Canada’s pro-life movement lost one of its most valiant warriors when Ken Campbell passed away in Delta, B.C. on August 28 at the age of 72. Predeceased by his wife Norma this past January, Campbell succumbed to a cancer that was first diagnosed in 1999 and then recurred in 2005.
Friends and foes remember Campbell as a passionate advocate for the orthodox Judeo-Christian values he believed in, with a strength of commitment that led to his arrest and jailing on several occasions, as well as to being the target of threats and more than a little abuse. No one could say he ever sat in a comfortable pew.
In pro-life circles, Campbell is perhaps best remembered for his fervent attempts to combat Henry Morgentaler’s first freestanding abortuary on Harbord Street in Toronto in the 1980s. During that period, he was frequently in the mainstream media spotlight and was instrumental in establishing and maintaining the Way Inn pro-life pregnancy counselling centre, located right next door to Morgentaler’s site.
“He was articulate and dynamic,” said Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes, who worked closely with Campbell in the efforts to shut down Morgentaler’s. “He was a team player, but he also had his own vision.”
Hughes first met Campbell during debates over the formulation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms around 1980. On the lighter side, Hughes recalled that the verbose Campbell “was a man of 50,000 words where 500 might do” and had to be cautioned against publishing newspaper ads so full of information they were unreadable.
Hughes also remembered with a chuckle a time during the Harbord Street abortuary battles, when Campbell approached Morgentaler with a peace offering of a morsel of chocolate from a box he was carrying. Morgentaler promptly responded with thanks and then grabbed the whole box from Campbell’s hands.
Bill Mullally, also of Campaign Life Coalition’s national headquarters in Toronto, worked extensively with Campbell during the 1980s. He remembered him as a decent and thoughtful individual who rarely expressed frustration or anger. Despite many tense times during the Morgentaler battles, he said Campbell was “optimistic, pleasant and consistently even-tempered. He always had a smile on his face, never scowled and always gave you a lift.”
Joanne Dieleman first met Campbell in 1984 and about a year later, went on to serve as the head of the Way Inn, subsequently to become the current-day Aid to Women. “Ken and I had a good working relationship over all the years following. Besides the sit-ins and police station stints, he called me daily to discuss the workings in the Way Inn.”
Subsequent years saw Campbell become involved in myriad more activities, including the founding of the evangelical pro-life organization Choose Life Canada, and Dieleman saw less and less of him. “His qualities were of compassion for the world he lived in. He would not pass a chance to voice his views and tell the world of God’s saving grace.”
Dieleman said even in the face of some daunting situations, Campbell never gave up. “Even when he was not well in later years, he kept on going … He wanted to change the world and pointed everyone to the solution of the problem it faces. He preached Christ resurrected at every turn.”
Her fondest memory of Campbell is of sitting in a police van after the pair’s arrest during an anti-Morgentaler demonstration. Campbell was “encouraging everyone. Praying and singing.”
Tristan Emmanuel, founder and president of the Equipping Christians for the Public-square Centre, said Campbell “didn’t know anything about a religion that tried to separate one’s private life from his public life. He preached, he picketed and he called ‘kings’ to repentance for dishonouring the law of God.”
Campbell “was highly respected, even among those who disagreed with his views, for his integrity and consistency … a man who put his money where his mouth was.” Emmanuel added that although Campbell will be greatly missed, “his legacy will live on.”
Christian Heritage Party leader Ron Gray lauded Campbell as “a man of very clear moral vision … His work will be missed. His clear, uncompromising voice for truth and morality will be missed.”
“I am an ardent fan of the plucky and one-of-a-kind Ken and have been for many years. The knowledge of his death brought me to tears,” said Judi McLeod, editor of Canada Free Press.
“We are sad we have lost a mighty warrior of faith and family in Canada … He fought the good fight fearlessly, valiantly and sacrificially … He made a monumental contribution to our noble cause,” said Robert Jason of Robert Jason’s Christian Electronic News Bulletin.
At the memorial service in Ajax on Sept. 23, it was announced that two of Campbell’s ministries, Liberation and Renaissance, will carry on under the umbrella of Emmanuel’s Equipping Christians for the Public Square organization. Emmanuel screened a video and outlined to Campbell’s mourners his visions for the ministries in the years ahead. In so doing, Emmanuel said Campbell’s legacy will live on.
Campbell was born Jan. 15, 1934 and began to preach at age 16 in the Ajax. Ont. Baptist Church, where his father was pastor. He graduated with a BA in history from Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. Following a year at Grace Theological Seminary, he married fellow Bryan grad Alice McLeod.
Campbell pastored at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Milton, Ont., where he was ordained in 1958. In 1960, Alice was taken in a tragic car accident, leaving Campbell and two babies, Annette and Jennie. Norma Nandrea was later brought into their lives, leading to the births of David, Kathy and Shelley.
In 1961, Campbell and Jim Reese, along with his wife Adrienne, formed the Campbell-Reese Evangelistic Association. Campbell then founded Renaissance Canada in 1974 to promote “parent power” in education. Throughout the 70s and 80s, Campbell tirelessly crusaded for Judeo-Christian values in an increasingly secularized Canadian society. Through ministries including Renaissance, Choose Life Canada and Liberation, he held rallies, broadcast radio programs, authored books and took out full-page newspaper ads.
The Campbells in recent years moved to Tumbler Ridge, B.C. and, with a group of like-minded friends, founded the Wilderness Conference and Ministries. This past August 5, after participating in his fifth Wilderness Conference, the widowed Campbell came to Delta to be near his family and was committed to the palliative care unit of Delta Hospital a few days later. He passed away three weeks after that.
A memorial service was held at South Delta Baptist Church in Delta on Sept. 1 and another at Ajax Baptist Church in Ajax, Ont. on Sept. 23. His remains were laid to rest alongside Norma in the Erskine Cemetery in Pickering, Ont.
Gifts in Campbell’s memory may be made to the Ken Campbell Memorial Fund, c/o David Campbell, 5310 Third Ave., Delta, B.C., V4M 1E7.