Diocese of Idaho elects Joseph Tharakan as its 14th bishop

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Joseph Tharakan

The Episcopal Diocese of Idaho has elected the Rev. Joseph ‘Jos’ Tharakan its 14th bishop.

The bishop-elect was chosen by clergy and lay leaders representing parishes across the diocese during a special electing convention held online on Feb. 19. He was elected on the first ballot after attaining a majority of both clergy and lay votes.

Tharakan comes from Springfield, Missouri, where he has been rector of St. James Episcopal Church and served as dean of the Southern Deanery of the Diocese of West Missouri. A native of Kerala, India, he was raised in a devout Roman Catholic home. He completed his seminary studies at Franciscan Seminaries in Kerala and was ordained in 1994. He obtained additional degrees in economics and political science at the University of Delhi, and English and social sciences at the University of Bhopal, India.

He came to the United States in 1997 and in 2006 then Arkansas Bishop Larry Maze received him into The Episcopal Church. Before coming to Missouri, he served at Christ Church, Mena, and All Saints Church in Russellville, both in Arkansas. His wife, Kimby, was born in California and raised in Arkansas. Together, they have six children, three grandchildren, a dog and a cat.

Tharakan said that in his ministry he is “called to walk with the other, like Jesus on the way to Emmaus, listening carefully, living authentically, and loving genuinely. The Franciscan call to ‘Rebuild My Church’ is my everyday focus; nothing more and nothing less. I have never run after a position for power, prestige, or pocketbook, but have followed God’s call from the age of 15. I have also observed that I am happy, and feel blessed and effective when I go where God sends me. And there I work hard and love people, and God does the rest.”

A multi-media artist, he has composed music and soundtracks and created short films, educational videos and websites. The COVID-19 pandemic has created “incredible opportunity for digital ministry, spiritual growth, and a tremendous potential for a new church model,” he said. “An absolute opportunity for creating basic Christian communities and empowering rural small churches where intergenerational ministry is waiting to explode.”

The Diocese of Idaho encompasses 26 congregations in southern Idaho and one in western Wyoming, less than a mile from the state line. The search for a new bishop began in January 2021 when the Rt. Rev. Brian J. Thom, 13th bishop of Idaho, called for the election of a successor. Thom has been bishop since October 2008.

Tharakan was one of three finalists chosen by the Bishop Search Committee in late 2021, the other two candidates were the Rev. Thomas Ferguson of the Diocese of Massachusetts and the Rev. Kenneth Malcolm of the Diocese of Texas. Parishes were invited in December and January to submit questions about their vision for the diocese and The Episcopal Church. From there, the Bishop Transition Committee sorted questions to discern which ones best represented the hopes of the people. Because of the pandemic’s Omicron surge — and in view of how bad Idaho’s roads can be in winter — interviews and meetings with congregations across the diocese were held virtually in February.

On June 24, Thom plans to celebrate the 35th anniversary of his ordination. “By that day, I will have served 30 of those years within the Diocese of Idaho,” he said. “Acknowledging the blessing of that much time, it is easy to see that all the good that I am, you have fostered; all the rest that I am, you have graciously overlooked. ”

Pending the necessary consents, Tharakan’s consecration is scheduled for June 25 in Boise at the Cathedral of the Rockies.