Bishop Tharp dies after extended illnesS

June 3, 2003

The Rt. Rev. Robert Gould Tharp, second bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee, died Friday, May 30, 2003. He was 74.

'Along with the Diocese of East Tennessee and many friends throughout the Episcopal Church, I will miss Bob Tharp's enthusiasm, optimism and example as a Christian leader,' said the Rt. Rev. Charles G. vonRosenberg, who was consecrated as third bishop of East Tennessee upon Tharp's retirement in 1999. 'Bob has served as a mentor and guide for me, and I am grateful to God for the life and witness of this fine man and friend.'

Tharp was elected bishop coadjutor Nov. 17, 1990, during a special meeting of the Sixth Annual Convention of the Diocese of East Tennessee. He was consecrated on May 4, 1991, and was installed as diocesan bishop on December 7, 1991, at St. John's Cathedral in Knoxville. He succeeded as diocesan bishop the Rt. Rev. William E. Sanders, first bishop of East Tennessee, when Sanders retired Jan. 1, 1992.

'When I became diocesan bishop, I invited Bob to be Canon to the Ordinary because of his devoted work as a parish priest with the clergy and laity and his pastoral ministry with them--and in light of their obvious confidence in him. That began for us a companionship in the ministry,' said Sanders. 'He's been a devoted and able leader at every level of the church's life. His heart was in his ministry completely, in his guidance and worship, in his eloquent preaching and in his pastoral care of the people of the church and of the community.'

Born in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 25, 1928, Tharp graduated from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, in 1950 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He earned his Master of Divinity degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary near Chicago in 1956, the same year he was ordained deacon. Ordained as a priest in 1957, he was vicar and rector at four churches in Florida from 1956 until 1968. Tharp came to Tennessee in 1969 to become rector of St. Peter's Church in Columbia. He served there until 1978, when he became Canon to the Ordinary for the Diocese of Tennessee. In 1985, the Diocese of East Tennessee was formed, and Tharp became the Canon to the Ordinary of the new diocese.

He was five times a deputy to General Convention and was elected to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church in 1988. In 1989, Tharp traveled to Burundi and Rwanda in Africa as the Episcopal Church USA's representative to the Partners-in-Mission Consultation for the Provinces of Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire. He continued to serve after retirement, accepting an appointment just two months later from Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold as chairman of the board of directors for Episcopal Relief and Development.

Tharp is survived by his wife of 22 years, Ann Bradford Tharp, and by a daughter, a son, four grandchildren, a sister, three stepdaughters, a stepson, and five step-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Episcopal Relief and Development, 815 2nd Ave., New York, NY 10017; Kanuga Conferences, Inc., P.O. Box 250, Hendersonville, NC; or the Diocese of East Tennessee, 401 Cumberland Ave., Knoxville, TN 37902.

Related Topics: