Comments: Graham Leonard obituaries

These newspaper eulogies on the late Dr. Graham Leonard help us to understand the culture of the Church of England, before, during and after his term as Bishop of London. His provenance - from an Evangelical vicarage environment, to his later High Church Anglican affiliation - should tell us something about what might have been his take on the present impasses within the Anglican Communion.

It is probable that, bearing in mind his stance on the ordination of women (which was the straw, for him, that broke the camel's back and which sent him across the Tiber) he would have been an encourager of F.i.F. clergy today who have the same antipathy towards women's ministry. However,
one wonders how he might have viewed the C.of E.'s championing of the anti-gay cause - having in mind the fact that his one-time diocese was probably host to more gay priests than any other in the Church.

I find it ironic that - the very cause for which the Communion is side-lining TEC and the A.C.of C., might have been the very last reason for him to have abandoned the Church of his life-time ministry. He left the Anglican Church, not because of Gay Clergy, but for his conservative stance on women in the priesthood.

I cannot condone the actual reason for which Br. Leonard left our Church, but it serves to put into a proper perspective what he might have considered to be the more important theological hurdle for him to remain an Anglican - not because of the presence of gay clergy, but for him, the ordination of women!

When we consider that the Ordination of Women is not a contentious issues for many of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion at this time (many of them already having already considered this matter admissable), one wonders why the arguably adiaphoral issue of Gay Clergy is such a mighty stumbling block for the Covenant? What, I wonder, would the former Bishop of London have had to say about this (as an Anglican, not R.C.?)

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 5:06am GMT

You're being extremely generous to the late Right Reverend father. My reading of his character and inclinations - strong, intelligent but extremely narrow ("I would rather use nuclear weapons than live under Communism"), suggests to me he would have been as implacably opposed to the consecration of actively homosexual clergy and even possibly to the ordination of active homosexuals as any Akinola or Jensen.

That impression is reinforced by the fact that he sought refuge in the Church of Rome, an institution which is simultaneously the employer of numberless homosexuals and the most homophobic institution on earth.

Note: I understand that the word "homosexual" and the phrase "actively homosexual" may cause offence to some. I have used these expressions because I am striving after an accurate representation of what I mean to say. I apologise in advance to those who are offended.

William

Posted by William at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 12:23pm GMT

William, this "active homosexual" (I enjoy running, lifting weights, going to the movies, and many other activities ) takes no offense, given the context of your comments.

I would, however, amend your construction. It seems to me that what offends so many in the Church, and likely would have offended or did offend the late Monsignor f/k/a His Grave the Lord Bishop of London is not "active" homosexuality (btw, don't translate that construction too literally into Romance languages, it takes on a whole other connotation...) but rather ***open*** non-celibate homosexuality (including "outed" folks, but primarily aimed at the self-acknowledged).

What is not in the open and in the light of day can be "plausibly denied," and so the fantasy can be continued. Historically on this issue, "activity" has been tolerated, but openness about it has not been.

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 3:01pm GMT

William, I was ordained by Graham Leonard and worked in the Diocese of London for many years. During that time he appointed senior colleagues and parochial clergy who it was well known were gay and partnered. His policy was very clearly 'don't ask, don't tell', but he was not a naive man and knew the culture of London diocese quite well. He appeared quite neutral on the issue, simply accepting it as a fact of life in the Diocese.

Posted by Canon Andrew Godsall at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 3:58pm GMT

Ron, Monsignor Graham Leonard left Anglicanism... because he discovered it was a Protestant creation of the British state and did not safeguard the teaching of the historic Apostolic and Catholic Faith.

Posted by Robert Ian williams at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 6:17pm GMT

May he rest in peace, and rise in glory (His narrow and/or misogynists beliefs, God willing, I humbly commend to the Fires of Gehenna. OCICBW.)

Posted by JCF at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 7:34pm GMT

Leonard was indeed well-known for his tolerance of partnered gay clergy. He was equally well-known for his intolerance of clergy who suffered marital breakdown.

