Barkley Thompson

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The Very Reverend
Barkley S. Thompson
MA, MDiv
Dean of Christ Church Cathedral
(Houston, Texas)
Barkley Thompson Lenten Lecture Series 2014
Thompson at Christ Church Cathedral's Lenten Lecture Series in March 2014
In office February 2013–present
Other posts Rector of the Church of the Holy Apostles (Collierville, TN), 2003-2007
Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church (Roanoke, VA), 2007-2013
Personal details
Birth name Barkley Stuart Thompson
Born November 17, 1972
Paragould, Arkansas
Nationality American
Denomination Episcopal Church (USA)
Residence Houston, Texas
Alma mater Hendrix College
University of Chicago Divinity School
Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest

Barkley Stuart Thompson (born 1972) is a priest in the Episcopal Church who currently serves as the Eighth Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, Texas.[1] Christ Church Cathedral is the cathedral church for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Early life and education[edit]

Thompson was born on November 17, 1972 in Paragould, Arkansas. He is the younger brother of Robert F. Thompson, Arkansas state senator representing the 11th District. Thompson was raised a Methodist, with his early formation in the United Methodist Church contributing to his vocation to pastoral ministry.[2] While in college, Thompson was encouraged to visit a local Episcopal parish church by one of his college professors. About his experience of walking into the church, Thompson has said, "The moment I crossed the threshold from narthex to nave, I had a deep sense that I had come home."[3] He joined the Episcopal Church shortly thereafter, which he has described as combining "the Methodist theology of hospitality and grace" with "Catholic sacramental and liturgical worship."[4]

Thompson graduated with a BA, magna cum laude, from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas in 1995, where he also received the college’s President’s Medal, presented to the student who best exemplifies the school’s highest ideals. Thompson went on to earn an MA degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1998.[5] He later earned the Master of Divinity degree from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. Currently, Thompson serves on the Seminary of the Southwest’s Board of Trustees.[6]

Career[edit]

Following his seminary education, Thompson was ordained first a deacon and then a priest by Bishop Don E. Johnson in the Diocese of West Tennessee of the Episcopal Church. In 2003, he was assigned to his first pastoral appointment as vicar (and later rector) of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Collierville, Tennessee. The congregation numbered only about 40 communicants when he arrived. Under his leadership the parish reorganized and expanded, growing from 40 parishioners to over 400 in just four years.[7]

In 2007, Thompson became the rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in the heart of Roanoke, Virginia.[8] While there, he led the parish in pursuing “innovative-yet-still-traditional forms of worship, new programs for Christian formation, outreach initiatives and enhanced Christian community.”[9] His ministry at St. John's was marked by congregational growth, development of new programming, and the establishment of a parish endowment.[10] In 2009, Thompson also led the parish in a restoration of its historic 117-year old church.[11]

Thompson was called in 2013 to be the eighth dean and twentieth rector of Christ Church Cathedral in Houston, Texas.[12]

Views[edit]

Theology and preaching[edit]

Thompson’s theological approach emphasizes communicating the Christian gospel inductively and narratively through storytelling. This approach is visible both in his preaching and in his published work. Thompson's technique combines the presentation of biblical stories or doctrines with stories of common life to illuminate key themes of the gospel in a way intended to be accessible to Christian audiences.[13] It is a way of communicating theology practically that has been described as “[combining] stories from Scripture and stories from everyday life.”[14] Thompson's approach is developed most fully in Elements of Grace, where he couches his characteristically narrative style in meditations that are organized thematically into the "elemental" categories of Earth, Water, Spirit, Light, Darkness, Discipleship, and Word.[15]

In addition to his pastorally oriented works, Thompson has published academic essays focusing on figures as diverse as the 19th century philosopher Josiah Royce and the contemporary agrarian writer Wendell Berry.[16][17]

Ecclesiastical politics[edit]

The early years of Thompson’s career coincided with a tumultuous time in the Episcopal Church, as tensions around human sexuality led to internal fractures in the denomination that spilled over into the Episcopal Church’s relationships with other churches of the Anglican Communion. In response to the trend of individual parishes and dioceses separating themselves from the Episcopal Church, Thompson appealed the historic principle of conciliarism to advocate for a General Council of Anglicanism as the proper arena in which to adjudicate ecclesiastical disputes.[18] For Anglicans, according to Thompson, such a council should be in the form of a Lambeth Conference that would have juridical power.

