Obituaries: Rt Rev Edward Luscombe, former Bishop of Brechin

The Rt Rev Edward Luscombe. Former Bishop of Brechin and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Born: November 10 1924 in Torquay, Devon. Died: May 3 2022 in Monifieth, Angus, aged 97

In the death of Bishop Edward Luscombe, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has lost one of its most outstanding servants.

Bishop Ted, as he was known, served as Bishop of Brechin from 1975 until retirement in 1990 and as Primus from 1985 to 1990, and had been Provost of St Paul’s Cathedral in Dundee until his election as Bishop following earlier ministries in the Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway.

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Until illness took its toll shortly before his death he gave a steadfast commitment to the Episcopal Church, perhaps most obviously by producing a series of publications marking the history of the church and some of its more notable clergy in the 18th and 19th century.

The history and tradition of the church were important to Bishop Ted LuscombeThe history and tradition of the church were important to Bishop Ted Luscombe
The history and tradition of the church were important to Bishop Ted Luscombe

The history and tradition of the church were important to Bishop Ted and he was concerned about the danger of losing both, which motivated his research. Respect for a sense of how the Church had arrived at its present life was for him, however, merely the launch pad from which to seek to increase and deepen the mission to which the church was called – making faith in Jesus Christ accessible to all.

His years in Brechin saw the most remarkable resurgence in the life of the Diocese and of its Cathedral. This was the result not only of his own vital contribution but through his recruitment of a succession of new priests into the Diocese. Against the trend of the day, Bishop 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 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.

All who came to know him were the better for the acquaintance, and every situation he encountered he left in a better state than he found it. This was true of each part of his life – as an Army officer in India; as accountant and senior partner; and in his service prior to ordination as administrator in the Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway.

Born Lawrence Edward Luscombe in 1924, he attended Torquay Boys’ Grammar School and then Kelham Theological College before seeing active service with the British Indian Army during the Second World War. He left the Army in 1947 at the time of the partition of India, having reached the rank of Major.

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He qualified as a chartered accountant in 1952 and was a partner with Glasgow firm Galbraith Dunlop & Co before leaving the profession to resume theological studies. He was ordained deacon and then priest at St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow in 1963 and 1964.

In 1971, he moved to Dundee where he held the position of Provost of St Paul’s Cathedral until he was consecrated Bishop of Brechin. He was later elected Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a position in which he served until his retirement in 1990.

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From 1988 to 1993 he chaired the Inter-Anglican Finance Committee and the Primates’ Special Committee on the Anglican Centre in Rome in 1990.

He was made an Honorary Canon of Trinity Cathedral in Davenport, Iowa, in 1983, an officer of the Venerable Order of St John in 1986, and was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) by the University of Dundee in 1987.

During his ministry, he also held a number of positions in education, and was chairman of the Governing Body of Glenalmond College (1986-1994) and Edinburgh Theological College (1985-1990), as well as Governor of Lathallan School (1982-2000) and Dundee College of Education (1982-1987). From 1989 to 1993, he was a member of Tayside Health Board.

Bishop Ted had faced death twice in his life. Firstly through parasitic illness in India when his wife Doris, who was then an Army surgeon, saved his life through a timely intervention in his treatment; secondly, following a driving accident when returning from a pastoral visit in the Diocese one Sunday.

Ted’s beloved wife Doris pre-deceased him after her own long and distressing illness, which they faced together as the strong team that they had always been. It was a bitter blow to Ted and to their daughter Jean. Ted was hugely proud of his grandchildren, who lived near his home in Tealing.

In America bishops are not described as retired but designate themselves as Bishop of X, resigned. In a real sense Bishop Ted never did retire but maintained a concern for the church 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” – the Lord directs me. This is exactly what his life and ministry bear witness to and so may that same Lord who guided him through life bring him to the glory of life eternal.


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