Ted’ championed rights of all people

Published September 1, 2004

Archbishop Ted Scott, being interviewed in an undated photo, was known for his work in social justice.

Archbishop Edward (Ted) Scott, the 10th primate of the Anglican Church of Canada who gave meaning to the words “social conscience,” was laid to rest June 29 in Toronto, eight days after he died in a car accident near Parry Sound, Ont., two hours north of Toronto.

Archbishop Scott was both praised and maligned when he served as the youngest and most radical primate of the Canadian church for 15 years, during a period of social and political turmoil in the 1970s and 1980s.

Archbishop Scott died after the car driven by his companion, Sonja Bird, rolled over and landed upside down in a metal culvert while they were traveling on Highway 69. Ms. Bird suffered serious injuries but survived.

A private family funeral was held at St. Simon’s church, Toronto , on June 29.

Archbishop Scott was the controversial Red Primate to those who disagreed with his many social justice causes.

But to others, he was simply a man who cared deeply about people and challenged institutions, including his own church, to make strong stands on issues such as apartheid in South Africa , native land claims in Canada ‘s North, Third World debt relief and development, racism, the nuclear arms race and women’s ordination.

Archbishop Scott was primate from 1971 to 1986, moderator of the World Council of Churches from 1975 to 1983, and a member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group that helped to bring a peaceful end to apartheid in 1986. For his many contributions to Canada and the world he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and awarded the United Nations Pearson Peace Medal.

His successor as primate (national archbishop), Archbishop Michael Peers, who retired in February, said his strongest impression of Ted Scott was of “a person as determined to see as much of the Lord’s work in 24 hours as could possibly be done.” Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, who was elected primate last May, said a “remarkable number of people” would feel a personal sense of loss at Archbishop Scott’s death because “his contacts with so many people were perceived as highly personal.”

Just four days before he died, Archbishop Scott led a eucharist at the national office in Toronto , marking a move to new quarters. In his sermon, he recalled the days when he worked in the building, a time when the hiring of non-Anglicans at the national office was questioned and women were not allowed to be priests; he challenged the church to continue to be a place of inclusion.

Born in Edmonton on April 30, 1919, to Kathleen Frances and Rev. Tom Scott, Ted Scott was a man “interested and committed to people of all classes, all races and all circumstances but mostly the poor,” said Hugh McCullum, author of Radical Compassion: The Life and Times of Archbishop Ted Scott and former editor of Canadian Churchman (now Anglican Journal ).

Archbishop Scott trained as a priest at the Anglican Theological College and became associated with the activist Student Christian Movement, where he served as general secretary.

On Aug. 5, 1942, a year after he was ordained deacon in Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver, Ted Scott married Isabel Brannan. They would later have four children — Maureen, Douglas, Patricia and Jean. Mrs. Scott died in 2000.

He served parishes in Prince Rupert , B.C., and Winnipeg and later became director of social services and priest-director of Indian Work for the diocese of Rupert’s Land. In 1966, he became the bishop of Kootenay in central British Columbia .

Five years later in 1971, he became the youngest bishop to be elected primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. He was 51.

“During his 15 years he became a noted ecumenist and advocate of Church Union, although a plan for his own church to merge with the United Church of Canada failed in 1976,” wrote Mr. McCullum in an obituary for Archbishop Scott

His retirement did not end Archbishop Scott’s activism. He served on a panel that looked at health conditions among native populations in northwestern Ontario . He also became an advocate for the blessing of same-sex unions in the Anglican church, performing a blessing at Toronto ‘s Church of the Holy Trinity last September for two women deacons who were legally married.


  • 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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