Posted by cryptogram at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 7:59pm GMT

Dr. Leonard, as Bishop of London, was one of the first bishops to use a particular tactic later perfected by the sheep stealers of the so-called Global South. He travelled to the United States to perform confirmations in (incipiently) separatist parishes in the Diocese of Colorado, and deliberately did not seek the permission of the diocesan concerned. From that point forward, I always maintained that the see of London was vacant, Dr. Leonard having consigned himself to schism.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 8:07pm GMT

Thank you for a very constructive and helpful posting, David. My first formula was "self-acknowledged" but I rejected it because there are celibate self-acknowledged homosexuals (and presumably these people are not "gay"?)

Andrew - your memories are extremely helpful. Would you be prepared to speculate on how Msgnr Leonard would have reacted to the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson ? (Or do you know, perhaps, what his view was?)

Would it have been the same kind of ... what shall we call it ... false dichotomy ? ... you've been debating with Graham Kings - private acceptance, official intolerance?

William

Posted by William at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 9:15pm GMT

@William: Re "there are celibate self-acknowledged homosexuals (and presumably these people are not "gay"?)":

Jeffrey John is celibate, self-acknowledged as homosexual, and quite gay, without any scare quotes at all. There are certainly celibate self-acknowledged same-sex-attracted people who eschew gay identity in favor of "ex-gay" or other identities, but there are plenty of celibate self-acknowledged same-sex-attracted people who embrace gay identity.

Activity or lack thereof, and vows of celibacy upheld or not, are issues distinct from identifying as gay or not.

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 10:03pm GMT

@RIW: Re "Ron, Monsignor Graham Leonard left Anglicanism... because he discovered it was a Protestant creation of the British state and did not safeguard the teaching of the historic Apostolic and Catholic Faith.":

Quite a sudden "discovery" to make at the advanced age of, what, 72?

No, I'm sure you're right, and it was purely cynical of me to note to myself the coincidence of (a) developments in the C of E to which His Grace objected and (b) his walking, er, swimming across the Tiber.

Yes, that morning when he woke up at 72 only to "discover" the enormity of the error he had bought into all of his life, even as a validly consecrated bishop (thanks to the Dutch Touch), must certainly have been a fright. Poor man must never have read a history of the C of E; perhaps he accidentally opened a volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica to an article on Henry or Elizabeth and at last learned the terrible truth. Dreadful.

But at least you're more fortunate, RIW, and it didn't take you until 72.

Posted by David da Silva Cornell at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 10:09pm GMT

William wrote "Note: I understand that the word "homosexual" and the phrase "actively homosexual" may cause offence to some. I have used these expressions because I am striving after an accurate representation of what I mean to say. I apologise in advance to those who are offended."

No offence from me either William.

In fact there is already a word that meets your needs in common usage. the word "out". An "out" homosexual is one who has chosen to be fully open about his nature, (or sometimes only partially, like "out to his mother but not his father").

I think the CofE has more of a problem with the "outness" and honesty of a priest than with whether or not they are sexually active. To be in a committed sexually active partnership, but discreet, is OK. To be in a long term homosexual but celibate partnership, but open about it, like Jeffrey John, bars you from episcopal office.

Simon Dawson

Posted by Simon Robert Dawson at Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 11:02pm GMT

'..even as a validly consecrated bishop (thanks to the Dutch Touch), ..' (Quoted from above etc).

In fact, for those who think in that kind of way (calling it 'Catholic' sic, - the 'pipeline' approach, surely he could not have been a 'validly ordained bishop' because his other ordinations (deacon and priest) were 'not valid'. In other words the Old Catholic consecration could not 'take' because of C of E priesting.

I can no longer think that way, it seems plain daft really, and misses the point about what ministry is and how it 'works' for people.

Posted by Rev L Roberts at Friday, 8 January 2010 at 12:43am GMT

Simon Dawson: "I think the CofE has more of a problem with the "outness" and honesty of a priest than with whether or not they are sexually active."

Yes, you've hit the nail on the head there. I can think of many gay clergy of one's acquaintance, including a few bishops, who have been "sexually active", even if only to the extent of being known for their "wandering hands" when left alone with presentable young men. Yet, insofar as they, and said presentable young men, keep their mouths discreetly shut, it has been no problem for them.

