Pedophile on The Governing Body
This was written by someone in the Canadian Bethel who seemed to know Chapman and Greenless well.
Percy Chapman and his companion Leo Greenlees were sent by Rutherford from London Bethel in 1936 to replace the rebel Canadian Branch Overseer, Walter Salter, who had started up his own group over the "elected elders" debacle. Percy was a mesmerizing public speaker of the old school (no voice amplification required) and with his Lancashire lilt of voice reminded me of Winston Churchill, flapping jowls and all. I can still remember the reverberating vibrato of his voice warning of the "vile depths of the abominations" and since I knew that homosexuality was "an abomination unto the lord" wondered if that was what he was referring to. It was not until later that I began to suspect the administration at Bethel was mainly gay.
I remember the shock at a district assembly in 1959 at Halifax, Nova Scotia where Percy Chapman, then the branch overseer of Canada was to give the main talk. Suddenly who should appear to replace him, but Brother Knorr, the President from New York. Percy Chapman just disappeared from sight. Later we found out that Brother Knorr had removed all responsibilities from Percy but allowed him to remain at Bethel in Toronto as a janitor. The next shock was that Percy Chapman was forced to be married. Percy, following the Rutherford line, was totally anti- marriage and he made sure that none of the "Bethel boys" even contemplated the subject with very strict rules and early curfews. The only way a bethel boy could see another sister would be to go on a Bible study with her. My parents started studying in 1945 with a beautiful young pioneer sister named Joyce Randall and every week there would be a new Bethel boy accompanying her. She later was sent to Gilead and posted in Peru, totally isolated, only to be seduced by a latin lover. Of course she was disfellowshipped and sent home in disgrace. But my family did get to know a lot of Bethel boys. They were all young and handsome, hand-picked by Percy Chapman; there was even an elite group known as "Percy's boys" who would accompany him to expensive restaurants and bars and receive other favours. At the time, Bethel was on Irwin Avenue, now (although replaced by a condominium) in the centre of the gay district of Toronto. There was even a Kingdom Hall above "the Parkside", one of Toronto's few gay bars in the fifties and sixties.
Poor Leo Greenlees, Percy's close companion for three decades even when at London Bethel, had to find himself a new room-mate. Leo was a cheerful, likable fellow, with his thick Scottish brogue and also an electrifying public speaker. He was very open about his homosexuality to those few good-looking young brothers like those he would meet at one of the summer resorts in Haliburton run by Jehovah's Witnesses (later bequeathed to the Watchtower Society). I got to know Leo a little better when he was assigned to be congregation overseer at the Kingdom Hall I attended as a teenager during the early sixties in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto. He would bring along another bethel boy, Lorne Bridle, who was very good looking and charming. After a failed marriage to a young pioneer sister, he eventually committed suicide. I often wondered what tortured state of mind led him to that - but so often the fate of closeted gays in the Watchtower society!