Obituary: Canon Peter Boulton

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The Independent Culture
PETER BOULTON was a distinguished Anglican priest, a prominent member of the General Synod and for 10 years Prolocutor (Chairman) of the Convocation of York. He was powerful among the High Church group who were unhappy at the suggestions for new ecumenical relations made by Archbishop Michael Ramsey and his successors.

Boulton conscientiously devoted his clear mind to debate in public his understanding of the catholicity of the Church of England. In the General Synod he was a frequent and courteous speaker. He attended the World Council of Churches at Nairobi and Anglican Consultative Council. He edited with Bishop Graham Leonard papers which critically assessed the efforts of the archbishops to draw closer to other churches.

He was also a hardworking parish priest in the Midlands and for 20 years vicar of Worksop. He restored the Priory Church, maintained a team able to care for his parishioners during his inevitable absences and was chairman of the Bassetlaw Council for Voluntary Services which he founded.

He promoted Church schools and youth clubs, became Diocesan Director of Education and Canon Residentiary of Southwell Minster. In 1991 his abilities were recognised by his appointment as Chaplain to the Queen and, after his retirement in 1992, he acted as chaplain to the Conferences of the Canon Law Society.

His small figure and hooded eyes seemed to be an essential part of central Church committees where he was valued as a leading member of the clergy in the Northern Province. He remained to the end in one of his own phrases "deeply devoted to the mission of the Church in this country".

Boulton was born in 1925 and educated at Pickering, St Chad's College, Durham, and Ely Theological College. He served in the Navy during the Second World War, and was ordained in 1950 to serve in the Tractarian parish of Coppenhall in Crewe, the town to which he eventually retired. In 1967 he began his notable ministry at Worksop Priory from which he also did his central church planning and work.

At Worksop he carried out a major restoration of the fabric of the church and was meticulous in maintaining traditional worship. He developed the Church schools, youth clubs, housing associations and other voluntary services in the town. He encouraged local authority welfare services and voluntary bodies to work together for the good of the community. Some in Worksop grieved that this able, caring man felt he had to spend so much time on ecclesiastical planning and committees in London.

In a notable debate in General Synod in 1987 he urged the Church to devote itself to the "improvement and development of the Welfare State . . . It has Christian roots". He electrified the Synod by describing how the families of striking miners were forced to exist on pounds 6.15 a week "by a vindictive administration supporting a hard-faced NCB". He was alert to social injustice in his Midlands industrial parishes and was prepared to come down off the fence in denouncing them, claiming he spoke "for the ordinary people of this land . . . very much sheep without a shepherd."

His last years were saddened by the rift he allowed to develop between his thinking and that of women prepared to serve the Church. He was voted out of the Chair of Prolocutor of the York Convocation in 1990. He did not warm to the majority in the Church of England and other churches who believed that the bar to the ordination of women should now be lifted.

He found it easier to develop his thinking about society than he did to develop his understanding of the theology of priesthood. It was a surprise that only four years after the ordinations began in 1994 no less than 2,000 women had answered their vocation to be ordained, many serving in the most demanding parishes.

His memory is cherished by many who did not share his views but who respected this hardworking servant of Church and society. Characteristically during his retirement, he set out to gather another degree - in Canon Law.

Peter Henry Boulton, priest: born 12 December 1925; ordained deacon 1950, priest 1951; Assistant Curate, Coppenhall St Michael, Crewe 1950- 54, St Mark Mansfield 1954-55; Vicar, Clipstone Colliery Village, Nottinghamshire 1955-60, St John the Baptist, Carlton 1960-67, Worksop Priory 1967-87; Honorary Canon of Southwell 1975-87; Canon Residentiary of Southwell Minster and Diocesan Director of Education 1987-92 (Emeritus); Prolocutor of York Convocation 1980-90; Chaplain to the Queen 1991-95; married 1955 Barbara Davies (three sons); died Crewe, Cheshire 17 November 1998.