If, on the other hand, any cleric dares to identify publicly as "gay", then, as we saw with Jeffrey John, it makes no difference at all whether they follow the letter of the stupid law or not.


This has surely nothing much to do with Christianity, but everything to do with the lingering tradition of a culture of sexual hypocrisy in Britain, which the rest of British society has quite rightly grown out of by now, but the C of E'e leaders are still wedded firmly to.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 8 January 2010 at 8:31am GMT

From the Telegraph obituary: "He held the traditional offices of the Bishop of London – Dean of the Chapels Royal, Prelate of the Order of the British Empire, Prelate of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor – but his impact on the capital as a whole was negligible."

I am afraid that similar sentences could form a description of the C of E's upper ecehlons as a whole at the moment - holding great historic offices but making negligible impact on society as a whole.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 8 January 2010 at 8:46am GMT

I think Msgr Leonard had a problem with the Church of England as early as 1964,as he arranged privately with the participating Old Catholic bishop at his consecration to say words in addition to the words in the prayer Book consecration service. Even a document was drawn up before hand. That is why in his case conditional ordination was allowed, but not in the cases where no such private arrangement had been drawn up.... as most Anglican ordinations now have Old Catholics in their line. Yet even in the Leonard case there was sufficient doubt as to need a fresh ordination. No Anglican has ever been accepted in his orders by the Catholic Church.

Other former Anglican bishops who became Catholic and were ordained, did not receive sub conditione ordination , even though they had Old Catholics in their episcopal line, because they made no such "private" arrangements.

Rome regards the Anglican BCP rite as invalid and a good analogy is.. King Arthur using any sword does not make it excalibur. The Archbishop of Westminster using the BCP could not consecrate a bishop.

By the way Msgr Leonard was confirmed unconditionally.

As for the age of Msgr Leonard at conversion...God's Grace knows no bounds.

Posted by Robert Ian williams at Friday, 8 January 2010 at 9:05am GMT

Yes, Simon - I was being dense and clumsy. "Out" is a good word, a grand word.

Fr. Mark's remark that

"I am afraid that similar sentences could form a description of the C of E's upper ecehlons as a whole at the moment - holding great historic offices but making negligible impact on society as a whole,"

leads me to make another potentially-offensive comment.

When the late prelate was alive (active!) he caused me great personal unhappiness by his decision to abandon the Church of England and enter the Church of Rome.

Now that I have read the obituaries (and I mean his family no disrespect when I say this) I see clearly that he was a man of middling ability at best - pace the fact that he was a good pastor.

And my mind has been running along the same lines as Mark's. Bereft of its (recently developed) national purpose, and its self-esteem, Britain has undergone a remarkable reinvention of itself in the last fifty years. And it seems to me, who have lived through these same years, that, while we are now all middle-class, we also now expect and demand of our leaders that they should be ordinary - we call them Rowan and Tony. And for the first time I see the late Bishop as the ordinary bloke - "the former adjutant" - that he really was.

Our problem is NOT that Bishops THINK they are special.

They - who are called, anointed and consecrated to be our Fathers - and Mothers - in God MUST be special. Otherwise let's all be Baptists and have done with it.

We are passing through second rate times and our defining squabbles - which have little or nothing to do with creedal orthodoxy - are second rate and absurdly over-heated and divisive.

300+ words. You can see I’m over fifty and on holiday, can’t you?

William

Posted by William at Friday, 8 January 2010 at 9:17am GMT

William
"They - who are called, anointed and consecrated to be our Fathers - and Mothers - in God MUST be special. Otherwise let's all be Baptists and have done with it."

Special means having been given a special task, like every one of us, whether we're bishops, priests, readers, church cleaners, brass polishers or flower arrangers.

What it emphatically does not mean is that they're an outstanding human being, somehow a bit more special than the others.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 8 January 2010 at 1:31pm GMT

Well, Erika, that's my whole point, isn't it!!??

If they are not a bit more special, the odds are they're going to make a poor job of their special task. And do.

Let us agree to differ on this point.

