Tributes paid to Bishop David Thomas

Tributes are being paid to a retired Welsh bishop who died last night (May 12).

Bishop David Thomas, 74, served as the Provincial Assistant Bishop for 12 years. He was appointed in 1996 for the role which was set up to provide episcopal care for those unable to accept the ordination of women as priests. He retired in 2008 and the role then ceased.

The Senior Bishop, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, paid tribute to Bishop David’s “long and distinguished ministry”.

He said: “The sudden death of Bishop David Thomas, almost immediately after he and his wife Rosemary returned from a holiday celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, comes as a terrible shock to the many in the Church in Wales and beyond who both respected and loved Bishop David, and who had benefited from his long and distinguished ministry.

“At heart David was, I believe, a parish priest with great love and care for the people committed to his care and oversight, virtues which he had observed at first hand in the ministry of his late father, Bishop JJA (Jack) Thomas, virtues which were shaped and honed during his time at Oxford and in his early ministry.

“In parochial ministry, in the academic world and as a Bishop, David revealed himself to be a person of empathy, learning, pastoral sensitivity and humour. Those with whom he profoundly disagreed, not least in relation to the admission of women to the priesthood and the episcopate, invariably found that he was able to demonstrate these characteristics as he wrote, debated and spoke not only with conviction but also with grace, good manners and effectiveness.

“The Bench of Bishops and the whole of the Church in Wales assures Rosemary, Felicity, John and all the family of its love and prayers in their sudden loss, praying too that David might rest in peace and in the joyful love of Christ.”

Educated at Keble College, Oxford, Bishop David trained for ministry at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, and was ordained Deacon in 1967 by his father, John Thomas, who was the then-Bishop of Swansea and Brecon.

He served his curacy at Hawarden in the Diocese of St Asaph and at the same time taught at St Michael’s Theological College in Llandaff. He remained in academia throughout the 1970s and much of the 1980s, serving as a university chaplain in Wales and then returning to St Stephen’s House as firstly vice-principal and then, from 1982-87 as principal. Between the two St Stephen House appointments, Bishop David spent three years as Vicar of Chepstow.

He returned to Wales in 1987 and was Vicar of Newton for nine years before being appointed Rural Dean of Clyne. He also served as a Canon of Brecon Cathedral from 1994-96 and was consecrated Bishop in 1996.

Bishop David celebrated the 20th anniversary of his ordination as Bishop at a service in St Mary’s Priory Abergavenny in December.

Canon Mark Soady, Area Dean of Abergavenny, said: “We have lost a great source of wisdom and a man with a great pastoral heart. He shall be sorely missed by the people of Abergavenny who had a great fondness for him. Our prayers are with Rosemary and the family at this time.”

Bishop Tony Robinson, chairman of the organisation Forward in Faith said: “Bishop David will be remember by many as a kind and pastoral bishop with great wisdom.”