Bishop George Bruce, former military intelligence director, remembered as ‘healer of the breach’

Bishop George Bruce traded in a career in Military Intelligence for one as a priest. Photo: Mark Hauser
Published April 3, 2024

The night now-retired Bishop Michael Oulton, formerly of the diocese of Ontario, was elected bishop, his predecessor, Bishop George Bruce, showed up at his house with a customized Toronto Maple Leafs T-shirt with “Oulton 12” on the back—a gift for him as the 12th bishop of Ontario. 

“I’m a Leafs fan. He wasn’t,” says Oulton. “And that is typical George. From Day 1, he was so supportive.” 

Oulton remembers Bruce’s determination and faithfulness across his career as bishop and even into retirement in 2011, when Oulton says Bruce continued to serve as an interim priest around the diocese, refusing to let the limitations of his health stop him. He was dedicated, Oulton says, to ministries of faith formation, raising up lay leaders and fostering understanding between competing points of view. 

“He very much wanted to be what I’d refer to—from the Old Testament—as ‘a healer of the breach,’ ” Oulton says. 

Bruce died March 22 in Kingston General Hospital at the age of 81.  

Born in England, Bruce emigrated to Canada in 1958 at age 16 where he lived in Montreal before attending the Royal Military College of Canada. He then began a military career that would eventually see him serve as director of defence intelligence at Department of National Defence headquarters in Ottawa, according to an online obituary. After retiring from the military, Bruce began theological studies and was ordained a deacon in 1987; he would serve in the Anglican Church of Canada until just a few months before his death. His church career included postings as a priest in several parishes in the dioceses of Ottawa and Ontario, and he was dean of St. George’s Cathedral, diocese of Ontario, before being elected bishop in 2002.  

Oulton recalls seeing the influence of Bruce’s military background in his work as bishop, beginning with a 10-year strategic plan Bruce prepared when he was up for election that covered everything from community outreach to faith education and formation for existing church members. 

“He brought that same kind of rigorous discipline to everything that he did,” says Oulton. 

Bruce also played a role in bringing the international Anglican Communion closer together through the dialogue he created between bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada and several African provinces on issues of human sexuality and local theology and culture. 

“The word that I think came to typify that dialogue was ‘reconciliation,’” says Oulton who was one of the members of that dialogue. “A number of bishops came together and said ‘we can’t let our divisions define us. We have to live out of our common baptismal identity.’ ” 

The Anglican Communion has since used similar language to encourage disagreeing provinces to continue walking together despite deepening disagreements on issues including same-sex marriage. 

Bruce is survived by his wife Theo, children Chris, Andrew, Robbie, Krista, and grandchildren Cameron, Leaf, William, Natalie, Chiara and Bella.


  • Sean Frankling

    Sean Frankling’s experience includes newspaper reporting as well as writing for video and podcast media. He’s been chasing stories since his first co-op for Toronto’s Gleaner Community Press at age 19. He studied journalism at Carleton University and has written for the Toronto Star, WatchMojo and other outlets.

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