Foundation ‘branches’ out in 50 years of helping the church

Published August 14, 2007

Dean John Wright, executive director of the Anglican Foundation (left), is overseeing the organization’s 50th anniversary.

It was the early days of the Anglican Foundation and its first donor, P.H.B. Dawson of Victoria, was peeved.

He had been reading the Canadian Churchman (predecessor to the Anglican Journal) and saw the foundation’s austere three-inch-square advertisements with no pictures or graphics that asked such questions as “Are YOU a member of the Anglican Foundation?”

So, in a 1959 letter to the board, he urged that “a Firm of Professional Advertisers” be hired to “put our project over to the Church Public,” adding that he was “still quite dissatisfied with the tone” of the foundation’s advertising and noting that livelier ads could publicize the foundation as effectively as Burdock Blood Bitters and Carter’s Liver Pills – staple advertisers in early editions of the Churchman.

Although Mr. Dawson (whose initial contribution was a generous $12,500) was informed that hiring an ad agency would be “impractical and costly,” according to the minutes of a 1960 board meeting, the word did get out.

This year, the Anglican Foundation celebrates its 50th anniversary with $14.1 million in assets, compared to $251,000 at the end of 1957 (which included a huge early donation of $200,000 from Rev. John Coombs of Toronto). In that half-century, it has disbursed $23.7 million to hundreds of Canadian Anglican parishes for programs and the repair and renovation of church buildings. It also provides bursaries for theological students, grants for religious arts such as drama and music and initiatives that fall outside the usual budget items, such as Internet broadcasts to the church from Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, the now-retired primate, or national archbishop.

Within the past year, the foundation established the Council of the North Trust, an endowment fund to aid the far-flung, less prosperous dioceses of Canada’s north.

The foundation’s logo has been updated to represent a stylized tree, noted executive director Dean John Wright in an interview. It refers to Jesus’ words, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” The organization also has a new motto, “Bringing Anglicans Together,” and an updated Web site,

At the foundation’s annual meeting on May 25, a special anthem was sung at Ottawa’s Christ Church Cathedral in honour of the anniversary. Composed by Matthew Larkin, director of music at the cathedral, it is entitled Nisi Dominus, said Dean Wright.

Over the years, the foundation has fulfilled the vision of its founders, who included then-primate Archbishop Walter Barfoot; the archbishop of Quebec, Philip Carrington, and well-known attorney Reginald Soward. It was Mr. Soward’s visit to a world-wide gathering of Anglicans, the Anglican Congress, in Minneapolis in 1954 that spurred him to propose the creation of the foundation. “Like many other Canadian Anglicans, I had a very small and poor view of the Anglican Church of Canada. I knew very little of the diocese outside Toronto and did not feel any great duty to them,” Mr. Soward said at the time. The foundation has developed into a vehicle for donations and bequests that directly benefit the entire Canadian church and is operated separately from General Synod (the church’s national office) or any diocese.

“It has always been independent of the church, with a strong link being the primate, who is the chair,” said Dean Wright. Diocesan bishops have occasionally made unwise financial decisions, he said, but foundation grants and loans are considered and approved by a board of directors that stands apart from any political issues that might be roiling dioceses or the national office.

The foundation’s plans have not always been uncontroversial. Shortly after its establishment, the then-bishop of Moosonee, Cuthbert Cooper Robinson, urged that all the money raised be used immediately, in the form of loans to parishes, but the directors decided to create a capital fund and invest half the donations.

The foundation also sells memberships. An annual individual membership was set at a price of $50 in 1957 and it is $50 today. There are currently 585 members who are individual donors and 535 members that are parishes, dioceses or other organizations. Every parish in the three Newfoundland dioceses is a member.

The board is examining in this anniversary year how to attract major gifts. Dean Wright said, “We are working on putting our toe in the water for an initiative to build up our membership and our financial base.” The board is setting up a task force, led by Canon Ebert Hobbs, a retired Toronto priest; the group plans to survey Anglicans about the foundation and judge the potential for major gifts and membership development. “Some people feel we could raise a considerable sum of money,” observed Dean Wright.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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