Generous Episcopacy: The Rt Rev Michael Hare Duke RIP

I gather from a twitter correspondent that the Rt Rev Michael Hare Duke has died. Bishop Michael was the bishop with whom I first tested my vocation. Having been a bishop since 1969, he saw and influenced the entire modern story of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Where to begin with memories?

  • The time I sat in his study as he asked me about my vocation whilst his beloved dog, Tobermory pushed twelve full bottles of whisky from one side of the room to the other and back again. And again. And again.
  • The time he was in hospital and Baa, to whom he was married, turned up on my doorstep late at night announcing a full scale emergency. It turned out that the emergency was not his health but that he was dictating faxes from his hospital bed and Baa was struggling to send a message to the Crown Prince of Jordan.
  • The time and time again when he penned articles for newspapers in absolute certainty that mission in his diocese depended on people like him offering leadership, inspiration and puckish humour to the whole of society not just the people of the pews.
  • The time and time again his words have brought people to God and God to the people, as he was one of the triumvirate of poet-priests who wrote the bulk of the modern Scottish Eucharistic rite.
  • The extraordinary influence in the world of mental health that Michael had.
  • The gay couples he was blessing 40 years ago.
  • The unpredictable, chaotic, sometimes infuriating but human and humane episcopacy that he inhabited and made his own, which must today remind so many in the Scottish Episcopal Church of more generous times.

Here he is in his own words in 2003:

If sex has been one of the flash points over the last 50 years, the painful changes have also given me the joy of helping people to discover that the church does not condemn them, as they had expected, but accepts their integrity without imposing oppressive orthodoxy.

I’ve no idea how they are going to celebrate Bishop Michael at his funeral next Tuesday 23 December 2014, which will be in St Ninian’s Cathedral at 10 am. At one point the then cathedral organist kept the Fauré requiem in the repertoire specifically so it would be ready for Bishop Michael’s funeral. (A fact that led one of my predecessors as Precentor there to remark that a few choruses of Hooray and Up She Rises might well be just as appropriate).

I have a particularly strong memory of him over-consecrating vastly one Maundy Thursday. Whole chalices of consecrated wine were left over.

Not a bad way to remember him.

The world was richer for him and poorer at his passing.

Heaven seems a deliciously more giddy prospect.


  1. Hugh Magee says

    Hi Kevin —

    Though I don’t think we’ve met, I believe we do have some mutual friends at the Cathedral in Dundee, where I serve in retirement.

    Thanks for your favourable comments about +Michael, whom I have known since 1959, when I became his curate in the Diocese of Manchester.

    The reason for this comment is to suggest that your fine piece on Michael might have more credibility if you got his surname right — there is no hyphen in “Hare Duke”.

    Also, “Baa” is the correct spelling of the nickname of Michael’s late wife. not “Ba”, which is what you have.

    Just saying’,

    Blessings to you at this season.


  2. Fr John E. Harris-White says

    Thank you for your words about Bishop Michael. I met him whilst a student at Saint Aiden’s Birkenhead. A mixture of those of us who prayed compline, and those who prayed for us. Bishop Michael came to us about Dr Lake and his clinical theology.
    I found him a most generous, and understanding person. At one of his lectures I was the person who he brought out, as he gently stroked my shoulder and arm. Quite a sensation, I knew it revealed too much. We talked afterwards, and he confirmed my thoughts that my sexuality and my faith were all one. God doesn’t make mistakes.

    Thank you Kelvin.

  3. Tony Whatmough says

    When I was in Scotland he was always known as Super Mike, because of his habit of saying, Oh, Super!

  4. With the passing of the two +Michael St Andrews in the same year it feels somewhat like the end of a long and at times glorious era. May they rest in peace.

  5. What a delightful man the Rt Rev Michael Hare Duke sounds. Tony Whatmough’s comment sums him up I’m sure – Super Mike.

  6. Thanks so much for this very dear tribute to an endearing man. Now I’m looking forward to the joys of Paradise with him and so many other delightful souls in it!

  7. Patrick Crean says

    I remember some thirty years ago a southern suffragan telling me that “Michael should have gone far in the Church but he was a maverick”. For maverick read Christian. If there had been a dozen like him the Church would have flourished. One of the few true followers of Christ I have known in my life. Holiness, humility, compassion and humour were his hallmarks.

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