MICHAEL Hare Duke is a mixture of ecclesiastical entrepreneur,

think-tank, pastor and politician. Officially he is a bishop, or to be

exact the Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane in the Scottish

Episcopal Church. He has held that office for exactly 20 years and this

weekend in Perth, friends and colleagues will gather to celebrate the

event with a wine reception and a Eucharist followed by picnic.

The style of these events owes something to the man. The Holy

Communion will be distributed by women and the service will involve more

laity than clergy. As he puts it: ''I will still wear pompous clothes,

but we've set out to do some new things and make the point


Michael Hare Duke was consecrated a bishop on September 16, 1969, and

has managed more than most to retain the liberal and optimistic spirit

of the sixties. As senior bishop he must be favourite to become the new

Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and will relish the post for

its influence rather than its power.

He thinks it is sad when Churches put all their energies into fighting

over liturgies or forms of government. He jokes that in Latin American

dictatorships, bishops command high prices for assassination and are

''carriers of mission and aggression''. ''You can't get huffy about the

aggro that goes with the job. The year before I came here there was a

film of Becket which sticks in my mind because it showed that they

dressed him up in order to disbelieve in his humanity. That way they

don't recognise vulnerability.''

Hare Duke extends that principle to the debate over whether divorcees

can be clergymen in the Anglican Church. ''It is a bad day for the

Gospel when the Church is seen as charged with maintaining standards

rather than healing wounds.'' Michael Hare Duke will be 64 this month

and was 16 years a Church of England vicar before coming north. He says

he is probably in Scotland for life but has not lost the pukka accent

which echoes his days in the Navy during the war or at Oxford after it.

He has something of the look of a pixie king and usually refers to his

own Church as ''the Piscies''. ''We're small, vulnerable and a bit of a

joke, but we're influential not least upon the Church of England in

Church reforms and in exporting Archbishops of Canterbury to England

(four in the last century)''.

Nationality, he says, is not about ''tartan genes'' or playing the

Covenant game, but about culture. His own roots can be traced to a

Church of Ireland grandfather who sired 10 children and was less

ecumenical than the Bishop of St Andrews. ''I'd love to see the day when

we're part of the Kirk and I'm sorry that unity is seen so much in terms

of bishops. Our contribution has been mainly liturgical and we have

several distinctive things to offer the Church in Scotland, which we'll

never do if we keep looking over our shoulder to England.''

Hare Duke's own contribution to that innovative role is considerable.

He regularily fires off articles to newspapers about situations in parts

of the world he has visited. ''There is a terrible violence in the world

and the Church cannot be like a cruise liner going through it and

occasionally noticing that a corpse floats past the porthole. We

desperately need a peace and reconciliation role.''

He has just made a video expounding his views on justice, peace and

the integrity of creation. His stance has evolved on nuclear arms from

unilateralist (''we're all unilateralists at one time'') to a more

subtle stance. His recent article in the magazine of the Voluntary

Euthanasia Society is typically thoughtful and provocative (''If I do

not know who I am, if I become an intolerable burden upon those who care

about me or for me, would it not be better if I went on my way? I cannot

conceive of a God who would say 'no, it's better for you to be


He was chairman of the Scottish Association of Mental Health before he

led it into the Scottish Institute for Human Relations, but despite that

and many other hats and mitres he wears, the diocese is his bread and

wine. The bishop is proud that in his 20 years while the Piscy Church

has declined more than 30% to 36,000 communicants, his diocese has lost

less than a sixth of its flock. It stretches from the nuclear subs of

Rosyth to the sheep moors of Rannoch. As he tears around in his car from

his eyrie beneath Kinnoull Hill by Perth, the bishop does not waste a

moment and is busy dictating a letter or article into a ''squawk-box''

device. Recently he had a wheel change and went into the customer

cubicle with his device to the laughter of the mechanics who knew him

well. ''They thought it was a pit stop,'' says the peripatetic Piscy.