We received word last week of the passing of Sydnor Thompson Jr. less than a month shy of his 91st birthday. There are few people who have a longer history or greater involvement with the NC Council of Churches. When Sydnor received the Council’s Distinguished Service Award in 2013, he noted that he had been around long enough to remember when Collins Kilburn came to work here and to have known Sam Wiley before him.
Sydnor was an attorney of great influence, a local and appellate judge, and a leader in Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte. His time with the Council of Churches included service as a vice president, membership on our House of Delegates and Executive Committee, and participation with our Christian Unity Committee. But what most of us most remember about Sydnor was his tireless advocacy within the Council for us to expand our vision to the interfaith communities around us. Because of his bull-doggedness in this regard (he was tenacious, but always gracious), the Council’s Constitution was amended to call us to “encourage fellowship and cooperation with other religions and faiths in North Carolina for building mutual respect and promoting the well-being of all people in North Carolina.”
In accepting the Distinguished Service Award, Sydnor made reference to his deep concern for interfaith dialogue, noting that he had fought in a war “in which the people whom we fought against had killed six million Jews, and they purported to be a Christian country.” Those words remain a timely reminder today for those who would tar all of Islam with the violent acts of a few who purport to be Muslim.
In presenting the award, former Council President Stan Kimer noted that Sydnor “was not afraid to think outside the box and helped the Council to work better in today’s changing landscape.” Stan proclaimed him to be a “grande gentleman” of the Council. Nobody who knew Sydnor Thompson could possibly disagree.
Sydnor is survived by Harriette, his wife of 67 years and a remarkable person herself, a concert pianist who ran a marathon at the age of 90. Sydnor worried more about her long battle with cancer than he did about his own. His five children include son Sydnor III, a United Methodist pastor in Gastonia. The Council is honored and grateful to have been included among the suggested recipients of gifts in Sydnor’s memory.
I know you join me in thanking God for Sydnor’s life and in holding Harriette and the rest of his family in your prayers. Click on the following links to read a tribute in the Charlotte Observer, to see the full obituary, or to view the Distinguished Service Award program.