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Obituary: The Rt Revd Ted Luscombe

13 May 2022


The Rt Revd Dr Nigel Peyton writes:

BORN in 1924, Lawrence Edward Luscombe grew up in a naval family in Devon, and was educated at Torquay Grammar School. Influences in his youth included his maternal grandparents and the Vicar of St Martin’s, Torquay, who encouraged his teenage sense of vocation to the priesthood. In 1940, Lawrence arrived at Kelham Hall Theological College run by the Society of the Sacred Mission. The rigour and learning there resonated with the young man; but his path to ordination took a significant detour, when, in 1942, aged 18, he joined the army and was commissioned into the Hyderabad Regiment, with which he served in Burma and India. He remained in India until Partition in 1947; he had reached the rank of Major and was commanding a company of troops aiding the civil authorities in the Punjab. By now, he was known as Ted, and soon married Captain Doris Morgan, a Glasgow doctor who was serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps and whose patient he had twice been in Jullundur.

Returning to Britain and no longer sure of his vocation to the priesthood, Ted qualified as a chartered accountant. He became a partner in a well-known Glasgow firm, just as their daughter, Jean, was born. It was as an active lay churchman in the diocese of Glasgow & Galloway that Ted’s latent vocation was slowly rekindled. He served as a lay representative and diocesan treasurer.

Ted trained at Warminster, and was ordained in 1963, serving at St Margaret’s Newlands, where he had been a member, before becoming Rector of St Barnabas’s, Paisley. In 1971, he was appointed Provost of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dundee, where he is recalled as welcoming and organised, for enlarging the membership and its influence in the city. Though Provost for perhaps too short a time, Ted gathered a team of able clergy who built on his foundations for some years.

In 1975, he was elected and consecrated the 50th Bishop of Brechin. Pragmatic and hands on, he modelled an industrious, untheatrical ministry. His enthusiasm improved morale, giving a sense of purpose during a period now appreciated as one of confident expansion.

The Rt Revd Dr Idris Jones adds:

In the death of Bishop L. E. Luscombe — “plus Ted” to nearly everyone, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have lost one of their most outstanding servants.

Ted gave a steadfast commitment to the Episcopal Church, including the production of a series of publications to mark the history of the Church and some of its more notable clergy in the 18th and 19th centuries. The history and tradition of the Church were important to Ted, and he was concerned about the danger of losing both, and this motivated his research. Respect for a sense of how the Church had arrived at its present life was for him, however, merely the launchpad from which to seek to increase and deepen the mission to which the Church was called — making faith in Jesus Christ accessible to all.

During Ted’s years as Bishop of Brechin, there was a resurgence in the life of both the diocese and its cathedral. This was the result not only of his own contribution, but came through his recruitment of a succession of new priests into the diocese. Against the trend of the day, Ted opened up new churches, encouraged the vision of shared ministry and equipped women and men to participate in the worship and life of the diocese.

As Primus, he not only gave the Episcopal Church an increasing confidence in its identity, but also encouraged the Church into a fuller engagement with the needs of the world around. In the wider Communion, he gained the trust and respect of Primates from all Provinces, and most particularly in America.

In the United States, bishops are not described as retired but designate themselves as Bishop of X, resigned. In a real sense, Ted never did retire, but maintained a concern for the Church that he loved and its relevance — sometimes, perhaps, a concern that appeared a little too active. He would criticise actions, but never indulged in personal criticism of any individual, and he maintained a very wide circle of friends right up to the end — no one envied him his phone bill.

Ted chose as the motto for his armorial bearing Dominus Regit Me. This is exactly what his life and ministry bear witness to; may that same Lord who guided him through life bring him to the glory of life eternal.

The Bishop of Brechin adds:

Ted’s death leaves an enormous space in the recent history and life of the Scottish Episcopal Church in the north-east of Scotland and throughout the land. Although unwell for the past few years and increasingly unable to take an active part in the physical activities of the Church, he remained connected by telephone and visits. He was passionate about our Church, with a longing for our rich history to be known and cherished. He was also passionate that the Church would grow in confidence and morale, a theme central to his own episcopate.

The Rt Revd Ted Luscombe died on 3 May, aged 97.

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