Leonard has served in the NC Conference since 1984. He has served a variety of appointments, including a rural charge, a predominately African-American small town church, and two cross-racial appointments in large membership churches in the Raleigh area. In addition, he has served as a district superintendent in two different and unique districts - the Rockingham District, which is our most ethnically diverse district, and the Capital District, which is our largest district.
“I am the third of nine children born into poverty to a teenage mother, but made rich by the love, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ. I am “water-washed and spirit-born,” called into God’s marvelous light which has led me into this great work of ministry, learning daily to see the possibilities and live the promise.
I was married to my lifelong soulmate, Priscilla Ann Russell, before she joined the church triumphant in August of 2014. I am the proud father of two adult children and three grandchildren.”
There is something about prayer that connects us in spiritually intimate ways to the unity of the triune God reminding us who and whose we are. We are “water washed spirit born” people nourished at the table of the Lord where there is room for all God’s people. In these two sacraments God invites us to drink deeply from the wells of Christ centered prayer where we discover grace, enough to see the possibilities and live the promise. I have been bathed in the possibilities of these prayers throughout my ministry and through the amazing connectional nature within the DNA of the United Methodist Church. I believe that through prayer God equips, empowers and inspires within us a Holy imagination to see the possibilities and live the promise.
Imagine an adaptive movement of “practical divinity” shaped by Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience being lived out in a world longing for authentic Christ centered transformation both collectively and individually. Imagine a movement where both social and spiritual holiness are not just head knowledge, but where we allow ourselves to become conduits, channels through which the Holy Spirit is allowed to move freely, firing our imaginations and spiritual passion for sharing the good news flowing from head, to heart, to life. Imagine a movement where leadership is concerned so deeply with making disciples who make disciples until they are willing to surrender everything they are, and everything they have to that end. I believe asking the right questions and seeing the possibilities puts every appointive pastor in a positive position to live into the promises for each community of faith to which they are appointed.
All movements have a center, a power source if you will, a place where our roots run deep, and our spirits, bodies and minds are nourished with the “Living Water” that is Jesus Christ. The center that has always shaped and informed my actions, life, and ministry has, is, and always will be the means of grace that point to Jesus Christ and the incarnational power of the Holy Spirit. I have always depended on a deep spiritual life in all matters theological, all matters of expectations, and all visions for the future. I don’t ever see that changing. From my baptism this has been the foundation for the fruitfulness and effectiveness of my ministry in the church, administratively, and sacramentally. It has been my guide in all decision making. I strive to see the boundless possibilities of God breaking forth in new and creative ways. I pray that I will never become so locked down until I forget how to dream and vision or become as they say stuck in “paralysis of analysis.” I want my life and the life of the United Methodist Church to count for Jesus Christ. That is why I am on this journey seeking the prayers of the church that launched me on this awesome calling where I’ve learned to see the possibilities and live the promise.
In order to imagine God’s preferred future we must believe it to be a possibility even in the midst of real or perceived chaos and conflict. In the face of death we have the audacity to “hope against hope.” When we anchor our belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we truly begin to see the possibilities and live the promise. Therefore, we are often called to walk by “faith and not by sight.” This is the hope that binds us together and makes us stronger together. There will always be places where we disagree, but spiritual unity in the triune God is stronger still than our agendas. Whatever our opinions, Christ remains the head of the church and its future, and all proposed structure must be Christ centered. The sacramental life we share together at the Lord’s table as water washed, spirit born people is a powerful reminder of a confidence, and hope that does not disappoint. God still calls forth a people, both clergy and laity, who are willing to see with new eyes, “being confident of this that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” –Philippians 1:6