Bishop Leslie Hamlett

My Bishop has just published a brief notice on our diocesan website Rest in Peace + Leslie Hamlett (Bishop Ordinary 1992 – 1997).

Given his being in extremis for some time (he was in a hospice), I can understand that his son and daughter were upset on seeing a caricature on him on this blog, drawn by a man who was helping in Bishop Hamlett’s pro-cathedral-parish in Madeley Heath and apparently living according to a Franciscan way of life. This person also drew caricatures that became increasingly grotesque, and though they seemed for a time to be amusing, they showed a process of radicalisation and bitterness. This grainy photo is all I have from about 1996 other than one of the Palm Sunday procession which I have already posted.

Il tempo fa passare l’amore e l’amore fa passare il tempo. Things lose relevance with the passage of time.

It is always a reminder of our own mortality to hear of the passing of someone we have known. When I first met Bishop Hamlett in 1995, I was in a difficult situation in the Roman Catholic Church as a deacon in a parish in rural France. He seemed to be a man of sympathy and vision with his having Fr Michael Wright in his diocese. Fr Wright had been an Army chaplain with a special interest in the dialogue between Anglicanism and Orthodoxy. There was a definite understanding of Orthodox theology in Bishop Hamlett’s discourse and an original approach to human iniquity. These themes, which have been uppermost in my mind over the past few days, formed a part of Bishop Hamlett’s thought. I remember the day when he told me all about his abortive attempt to found an Anglican-Use group in the Roman Catholic Church. When I wrote A Couple of Lovely Postings, I found material in my archives that reminded me of these early aspirations.

Bishop Hamlett had a certain intellectual ability to understand some of these issues, which brought him increasingly to reject Anglican expressions and to go along a “proto” Roman Catholic trajectory. He accepted the systematisation of doctrine and devotion coming from the Council of Trent, systematic and regular auricular confession, and an outward expression that was quite similar to the Roman Catholic traditionalists. The main difference is that the liturgy would continue to be celebrated in Prayer Book style English, from the Anglican Missal – and the separation from Rome would be clearly expressed. His big problem was his parochialism and lack of any real originality of thought, his small-mindedness and some quirk in his personality that gave him an inflated sense of self-importance. These characteristics had unpleasant consequences in about 1997. I left before this came to fruition, but I could already discern the tendencies leading towards the break. The big problem was that the Pastoral Provision failed in England, and continuing Anglican Churches in America were only a poor substitute for a cleric trying to keep his parish going outside the Church of England.

Over the years, he tried to realign and re-group as best he could. He acquired a church building in Stoke on Trent, and when the local town planning authorities decided it was in the way of their plans, they provided him with another and better church building. It was a pleasant Victorian building with a modern church hall. It was furnished in good taste with an English altar and the “big six”. I have no idea about how well attended this church was as the years wore on.

In spite of these questions, Bishop Hamlett was certainly sincere in his ministry and vision of the Church and acted according to his beliefs. It is the time for forgiveness and our prayers for him as he has passed from his pilgrimage on earth. He is now where no mortal can judge him, and all that remains is to pray and accept our limitations faced with this terrifying mystery of death.

We should also pray for his son and daughter. I don’t know whether his wife survives him. A page turns for him and for us in the Diocese of the United Kingdom of the ACC.

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