The Rev. Robert Daniel MacRae, first secretary of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), former rector of St. John the Divine Anglican Church in Victoria, B.C. and archdeacon of Juan de Fuca, diocese of British Columbia, died on August 1 after a short illness. He was 82.
MacRae’s ministry as a priest began in the former diocese of Cariboo and spanned four decades of service both at the parish level and in the Toronto offices of the Anglican Church of Canada. He is remembered as a man whose tireless commitment to social justice led him to speak out on the issues of his day.
The Rev. Carl Major, his former colleague at the national office, described him as being a “strong individual” who cared deeply about international development. “He was passionate about trying to raise money for work overseas,” said Major. “He was really concerned about human rights.”
He was “a man of many talents, most notably an ability to recognize
and encourage the talents of others,” according to an obituary published in The Times Colonist. He was “forward looking, passionate for social justice, inclusion and ecumenism: an extraordinary priest whose ministry touched and influenced many lives.”
Born and raised in Prince Albert, Sask., MacRae’s concern for the well-being of others led him to pursue a master’s of social work at the University of British Columbia after completing his theological education at the University of Emmanuel College in Saskatoon in 1958, the same year he was ordained.
After serving as a parish priest in the central interior of British Columbia in the early 1960s, he moved to Toronto in 1966 to take up the position of associate general secretary of the council for social services at the national church office.
MacRae’s passion for overseas development helped found the PWRDF and, from 1970 to 1976, he served as the relief and development organization’s first secretary. He was also instrumental in launching the Hendry Report, an investigation into the relationship between the Anglican Church of Canada and the nation’s Indigenous people that culminated in the publication of Beyond Traplines, a damning account of how the church was failing its Indigenous members.
MacRae returned to parish ministry in 1977 when he became rector of the oldest church in British Columbia, Victoria’s St. John the Divine Anglican Church. He had first stepped foot in this church-which he would go on to lead until his retirement in 1997-in 1952, while serving in the navy.
It was at St. John the Divine that MacRae spearheaded the Anglican church’s involvement in boycotting Nestlé over its aggressive promotion of breast milk substitutes in the global south, which he and many others believed was linked to a variety of health problems.
After he retired in 1997, the parish of St. John the Divine established the Robert and Susan MacRae Choral Scholarship Fund, which allows students to gain experience singing material from the Anglican sacred music tradition. MacRae remained actively engaged in the church throughout his retirement in various ways, including through the writing of The Man Who Gave Back, a book about the philanthropy of H.R. MacMillan, a donor to the Anglican Theological College in Vancouver and Union College of British Columbia.
MacRae also had a long-standing interest in his own Scottish heritage, and was, at the time of his death, the Honorary Commander of the Clan MacRae Society Worldwide.
MacRae is survived by his wife, Susan, his daughters Julia, Bridget, Phoebe and Caitlin, and his seven grandchildren.