The wife of outspoken priest Hugh Dawes has paid tribute to ‘one of Haslemere’s few Guardian readers’ after his death aged 75.

Revd Dawes was a self-proclaimed catholic modernist priest in the Church of England. He published essays on modernising the Church and was a lifelong member of the Labour party, standing as a councillor in the London borough of Southwark in 2002.

His wife Jill Sandham, writing in the Guardian, said: “He abhorred the tendency of clergy to talk down to their congregations. Gifted in making eucharistic worship contextual and inspiring, he enabled people to express doubts and ask questions.”

In 1992, Revd Dawes published essay Freeing the Faith: A Credible Christianity for Today, advocating change to set faith free from ‘tyrannical tradition’ and be relevant in today’s world.

Jill recalls: “He was savagely attacked in the press by traditionalists, who called on him publicly to resign his orders. The Independent carried the story of the ‘atheist priest’.

“He braved the storm and proclaimed himself a catholic modernist priest, with no intention of resigning. He was a prophetic voice, often crying in the wilderness.”

Born in London, Revd Dawes grew up in Brighton and studied history at University College, Oxford before serving as a vicar in Cambridge and south London.

In 2003, he set up Progressive Christianity Network Britain, which focused on honest theological talk between laity and clergy.

Developing early signs of a Parkinsonism, Revd Dawes continued liturgical ministry in the Guildford diocese from 2011 to 2018.

Jill continued: “After his early retirement on health grounds in 2010, Hugh and I moved to Haslemere, where he was proud to be one of the relatively few Guardian readers.”

Revd Dawes died on February 7 of pneumonia and dementia with Lewy bodies.

He is survived by wife Jill, three sons, four grandchildren, and brother Malcolm.