was the last Bishop of Ripon before the diocese became Ripon and Leeds. At his appointment at the age of 46 he was the youngest diocesan bishop of the Church of England.

David Keith Gillett is a British Anglican bishop. From 1988 to 1999, he was Principal of Trinity College, Bristol, an Anglican theological college. From 1999 to 2008, he was the Bishop of Bolton, a suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Manchester. Since 2008, he has been an honorary assistant bishop and Diocesan Interfaith Adviser in the Diocese of Norwich.

Michael Francis Perham was a British Anglican bishop. From 2004 to 2014, he served as the Bishop of Gloucester in the Church of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barry Rogerson</span>

Barry Rogerson was the first Bishop of Wolverhampton from 1979 to 1985 and, from then until his retirement in 2002, the Bishop of Bristol. He holds Honorary degrees from Bristol & the West of England Universities. He was made a Freeman of the City and County of Bristol in 2003.

The Presbytery of Glasgow is one of the 46 Presbyteries of the Church of Scotland. It dates back to the earliest periods of Presbyterian church government in the Church of Scotland in the late 16th century. The Presbytery of Glasgow currently has 125 congregations, making it by far the largest Presbytery in the Church of Scotland.

Adrian Newman is a bishop of the Church of England; he was area Bishop of Stepney in the Diocese of London (2011–2018) and Dean of Rochester (2004–2011).

Richard Finn Blackburn is a British retired Anglican bishop. From 2009 until 2018, he served as the Bishop of Warrington — the sole suffragan bishop in the Church of England Diocese of Liverpool; he was also temporarily the acting Bishop of Sodor and Man, 2016–2017.

George Cardell Briggs was the first Bishop of The Seychelles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nick Holtam</span> Retired bishop of the Church of England

Nicholas Roderick Holtam is a retired bishop of the Church of England. He served as Bishop of Salisbury from 2011 until his retirement in 2021.

Michael Geoffrey Ipgrave is a British Anglican bishop. Since 2016, he has been the 99th Bishop of Lichfield, the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Lichfield. He was the Bishop of Woolwich, an area bishop in the Diocese of Southwark, from 2012 to 2016. He served as Archdeacon of Southwark between 2004 and 2012.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Donald Bolen</span>

Donald Joseph Bolen, also known as Don Bolen, is a Canadian Roman Catholic prelate. He is the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, since his appointment by Pope Francis on 11 July 2016; having previously served as Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. Archbishop Bolen was born in Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, in 1961, the son of Joseph and Rose. He was ordained a priest in 1991 for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, and was consecrated as a bishop on 25 March 2010 for the Diocese of Saskatoon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Keith Riglin</span> Bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church

Keith Graham Riglin is an Anglican bishop in the Scottish Episcopal Church. Having ministered from 1983 within Baptist and Reformed churches, he took holy orders in the Church of England in 2008. In January 2021 he was elected Bishop of Argyll and The Isles.


  1. 1 2 3 Guardian Obituary
  2. "4: The Dioceses Commission, 1978–2002" (PDF). Church of England. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  3. Who's Who 1992 London, A & C Black, 1991 ISBN   0-7136-3514-2
  4. Ruth McCurry: "The Rt. Rev. Jim Thompson", The Independent on Sunday, 22 September 2003 Obituary [ dead link ]
  5. "The Rt Rev Jim Thompson", 20 September 2003 The Telegraph
  6. The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, edited by Robert Andrews, NY: Columbia University Press, 1993 ISBN   0-231-07194-9 p 146 citing the Daily Telegraph, 30 May 1991.
  7. 1 2 3 "No. 52692". The London Gazette . 22 October 1991. p. 16051.
  8. Debrett's People of Today: Ed Ellis,P (1992, London, Debtrett's) p 1621 ISBN   1-870520-09-2
  9. BBC News, 19 September 2003 "Bishop Jim dies at 67" Bishop Jim Dies at 67
  10. 1 2 McCurry, op cit
  11. "Obituary: Rt.Revd Dr Jim Thompson", University of Bath, Obituary Archived 28 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine