Canon Reginald Stackhouse, whose career spanned journalism, the priesthood, academia and politics, died at Toronto Western Hospital December 14. He was 91.
Among those mourning Stackhouse is Stephen Andrews, principal of Wycliffe College and former bishop of the diocese of Algoma. Stackhouse served as principal of Wycliffe from 1975 to 1985.
“The spirit at Wycliffe today is a mix of both sadness and gratitude,” Andrews said in a note released December 15 by Wycliffe College. “Sadness that we have lost the architect of the modern College and Wycliffe’s most ardent supporter. And I am personally sad, as I have lost my former principal and a valued mentor.
“But we are grateful for his legacy which lives on,” Andrews continued, “a legacy of a deep and reasoned faith anchored in the hope of the Risen One. We pray that the Stackhouse family would know the comfort of this hope in this time of grief.”
Said Bishop George Sumner, of The Episcopal Church’s diocese of Dallas, and another former principal of Wycliffe, “A man of greater optimism, loyalty, and humour than Reg Stackhouse I have never met…I owe him much in ways public and private. And did he ever love Wycliffe College!”
Sumner said what he remembered most about Stackhouse was how, in his later years, “his mind came to be dominated by a vision of how God’s hand was over all that had happened.”
Stackhouse was born and raised in Toronto. He spent some time as a reporter for the now-defunct Toronto Evening Telegram, before completing a BA at the University of Toronto. After studies in theology at Wycliffe, he was ordained a priest in 1950. He continued his studies, receiving an MA from the University of Toronto in 1950.
Stackhouse met his future wife, Margaret, while they were both students at Wycliffe, and, according to a news release from Wycliffe, delighted in telling people how they first caught sight of each other on the steps of the theological school’s chapel. They were married in 1951, and had three daughters—Mary, Elizabeth and Ruth—and a son, John, who would later become editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail.
Stackhouse served as rector of St. Matthew’s Church in Etobicoke until 1956, and rector of St. John’s Church, West Toronto from 1956 to 1960. After returning to his studies, he earned a PhD in theology from Yale University. He was then made an associate professor at Wycliffe, becoming a full professor in 1965.
In 1967, Stackhouse entered politics, running unsuccessfully for the Progressive Conservative Party against Stephen Lewis, future leader of the New Democratic Party, in the provincial riding of Scarborough West. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1972 and served for two years before returning to Wycliffe to serve as principal.
Stackhouse’s tenure at Wycliffe was guided by his vision of the school as a “community of faith committed to scholarly analysis,” Wycliffe said. While serving as principal, Stackhouse would always personally give graduating students a Bible to remind them of their vocation. He instituted, among other things, the Stackhouse Scholarship, which provides bursaries for students seeking ordained ministry.
Stackhouse returned to politics in the 1980s, winning a House of Commons seat again in 1984. He was defeated in 1988 and 1993, when he called for the abolition of the Senate.
Stackhouse was an avid writer, and authored several books on topics ranging from the relation between Christianity and politics; the history of Wycliffe College; issues of faith; and insecurity. He was a columnist for the Evening Telegram and also the Canadian Churchman, forerunner of the Anglican Journal, beginning in 1962. He was also a frequent contributor to The Globe and Mail, writing numerous opinion pieces arguing for, among other things, a guaranteed annual income for all Canadians and allowing stem-cell research.
Stackhouse was predeceased by his wife, Margaret, who died in 2011.