Thompson has also disputed the practice of Anglican bishops foreign to the United States asserting episcopal supervision over Anglican/Episcopal bodies within U.S. geographical boundaries. He has advocated that the fundamentally provincial character of Anglican polity ought to dictate that the various churches of the Anglican Communion respect one another’s autonomy and independence.[19] This attitude, in Thompson’s view, would be in conformity with the spirit of the Act in Restraint of Appeals, one of the foundational parliamentary acts of the English Reformation. Thompson has referred to the ideals contained in the Act in Restraint of Appeals the “First Principle of Anglicanism.”[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Clergy Leadership," Christ Church Cathedral website: http://www.christchurchcathedral.org/staff/clergy/ (accessed December 22, 2013).
  2. ^ Carol E. Barnwell, "Cathedral Welcomes New Dean," Diolog: The Texas Episcopalian 3:1 (March 2013): 23. Online at: http://www.epicenter.org/article/cathedral-welcomes-new-dean/ (accessed December 21, 2013).
  3. ^ "An interview with the Rev. Barkley Thompson," Christ Church Cathedral website: http://www.christchurchcathedral.org/2012/12/an-interview-with-rev-barkley-thompson/ (accessed January 2, 2014).
  4. ^ "An interview with the Rev. Barkley Thompson," Christ Church Cathedral website: http://www.christchurchcathedral.org/2012/12/an-interview-with-rev-barkley-thompson/ (accessed January 2, 2014).
  5. ^ Pamela J. Podger, "Roanoke's St. John's Episcopal chooses new rector," Roanoke Times (August 5, 2007). Online at: http://ww2.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/126877/ (accessed December 30, 2013).
  6. ^ "Board of Trustees" on the Seminary of the Southwest's website: http://www.ssw.edu/about/board (accessed December 28, 2013).
  7. ^ Tom Bailey, Jr., "Minister leaving for Va.--C'ville's Holy Apostles losing rector," Commercial Appeal (August 3, 2007).
  8. ^ Podger, "Roanoke's St. John's Episcopal chooses new rector," Roanoke Times (August 5, 2007). Online at: http://ww2.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/126877/ (accessed December 31, 2013).
  9. ^ Barnwell, "Cathedral Welcomes New Dean," Diolog: The Texas Episcopalian 3:1 (March 2013): 24. Online at: http://www.epicenter.org/article/cathedral-welcomes-new-dean/ (accessed December 31, 2013).
  10. ^ "Barkley Thompson named dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Houston," Episcopal News Service (December 6, 2012). Online at: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/12/06/barkley-thompson-named-dean-of-christ-church-cathedral-houston/ (accessed December 17, 2013).
  11. ^ "Parish Restoration Project," St. John's Episcopal Church website: http://www.stjohnsroanoke.org/about/restoration.php (accessed December 17, 2013).
  12. ^ "Barkley Thompson named dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Houston," Episcopal News Service (December 6, 2012). Online at: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/12/06/barkley-thompson-named-dean-of-christ-church-cathedral-houston/ (accessed December 14, 2013).
  13. ^ See, e.g., Barkley Thompson, "The Barber Shop and Sabbath Time," Ratherview: Official Magazine of the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest 23:2 (2001): 6-7.
  14. ^ "Alumnus Thompson publishes Elements of Grace," Seminary of the Southwest website: http://www.ssw.edu/alumnus-barkley-thompson-publishes-elements-grace (accessed January 2, 2014).
  15. ^ Barkley S. Thompson, Elements of Grace (Marion, AR: Trinity Books, 2013).
  16. ^ Barkley Thompson, “Toward a Christology of Purpose: The Early Royce and the Incarnation,” American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 21:1 (2000): 39-57.
  17. ^ Barkley Thompson, “Eschatological Moments in the Theology of Josiah Royce and the Novels of Wendell Berry.” Journal of Pastoral Theology 15:1 (2005): 39-47.
  18. ^ Barkley Thompson, "Conciliar Authority," The Living Church 229:21 (November 2004): 12-13.
  19. ^ Barkley Thompson, “Anglican Essentials from the Reformation,” The Living Church 235:8 (August 2007): 15-16.
  20. ^ Thompson, “Anglican Essentials from the Reformation,” The Living Church 235:8 (August 2007): 16.