The Right Rev Richard Lewis obituary

Other lives: Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich who had an uncompromising commitment to inclusivity

My father-in-law, the Right Rev Richard Lewis, who has died of cancer aged 76, was a man of integrity and principle, whose preaching was shaped by a desire that people might work towards making sense of faith in a challenging world.

Between 1970 and 1982 Richard worked as industrial chaplain and then communications officer in Durham, during which time he and his wife, Sara, had three sons.

The family moved to Shropshire, where Richard was Hereford chaplain for agriculture, then archdeacon of Ludlow. He was heavily involved in the Tenant Farmers Association, and rural affairs was a thread that ran throughout his career.

Richard was consecrated at Westminster Abbey in 1992 as bishop of Taunton and later of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, where he served until his retirement in 2007. He used his maiden speech in 2002 in the House of Lords to highlight the diverse and hidden challenges of predominantly rural communities.

The Right Rev Richard Lewis in 2000
The Right Rev Richard Lewis in 2000 Photograph: from family/Unknown

He had a deep commitment to inclusivity in the church and wider society, and his gentle resonant voice belied the often trenchant messages he conveyed so articulately. His denouncement of homophobia in response to the controversy in 2003 around Canon Jeffrey John led to vitriol against him, but did not deter him from raising questions about ethics and the morality of the day. He was also a vocal supporter of women in the episcopate, appointing many to parochial posts.

Born in Kimbolton, Herefordshire, he was the middle of three children of John, the archdeacon of Hereford, and Mary (nee Griffin). Educated at Radley college, Oxfordshire, and then King’s College London, Richard started his career as curate of Hexham, Northumberland. It was at KCL that he met Sara Hamilton, through her brother, John. They were married in 1968.

Richard was a superb conversationalist who put everyone at ease; former colleagues remember him as someone who cared for all his staff, inspiring loyalty and commitment.

A deft writer, in retirement Richard continued to pen articles for church publications, and published a meticulously researched family memoir. He was given to sending postcards and letters to his grandchildren and was latterly an enthusiastic tweeter, posting the occasional scathing comment about the government. He was still lobbying his local MP in his last weeks.

He is survived by Sara, their sons, Mike and Nick, his grandchildren, Sam, Tom, Patrick, Freddie and Gwen, and his sisters, Elizabeth and Margaret. Another son, Peter, predeceased him.

Ruth Hedley

The GuardianTramp

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