Thomas Anthony remembered for same-sex rights, anti-apartheid activism

The Rev. Tom Anthony was arrested for joining a march against apartheid in South Africa, 1980. "The courageous Christian witness of children, teachers, women, men and clergy throughout this country and in Namibia demands our unity in prayer, witness and action," he wrote at the time. Photo: Diocese of New Westminster
Published April 20, 2023

The Rev. Thomas Anthony, former director of the Anglican Church of Canada’s National and World Program—now known as its Global Relations department—died Feb. 17 at the age of 87.

Anthony had a wide-ranging international career that began in missions in Columbia in the 1950s before his ordination in Vancouver. He served churches in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and then later the dioceses of Toronto and New Westminster. He was director of the National and World Program from 1973 to 1982, and is also credited with a leadership role in the drafting of the 2001 document A Call to Human Dignity, a statement of principles on how the church should view its parishioners and employees.

In an email to the Anglican Journal, Anthony’s daughter, Jennifer Anthony, describes her father’s use of music, humour and stories to “make positive contributions to a world often overshadowed by negativity.”

Anthony worked on numerous social causes, advocating for same-sex rights within the Anglican church and fighting against apartheid in South Africa. In 1980, he was arrested and detained for 14 hours after taking part in a Johannesburg protest.

In an email shared with the Anglican Journal, Mpho Tutu van Furth, daughter of the late Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, offered condolences and thanks on behalf of her fellow South Africans.

“As a seminary student I learnt that a significant part of pastoral care consists of showing up,” Tutu van Furth wrote. “Fr. Anthony showed up for us in a very important and visible way. At a time when the government of South Africa tried to convince the majority of us, Black South Africans, that we were of no account and did not matter to the world, Tom Anthony crossed half the planet to stand witness to the truth. Not only did he stand with my father and other clergy, physically in South Africa, but he stood with South Africans speaking out on behalf of the anti-apartheid cause. We cannot thank him or his family enough.

“Our heartfelt prayers are with those who love him in their grief. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

A memorial service for Anthony will be held at St. John’s Shaughnessy on May 13.


  • Sean Frankling

    Sean Frankling’s experience includes newspaper reporting as well as writing for video and podcast media. He’s been chasing stories since his first co-op for Toronto’s Gleaner Community Press at age 19. He studied journalism at Carleton University and has written for the Toronto Star, WatchMojo and other outlets.

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