Canon Gordon Baker, a great intellectual and larger-than-life figure in the Anglican Church of Canada, died on November 8. He was 84.
Ordained in 1954 in the diocese of Toronto for the diocese of Nova Scotia, Baker was editor and general manager of the Anglican Journal’s predecessor, Canadian Churchman, from 1958 to 1967. Under his leadership, the newspaper became much more polished and professional and circulation soared. Just a year after Baker took up the mantle of editor, a partnership with the dioceses to distribute regional newspapers resulted in a tenfold increase in circulation, from 20,000 to 200,000.
Baker went on to become the first Canadian-born principal at the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad, Saskatoon (1978 to 1980), and from 1991 to 1997, he served as executive director of the Anglican Foundation.
“He was strongly opinionated but always a gentleman in the way he could so graciously disagree with you,” said Vianney (Sam) Carriere, director of Communications and Information Resources at General Synod. “He loved the Journal deeply and that love also made him one of its strongest but most constructive critics.”
As one of the founders of the newspaper, Baker “maintained a proprietary interest in it forever after,” said Carriere, who was editor of the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2002.
As priest, Baker served at many parishes, including: Church of the Transfiguration, Toronto; St. Paul, Uxbridge; Holy Trinity, Ajax; Bishop Cronyn Memorial Church in London; St. Christopher-on-the-Heights, Downsview; St. Hilda, Toronto; St. John, Weston; St. Chad, Toronto; St. Mark, West Toronto; St. Peter, Erindale; and Grace Church on the Hill, Toronto. For 11 years, he was rector of Bishop Cronyn Memorial Church (BCMC) in London, where he was also Archdeacon of Middlesex. “Gordon pioneered the liturgical movement in the Diocese of Huron, and his time at BCMC was in many ways epochal,” said the Rev. Canon Peter Davison
Baker made several attempts to retire during his 52-year ministry, but his skills as a journalist, theologian and manager were such that he was always in demand. He returned to the Journal as book editor from 2001 to 2004 and following the death of Canon John Erb, returned to the Foundation as acting executive director from 2005 to 2006.
Baker continued to write thought-provoking opinion pieces for the Journal and for other church publications, as well as letters to the editor. In his last article for the Journal (October 2012), Baker likened the work of Christian renewal to turning around “a battleship in a bathtub!”
A memorial service will take place at St. Peter, Erindale, in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 11 am.