After a career that spanned more than 50 years of ordained ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada, James David Cruickshank, seventh bishop of the diocese of Cariboo, died December 30 in the presence of his family. He was 79.
“His impact on the Canadian church is incalculable,” said Dean Peter Elliott, of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver. “Because of his amazing capacity to share with enthusiasm the gospel, he was a much-loved person across the Canadian church and across the Episcopal Church as well.”
Consecrated bishop in 1992, Cruickshank shepherded his diocese through its troubled last years, when lawsuits related to St. George’s Indian Residential School in Lytton, B.C. drained its coffers and ultimately forced it to shut down in 2001. During his time in Cariboo, he made ministry to the diocese’s large Indigenous population a priority, offering an apology in 1993 for the pain caused by the Indian residential school system and encouraging Indigenous leaders, both lay and ordained.
“He travelled tirelessly throughout the diocese of Cariboo, meeting with First Nations communities, attending healing circles, listening,” said Elliott. “He never had any hesitation to apologize for the church’s role in the residential school system.”
Raised in the city of Prince George, in the diocese he would later serve as bishop, Cruickshank was baptized at St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church and educated at the University of Minnesota, the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad, and the University of Chicago. Ordained to the diaconate in 1962 and to the priesthood in 1963, he served as the founding director of the Sorrento Centre from 1965-1973 before taking up the post of director of continuing education and later, vice-principal and professor of pastoral theology at the Vancouver School of Theology.
In 1983, Cruickshank was appointed dean of Christ Church Cathedral. Elliott noted that during his tenure the cathedral became a much more welcoming place for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.
“He came to this job in Vancouver’s downtown as the HIV-AIDS epidemic hit its highest point, so he had to make a decision early on about how he was going to minister to gay men, particularly, and their partners, families and friends,” Elliott said. “He did not hesitate to offer every possible care and concern for families who were dealing with a family member who was in last stages of life, and that propelled him then into saying, ‘If we can be kind and compassionate near the end of life, we should be much more welcoming and inclusive to people while they are in the midst of their lives.’ ”
After Cruickshank resigned as bishop of Cariboo in 2001, he returned to Vancouver, where he taught at the Vancouver School of Theology and served as honourary assistant at St. Mary, Kerrisdale, while also attending Christ Church Cathedral.
In addition to his life-long commitment to the church, Cruickshank had a great love of the outdoors. As a young man, he worked as a hunting and fishing guide through central and northern B.C., and later on became a water-skiing instructor.
“He was a boy from Prince George,” said Elliott. “He became a very sophisticated urban theologian living in Vancouver, for much of his adult life teaching…but he was still very much a hometown guy.”
Cruickshank is survived by his children, Jason and Anna; his five grandchildren, Meika, Chloe, Sam, Maggie and Jonah; and his ex-wife, Susanne.