Remember your leaders. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
by Peter Adam
I was a full-time ordination candidate at Ridley 1967-69. Leon, ‘the Prin’ was an extraordinary scholar, theologian, writer, preacher, and teacher.
He paid full attention to the text of the Bible, word by word. He was a determined, humble, and meticulous Bible student, and loved communicating what he had discovered. And not a word was wasted.
He loved to adapt what he knew to the simplest hearer. Leon’s teaching and preaching were such that, to use the familiar image, ‘a child could wade, and an elephant could swim’!
Whether preaching his memorable and powerful sermons from his Hebrew or Greek text in Chapel, or working through the Greek text with his students with an extraordinary patience, he was a true ‘servant of the word’. His wry humour and perceptive observations of human behaviour enriched all his communication. And his capacity for disciplined hard work in running the college, preparing his lectures and sermons, and his constant and prolific writing amazed us. And through all this, his door was always open to students. And it all seemed so effortless. How did he do it?
I well remember his inspiring teaching of theology. We would begin a new topic. Leon would introduce us to a representative range of views so dispassionately that you could not tell if the view was right or wrong. ‘We now turn to James Blenkinsopp’s view of the Incarnation…What he was trying to achieve was this…..His views can be summarised in the following way….’ [I would write it all down, thinking that it all sounded pretty good.] Leon would continue: ‘On the other hand…’ and would then give us seven fundamental reasons why Mr Blenkinsopp’s view would not work Biblically or theologically. It was all done respectfully, graciously, carefully, and effortlessly.
Leon’s focus on the Bible and the cross were and are legendary. I learnt these two vital priorities from him. For both Bible and cross are so easily side-lined, neglected, assumed, rejected, or lost, in ministry, in piety, in theology, and in the life of the church. I have often used this insight to assess ministry, books, ideas, and practice. My two questions are: Is the Bible being honoured as the word of God? Is the atoning death of God’s Son being honoured as the means of our salvation?
I praise God that his servant Leon honoured both in every aspect of his life and ministry.