Bishop Ford championed ecumenism

Published January 29, 2007

Bishop Douglas Albert Ford, who stressed ecumenism as diocesan bishop of Saskatoon, died Jan. 23 at the age of 89.

When he was consecrated bishop in 1970, “it was the aftermath of Vatican II and (Archbishop of Canterbury) Michael Ramsey’s visit to Pope Paul VI,” recalled Archbishop Michael Peers, former primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, in an interview.

Bishop Ford was instrumental in starting a twice-yearly meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops in Saskatchewan, noted Archbishop Peers, who was a colleague of Bishop Ford in Saskatchewan, having served from 1977 to 1986 as bishop of Qu’Appelle, based in Regina.

“We did joint statements around uranium mining, which was destined for weapons production – a very controversial issue. We were also against low-level cruise missile testing,” Archbishop Peers noted.

Bishop Ford was the first chair of the Saskatoon Council of Churches and strongly supported union with the United Church of Canada, a move that failed in 1975.

Born in Vancouver, he and Archbishop Peers coincidentally went to the same elementary and high schools, but at different times. “He was among those rare people who started in Vancouver and ended on the prairies,” said Archbishop Peers.

He earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1939 from the University of British Columbia and a licentiate in theology from Anglican Theological College of British Columbia in 1941. Ordained a priest in 1942, he served two parishes in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster before moving to the diocese of Calgary in 1944.

In Calgary, he served parishes at Strathmore, Okotoks, Vermillion and Lethbridge. In 1966, he became dean of Saskatoon and rector of the cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. When he was elected bishop, in 1970, he succeeded “a very dominant character,” Bishop Stanley Steer, noted Archbishop Peers.

“(Bishop Ford) was a very easygoing and unthreatening person,” said the former primate. “His need for personal gratification and outward splendor was not strong. He was a people person and fundamentally a parish priest.”

Bishop Ford retired from the episcopate in 1981. At the time, the Saskatchewan Anglican newspaper evaluated his career, adding a personal note: “The bishop and his fine tenor will be missed by the barbershop singing group of which he was a member. And episcopal functions won’t be the same without that voice and the precise diction that made any event at which he presided a real occasion.”

He returned to parish ministry in the Calgary suburb of Cochrane, retiring from that ministry in 1985. In retirement, he acted as priest-in-charge when parishes had vacancies and assisted the diocesan bishop in confirmations and other functions. He was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree by Emmanuel College, Saskatoon.

He is survived by Doris, his wife of 62 years; two sons and a daughter; seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A memorial service was held Jan. 27 at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, Calgary.


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