Soapbox preacher Soper is dead

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The Independent Online
LORD SOPER, one of Britain's best known and most popular churchmen, died at his London home yesterday.

The 95-year-old Labour peer had carried on with his open-air preaching, in the finest Methodist tradition, until three weeks ago, when a chest infection set in. He died sitting in his favourite chair, shortly after returning from hospital.

Tributes came from across the political spectrum last night, but they were from a world that the uncompromising preacher was finding more and more difficult to recognise.

Lord Soper was a lifelong pacifist whose final days were marked by British bombs falling on Iraq. And he wasproud to call himself a socialist when much of the Labour Party's leadership had come to feel uneasy about the word.

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, said: ``Lord Soper was a fine Christian and a man of great integrity and principle. He spoke with both passion and conviction and won the respect of many, many people, even those who did not always agree with what he had to say."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, said: "As a teacher, prophet, evangelist and social reformer he stood firmly within the Methodist tradition but his gifts have endowed us all.''

Much of his life was devoted to campaigning. He served as president of the League Against Cruel Sports and chaired the housing charity, Shelter, in the Seventies. He championed the ordination of women and rights for homosexuals long before these were mainstream causes.