Wiliam

Posted by William at Friday, 8 January 2010 at 9:04pm GMT

William
"Otherwise let's all be Baptists and have done with it.

We are passing through second rate times and our defining squabbles - which have little or nothing to do with creedal orthodoxy - are second rate and absurdly over-heated and divisive."

"Creedal orthodoxy"? If this isn't protestant pleonasm, I don't know what is.

Monsignor Graham Leonard, RIP, obviously figured out that you are baptists already and felt called to something different(even though lots of Anglicans and Baptists are really great people and God loves them all)

Posted by Ley Druid at Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 5:22am GMT

For Robert Ian Williams, who seems fond of trashing Anglo Catholics and other Anglicans at every contrived opportunity, I am grateful -- having been raised Roman Catholic, and educated in the RC system through elementary school and high school and college -- to have been called by the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit to enter the Episcopal Church at the age of 32, where I found greater true piety, more inspiration than fear, and an ability to move me into a closer relationship with God.

And, even though I would never be a Baptist or Presbyterian or other non-Apostolic Succession Christian, I do still note that some are better moved closer to God through those churches, and I would be a very small person indeed if I continually carped on about such churches as does Mr. Williams about Anglicanism.

If the RC Church brings to Mr. Williams more than it brought to me, and the numerous former RC 's whom I have come to know in my various Episcopal parishes in the US, that is wonderful.

Mr. Williams, and Graham Leonard, have thereby been blessed in their lives as Roman Catholics, just as I and my fellow former-RC’s have been blessed in our lives as Episcopalians/Anglicans.

Further, although we could all trash the Roman Catholic Church in numerous countries for the deplorable examples of rampant pedophilia which are now known, we do not do that because we all know very good and caring RC priests and nuns and brothers -- unrelated to the thousands guilty of those crimes, or the duplicitous hierarchy who tried to cover up those crimes -- who are loving people and do wonderful things for their flocks, and for others in the world.

I am particularly fond of Franciscans, Roman and Anglo, and believe that the way of St. Francis is a good model for all of us and for a common future that will not come until long after I am dead.

I hope that Mr. Williams will grow up and guard his snide tongue/keyboard, and recognize that God's love is greater than his or mine, and that God's whole truth is unknown to all of us.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 5:06pm GMT

Jerry, It seems you are taken with feeling than reality...there is a way that seems right to a man and the end thereof is death.

Posted by Robert Ian williams at Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 7:12pm GMT

R I Williams' remark that GL made special arrangements at his consecration beyond what was C-of-E practice as a hedge against a change of church later on, is quite strange, if true. Why would an Anglican bishop-to-be go continue indeed accept 'promotion' in a church which he found (even then) invalid. Wouldn't it have been more honest to refuse the post while he worked out his position to his own satisfaction, instead of becoming a bishop in a church he was coming to distrust?

Posted by Sara MacVane at Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 8:32pm GMT

The druid knows interesting words ("pleonasm," my dear!) but does not see beyond his long beard.

The non-liberal conservative neo-puritans (thats a pleonasm, isn't it?) are measuring orthodoxy (right thinking) against new tests not required or anchored in the Creeds.

As in "Where do you stand on the ordination of women?" Oh, and "Do you agree that homosexuals are revolting" (q.v. Mrs. Iris Robinson.)

So creedal orthodoxy - I think - is no longer a pleonasm, protestant or otherwise, in today's fractured communion.

My regards, O Druid!!

William

Posted by William at Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 10:08pm GMT

Thus saith Robert Ian Williams: "Jerry, It seems you are taken with feeling than reality...there is a way that seems right to a man and the end thereof is death."

Robert, I was not aware that you had a Direct-Line-to-God; perhaps you were drawn to my former church -- not my former faith, nor my former religion, but my former church -- because you needed someone to tell you precisely what to think, and precisely what to do, and to believe that they alone had a Direct-Line-to-God.

At Thanksgiving this past November, I was blessed to be with cousins I had not seen in over twenty years, the oldest one of whom is now 72. All of us came from very traditional Irish (American) Catholic families, and he spoke of his own journey of personal faith, and the evolution of the Roman Catholic Church, describing himself with no great joy as "a Christian who happens to be Catholic."

