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Leadbeater as Anglican and Bishop

Mar 15, 2009 10:59 PM
by gregory

It is unclear whether Leadbeater actually resigned his appointment as an
Assistant Curate in the Church of England at Bramshott, which would, under
ecclesiastical law of the time, have required him to give three months
notice to the Incumbent (Canon W.W.Capes) and the Bishop, or less notice
with the permission of the Bishop. It is also unclear whether Leadbeater
paid Canon Capes the equivalent of the Curate?s stipend for six month, or
a lesser amount determined by the Bishop as provided for by law. Had he
done so he would still have remained, for legal purposes, an Anglican
clergyman unless he executed a Deed of Relinquishment under the Clerical
Disabilities Act of 1870. Such a Deed of Relinquishment was the only
means, in the ecclesiastical and civil law of England, whereby a priest
could divest himself of his orders, although he could be deposed from them
by his bishop for a sufficiently grave cause and following prescribed
disciplinary procedure. Theologically, even such a Deed would not have
changed his status as an ordained Priest, but only have removed the legal
disabilities (e.g. being disqualified from sitting in the House of
Commons) to which Anglican clergymen were subjected under English civil
law. Such a deed could only be executed after the resignation of all
ecclesiastical appointments.

There is no record of Leadbeater having ever formally relinquished his
status as an Anglican clergyman. It appears that he simply informally
abandoned his Curacy and became in effect an inactive Priest of the Church
of England.

According to an announcement made by Olcott in 1890 responding to ?the
malicious assertion, recently made, that Mr Leadbeater was not an ordained
clergyman of the Church of England?, documents attesting to his ordination
had been seen by many people in Colombo. Olcott declared that Leadbeater?s
name had been removed from the list of clergy when he became a Buddhist.
However, in the census return for 1891 Leadbeater described himself as a
?Clerk in Holy Orders?.

The Baptismal Register of St Alban?s Cathedral, Sydney, includes an entry
recording that Leadbeater, as an Anglican clergyman, had baptized one of
his male pupils, Walter Hesselman (later Hassall), in 1914, prior to his
entry into what was then the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain.

Leadbeater was received into the Old Catholic Church in Great Britain by
Bishop James Wedgwood in Sydney in July, 1915.  On July 22, 1916, Wedgwood
privately consecrated Leadbeater; Leadbeater?s new status was intended (as
letters from Wedgwood show) to be kept secret except from a select few.
Wedgwood wrote: His consecration took place in the presence of a very few
people?.. There were mighty influences present: several Masters came, the
Lord Maitreya, and the Lord Buddha, and the Star shone out. When he said
his first Mass afterwards, four Masters came in, and the Master Jesus
stood there the whole time.

Wedgwood had been consecrated a bishop by Frederick Samuel Willoughby, a
former Anglican clergyman who had relinquished his orders in the Church of
England following a well-publicized scandal concerning to his sexual
relations with boys. Willoughby joined the predecessor of the Old Catholic
Church in Great Britain and was made a bishop. He was dismissed from that
church when the earlier sexual scandal became known and the synod of the
church (including Wedgwood) voted to dismiss him. Wedgwood and his new
church tried to keep the Willoughby?s identity as Wedgwood?s consecrator a
secret but it was quickly made public.

Dr Gregory Tillett


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