By Mark A. Taylor
It’s fair to say the passing of Leonard Wymore represents another marker in the end of an era.
Leonard, who served as director of the North American Christian Convention from 1963 to 1986, died last Thursday, January 19. He was 95 years old.
Known by many as Mr. North American, Leonard had his finger on the pulse of Christian churches and churches of Christ as perhaps no one else. He traveled widely. He heard and encouraged preachers in churches small and large across the heartland. He passionately promoted unity and church growth in a fellowship of churches characterized by fracture and stagnation during many of the years he served.
Everyone knew Leonard. And all of them loved him for his listening ear, ready smile, and unfailing energy. His influence among us was without equal.
I first met Leonard as he managed preparations for the 1976 NACC that would meet in Denver, Colorado. I was education minister at First Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado, and our senior minister, Dale McCann, was the convention’s local arrangements chairman.
I was young, without many accomplishments or connections across our fellowship, unknown and unimportant. But, from Day One, Leonard treated me like an equal. When he learned I would move to Cincinnati to be editor of The Lookout, a position he himself had held (October 1956—December 1957), our bond grew closer.
Those were different days, to be sure. Institutional loyalty in every aspect of American life was only beginning to erode, and institutions among Christian churches and churches of Christ were strong. These congregations found their preachers solely among graduates of “loyal” Bible colleges. They went to “their publisher,” Standard Publishing, for every kind of “true to the Bible” resources. Those colleges and Standard and the NACC were the glue that held together our nondenominational fellowship. Thousands flocked to the annual gathering where they experienced worship like none of them could back home in congregations attracting a couple hundred more or less.
Leonard served these churches with a passion for equipping leaders. He had traveled the country organizing National Christian Education Conventions for Standard Publishing, beginning in 1956. Practical help for everyday volunteers was available throughout his years at NACC.
Times are different now. A changing culture, a revolution in communications technology, and—perhaps most significant—the demise of denominationalism have combined to challenge leaders of institutions serving our group to rethink their methods if not their mission. All of that is fodder for discussion in another place.
But this week we remember a hero of our fellowship, a friend and leader who helped keep us strong at a time different from today’s. Many of his generation are already gone. But those who knew him, especially the Christian leaders fortunate to work beside him, will never forget Leonard Wymore.