Marking the Journal’s 130 years

Published April 1, 2005

A montage through the decades shows the various incarnations of the Anglican Journal.

In early January, more than 130 years ago, Canadian Anglicans were pondering the merits of the plan by John A. Macdonald’s government to build the Pacific Railway, reading church news from Europe and across the diocese, as well as accounts of floods in France and a hurricane on the Philippine Islands. They also read that 22,000 women of Ontario signed a petition asking the legislature to pass an act limiting the number of taverns and entirely discarding saloon and grocery licences on the grounds that they contribute to “pauperism” and “immorality.”

They were informed about these developments because they subscribed to a weekly Anglican publication called the Dominion Churchman.

Today, 130 years later, after many transmogrifications, the publication once known as the Dominion Churchman is now what you have in your hands, the monthly, tabloid-sized Anglican Journal.

A lot has changed with the newspaper, including the look, the frequency, the mix of stories, the mandate and obviously, the staff. But one thing has

Share your memories of the Journal

The Anglican Journal would like to hear from its readers about your memories of the newspaper. What were your favourite features, stories, columns? What has the newspaper meant to you as an Anglican? In the coming issues of the Anglican Journal, we will feature some of your recollections. Please write to [email protected] or Letters, Anglican Journal, 80 Hayden St., Toronto ON, M4Y 3G2.

remained constant: the newspaper continues to be the main source for Canadian Anglicans wanting to know what their church is doing. As it was more than a century ago, it remains a vehicle for news at home and around the world, an agent for community building and a resource for people and parishes looking for ideas and support.

It is difficult to pinpoint the first publication date of the Dominion Churchman, but historical records point to 1875 as the publishing year. (The earliest copy of the Churchman at the archives of General Synod, the church’s national office, dates back to Jan. 6, 1876.)

There are varying accounts about who first published the Churchman.

“Frank Wootten, an employee of the Church of England Publishing Company, which produced the Church Herald, took up the journalistic torch and in 1875 founded the Dominion Churchman,” according to T.R. Millman in Canadian Anglican Journalism in the Nineteenth Century, an essay published in the March 1959 Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society.

But Elizabeth Hulse, in her book, A Dictionary of Toronto Printers, Publishers, Booksellers and the Allied Trades, 1798-1900, said Mr. Wootten purchased the Churchman from Theodore H. Spencer, who had also edited and published the Church Herald from 1868 to 1875.

This same information was provided in the Accurate Lists of all the Newspapers and Periodicals published in the Dominion of Canada and Province of Newfoundland, by T.F. Wood & Co., Publishers, in Montreal.

Whether he named it the Dominion Churchman or not, what is clear is that Mr. Wootten – who came to Canada from Wiltshire, England, in 1856 – took up the reins of the newspaper in 1875 at the age of 37, and that he was aware of its great potential.

“Let us hope the career of the Dominion Churchman will be long and successful,” he wrote on Jan. 6, 1876. A year later, he wrote, “We want to reach all classes from the bishops to the backwood farmer’s boy …We desire to make the journal not only a medium of chronicling church news but also for discussing sound church principles and Catholic trust as distinguished from the narrow or distorted opinions of the extreme parties on the right hand or the left…”

The Churchman in 1876 was an eclectic mix of local, regional and world news (both church and secular), and commentaries; it even published a novel in installments.

It discussed topics such as church and the working class, church and state, Jesuits in China, the plague in Europe, Buddhism, the Indian Act, the African slave trade and Prohibition.

The 12-page newspaper, published Thursdays, was sold at a subscription rate of $2 a year. It had no photographs and did not carry advertisements until 1877.

In 1890, the publication was renamed Canadian Churchman, and Rev. William Clarke, a professor at Toronto’s Trinity College, became editor; Mr. Wootten retained proprietorship until his death in 1912. The paper was bought by a group of evangelicals who sold it in the 1920s to another company. For the next 10 years it would be associated with Wycliffe College in Toronto, and had an evangelical approach.

In 1948, its circulation steadily dropping, the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Board of Religious Education took over as publisher. “The move was a failure,” wrote the Anglican Journal in an article commemorating the paper’s 120-year-anniversary in 1995. “By the mid-’50s the Churchman, with a circulation around 5,000, seemed to be on its last legs.” Bishop George Luxton of Huron and others came to the rescue, convincing the church’s leadership to combine all church periodicals in one monthly publication. In 1959, the new Canadian Churchman was launched under the editorship of a young priest from Huron, Canon Gordon Baker. Circulation jumped to 20,000 and by the end of the year, other dioceses came on board and the circulation reached 200,000. By this time the editorial content of the paper had also changed dramatically, featuring regular news and features, photographs, book and music reviews, columns, and an editorial.

In 1968, Hugh McCullum, a professional journalist, became the first lay editor since Mr. Wootten, and continued the vision of editorial independence began by Mr. Baker. “A publication must be free to provide its readers with a prompt, accurate and complete record without fear of the powerful or favour toward its friends,” he said.

In 1977, the paper’s editorial policy was revised, stating that while it was the national newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada, it was not the “official” voice of the church. This editorial independence remains the Journal’s greatest source of pride and is a policy that is envied by many in the Anglican Communion and in other denominational circles.

In 1989, the Canadian Churchman changed its name to Anglican Journal/Journal Episcopal (to reflect the anglophone and francophone membership of the church); it became known as the Anglican Journal in 1990.

Today, the newspaper, which began with a subscriber base of 3,000, has a circulation of 215,000, making it the largest religious publication in Canada. Every financial contributor to the national church receives the Journal and it is also mailed free to Canadian members of Parliament and all bishops of the Anglican Communion, who circulate it to untold numbers of people within their dioceses.

The Journal is supported by a grant from the national church, sales of the Canadian Church Calendar and by advertising revenues. But it also relies on the support of its readers, who with their donations, make it possible for the newspaper to hold the church accountable to its constituents and to tell its stories not just honestly, accurately and fairly, but with painstaking attention to editorial excellence. Additionally, the publishing partnership between the Journal and the diocesan newspapers that the Anglican Church of Canada pioneered more than 40 years ago allows the national church to reach its members for about three cents a copy.

Through the decades the Journal has won hundreds of awards from Canadian and North American religious press associations – a testament to its reputation and high standards.

As the newspaper marks its 130th anniversary, Mr. Wootten’s hope – that the Journal have a long and successful life – appears to have endured.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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