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St. Thomas' rector one of 4 finalists for bishop

The Snell Isle priest hopes to stay "very calm and somewhat serene" until the final vote May 1.

Published February 15, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - The Rev. Chris Thompson, rector of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church on Snell Isle, is a finalist for bishop of the Diocese of Western North Carolina.

Thompson is one of four nominees who survived a monthslong process that began with 55 candidates. He will have to wait until May 1 to learn whether he has been elected to serve the 16,000-member diocese.

"It's an exciting time," he said. "But I am trying to focus on what needs to be focused on here.

"I'm working and acting and planning as if I'm going to be here. St. Thomas is where I am called to serve until I've been called somewhere else."

Thompson, 51, was nominated for the position by Bishop David Bane of the Diocese of Southern Virginia. This is not a position for which one campaigns, he said.

The person elected by delegates and clergy at a May 1 meeting in Asheville, N.C., will fill the position being vacated by Bishop Robert H. Johnson, who is retiring.

Before then, though, the nominees and their spouses will be introduced to voters at a "walk-about" on March 27. They will be asked to address an issue or question from the search committee and also answer questions posed by members of five separate groups.

Thompson, who first learned that he was a candidate for the position in the fall, said he is "very calm and somewhat serene" about the entire process.

He apparently, though, has mixed emotions about the prospect of leaving St. Thomas, where he will begin serving his ninth year on May 1, election day in North Carolina.

"I'm serving an awesome congregation," he said of the prestigious church at 1200 Snell Isle Blvd. NE that has about 1,000 members.

Ordained a priest in West Virginia in 1980, Thompson said he first felt the call to the ministry when he was 12, right after his confirmation. He served churches in West Virginia and Portsmouth, Ohio, his hometown, before moving to St. Petersburg in 1996.

There are things that he would miss, if elected bishop, he said.

"I love being with people. I love the parish. It's both nurtured me, fed me and made me who I am today," he said.

But Thompson, who is married and has three adult children, said he has much to offer a diocese as bishop.

"I think I bring a sense of humor and a passion for Christ to people," he said.

The new bishop of Western North Carolina will be consecrated on Sept. 18.

[Last modified February 15, 2004, 01:15:45]

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