Obituary: Canon Hugh Melinsky

23 November 2018


Canon Hugh Melinsky, Chief Secretary of ACCM, May 1973

Canon Hugh Melinsky, Chief Secretary of ACCM, May 1973

The Rt Revd Stephen Platten writes:

ONE’s first memory of Canon Hugh Melinsky might well have been of that handsome, quizzical, but almost hawk-like face. Even an initial encounter was of someone of character and substance. On reflection, and with knowledge of but a little of his past, this should not have brought surprise. Both his own family and that of Renate, his wife, lived with the scars of anti-Semitism. Renate had endured the horrors of Kristallnacht, escaping Germany with the assistance of the Kindertransport; Hugh’s grandfather was the son of a rabbi tortured in the Kiev pogrom of 1905.

Born in Croydon in 1924, Michael Arthur Hugh Melinsky was educated at Whitgift School; his education was interrupted, however, by his being called up in 1942 to contribute to the wartime Japanese Intelligence operation. This doubtlessly helped him kindle a lifetime interest in different aspects of military activities, and particularly in relation to Hitler’s war.

After the war, Hugh went up to Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he came under the stimulating influence of two avant-garde theologians, Charles Raven and Ian Ramsey. Both would encourage what was then described as a “modernist” approach to theological study. This would fashion his later scholarship. Ministerial training at Ripon Hall would set the seal on this aspect of his rich contribution to the life of the Church of England throughout his ministry.

After curacies at Wimborne Minster and Wareham, in Dorset, Hugh became Vicar of St Stephen’s in the centre of Norwich. Alongside this, he held a very different post as Chaplain of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital near by. Together with his earlier theological training, this awakened a continuing interest in religion and health.

His first book, Healing Miracles, looked at psychosomatic explanations for New Testament accounts of Jesus’s ministry, an approach that gained some credence at the time. He would eventually edit the journal of the Institute of Religion and Medicine, and, later still, he would be the main drafter for the widely respected Church of England report on euthanasia, On Dying Well.


After a period as Canon Missioner in Norwich diocese, where he helped pioneer what became known as “non-stipendiary ministry”, he became Chief Secretary of the Advisory Council for the Church’s Ministry (ACCM), an unenviable task in many ways; here one could remain within the sights of institutional snipers from most interests within the church. Despite this, he produced an innovative essay titled simply Patterns of Ministry. On leaving ACCM, Hugh gave ten further profitable years to ministerial training as Principal of the Northern Ordination Course.

On retirement to Norwich, Hugh was equally fertile in his scholarly interests, first redeeming the reputation of Sidney Bufton, a senior RAF officer of the Second World War (and in the teeth of Bomber Harris’s opposition) and — on the more local level — as a regular and engaging member of a clerical theological group which brought together clergy from all traditions within the Church of England.

Hugh was an unusual and estimable theologian, and a thoroughly attractive personality.

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