The Revd Robert Hughes
14 September 1952 – 4 June 2017
There are some people who have helped us over the years with the campaign for women bishops whom most of us hardly knew and the Revd Robert Hughes was one of those.
I cannot even remember who it was who put me on to Robert but I was in close contact with him by phone and email between 2008 and 2012 about the original Measure of 2012 and again in 2014 about the 2014 Measure which was the one which passed.
General Synod life was tough in those years and, among the difficulties were the legal twists and turns involved, many of which were those to “protect” the dissenters. Questions like “Is it still legal to rely on the 1993 Measure in 2011 after the passing of the Equality Act 2010? Was that early Measure still compliant?” (It wasn’t, as it turned out!)
Do you remember the Archbishops’ amendments in the Summer of 2010? “Were they not intended to make sure that the authority of a woman bishop and of male bishops who had ordained women was not complete? How were we going to counter these?”
In 2014, “did clause 2 of the new Measure not imply that the exemption of the Equality Act 2010 would enable the Church to act with impunity over gay clergy in the same way that it seemed to do with women clergy?”
Robert helped me with teasing out these issues, with my work in the Revision Committee and with preparing speeches and amendments for Synod on all these and many other problems.
Sally Barnes and I went to the Service of Thanksgiving for Robert’s life on 2 September 2017 and I discovered there that throughout all the years that Robert was helping me he was seriously ill and had taken early retirement. In fact, he was ill for much of his adult life.
Robert had been a solicitor in the seventies and became a police prosecutor in the eighties until the Crown Prosecution Service was established and he became a Crown Prosecutor. He was ordained deacon in 2000 after a training which was interrupted by illness. He was hugely enthusiastic about women as priests and bishops and was ideally suited to giving really valuable, professional advice. If I had thought about it more clearly, I might have realised that a busy incumbent could not have devoted the time he did to our knotty legal problems.
I was deeply sorry to hear of Robert’s death but it has reminded me of the army of supporters and well wishers we had in those years whose (professional) help and support sustained us during some very dark times. I think I only met him a couple of times in London and I even had to ask his parish priest for his postal address to write to Hazel, his wife.
Hazel was also a tower of strength over all this time and our thanks are due to her as well. She supported what he was doing totally and always welcomed calls with enthusiasm.
May Robert rest in peace.