Those of us who were originally cradle-to-grave RC's, and who were educated for 16 to 18 years in the RC system, have evolved to more than the superstitions and contrivances created by the Roman hierarchy, and foisted upon generations after generations of timid and sometimes frightened souls.

You will find all means of self-contrived logic to validate your own choice, and you are welcome to it, but even among still-lifelong and highly-educated RC's, your sense of exclusionary religion is no longer tolerated, much less acceptable.

That you will find favor with today's equivalent of the Roman Curia and their toadies is not at all surprising, so you may reinforce each other in professing Rome as the only way to follow Christ.

But, I do not accept your arrogant assessment.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 12:14am GMT

Please can we avoid personal remarks about other commenters.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 8:37am GMT

"there is a way that seems right to a [human being]" - Posted by Robert Ian williams

While we "see through a glass darkly" (EVERY mortal---and therefore fallible---human being alive on the face of the Earth), RIW, that's all there is. That's just the way we Homo sapiens are configured. Roman Catholicism is the way that "seems right" to you, and God-be-with-ye.

Posted by JCF at Monday, 11 January 2010 at 1:08am GMT

Jerry, my heart warms to you - especially when you speak of your love of Anglicanism, which seems quite proper for a 'Thinking Anglican'. Bless you, my brother in Christ.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 11 January 2010 at 10:03am GMT

As regards GL and his supplementary old catholic consecration he made no secret of it.

As regards Mark, I have little confidence in the abysmal religious education in many modern catholic schools.

Posted by Robert Ian williams at Monday, 11 January 2010 at 9:37pm GMT

"As regards Mark, I have little confidence in the abysmal religious education in many modern catholic schools." - Robert Ian Williams

I don't know about Mark, but my religious education in catholic schools was from September of 1949 through June of 1966.

Somehow a catholic education forty plus years ago does not even come close to being modern, particularly when you realize that thirteen years of that seventeen year period was even pre-Vatican II.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Tuesday, 12 January 2010 at 2:13am GMT

Sorry Jerry, you came across as young!

May I commend Catholic Answers Radio on the web..take another look at the Church. Also the Journey Home on EWTN.

Sad that your Irish ancestors resisted Anglicanism (and did so at great personal cost) and you seem to have drifted in to it, as you can make the slipper fit the foot.

Posted by Robert Ian williams at Tuesday, 12 January 2010 at 7:19pm GMT

Regarding R.I.W.'s comments (above). Perhaps he could be good enough to accept the fact that some people 'leap out of the frying pan into the fire'. At least, in Anglicanism, there is no actual threat of Hell-fire - unless, of course you happen to inhabit the Sola Scriptura school.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 10:07am GMT

Why Robert, it's so nice to find someone who felt that I "came across as young." I feel like giving you a hug (that is if I could ignore your final snide and gratuitous shot at my heritage and decisions).

Yes, my body is aging, and not particularly well; but the mind is bright and still creative, and the spirit is quite young. In fact, my favorite title among all that I have earned is that of "silly Grandpa," with which my five year old granddaughter has blessed me.

But as to listening to any religions's marketing department, including that of the RCC, I find that extensive personal experience (thirty two years as an RC with a classic catholic education, K to 16) plus subsequent extensive study, when I contemplated becoming an Anglican/Episcopalian, is all that I need.

Just as it is unlikely that you will swim back across the Tiber, be assured that it is even more unlikely that I would swim back.

Now, I should provide one remote possibility of circumstances in which that judgment might be reversed, namely if the RCC were to effectively (it sure won't happen overtly, based on precedence) admit its historical errors and arrogance, and join with the Anglicans, and Orthodox, and Lutherans (at least those Lutheran churches in Apostolic Succession) in a a truly universal catholic church in which the Bishop of Rome is recognized as the first among equals. The self-created concept of papal infallibility, of course, will have been discarded for all of that to occur.

So, thanks again for the "young" judgment; it made my morning.

Posted by Jerry Hannon at Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 4:43pm GMT

Well said, Jerry!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 13 January 2010 at 10:47pm GMT
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