Hugh McCullum, former editor, dies at age 76

By on November 1, 2008

Hugh McCullum, who edited the Canadian Churchman (predecessor to the Anglican Journal) from 1968 to 1975, and who was known as an activist-journalist who championed social justice, died Oct. 16. He was 76.

Mr. McCullum was the first layperson to be appointed editor of the Canadian Churchman, and relished the newspaper’s editorial independence. “I used to worry a lot about journalistic standards and ethics in those days and fought some fairly bitter battles with the leaders of a couple of Canadian churches to make sure that editorial independence meant just that – that we were journalists first and institutional hacks second,” Mr. McCullum told a gathering of North American church media in 2004. He later served as editor of the United Church Observer for nearly 10 years.

In 1989, he left to take charge of the information unit of a research and documentation organization in Zimbabwe and, except for a brief return to Canada (as senior editor-writer of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples), stayed in Africa for 13 years.

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Mr. McCullum became the harshest critic of church and secular media, for their silence on the killing in April 1994 of 800,000 Christian Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda.

Mr. McCullum, who returned with his family to Canada in 2002, said his time in Africa changed him considerably. Speaking in Vancouver-based Christ Church Cathedral in 2002, he said, “It’s impossible to return to Canada unscathed intellectually, emotionally and spiritually by the monumental devastation of the calamity” of HIV/AIDS. “…I make no apology for being angry about injustice of any kind. I’ve raged about it, along with many brothers and sisters, for most of my life. But I’ve never seen anything like this. I don’t know how to get a grip on it.”

Mr. McCullum’s countless books and publications were a reflection of his belief that the church needs to be a voice of the marginalized: Africa’s Broken Heart (2007), The Angels Have Left Us (2005) and Radical Compassion (2004), a biography of Archbishop Ted Scott, former primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The son of a priest, Mr. McCullum was born and raised in the Yukon.

A graduate of McGill University, he began his career with the Montreal Herald, then the Kingston Whig-Standard, the Regina Leader-Post, and the former Toronto Telegram.

He also hosted the CBC national program, Meeting Place, from 1984 to 1989.

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