Contact Alan Hayes
Phone: 416-946-3532

Alan Hayes

Bishops Frederick and Heber Wilkinson Professor of Church History

PhD in Religious Studies (McGill)

BA in Philosophy & Classics (Pomona), BD in Historical Theology (McGill)


I grew up in a very small city in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s, an era when most suburban Americans went to church. There was only one church in town, an interdenominational Protestant church, and that’s the one I attended. I learned some basic things about Jesus, memorized some Bible passages, sang hymns that still touch my heart, and was shaped by parents who had a strong moral compass. As a young teenager, however, I entered a period of scepticism about the kind of Christianity that my church was teaching me. My experience of my church was that it wasn’t very — theological, and the message that I encountered there was a bit thin. Oddly, it was in an English class in the public high school, grades 11 and 12, that I began to connect with the depth and the challenge of Christian teaching. That was because my teacher, a former seminarian and the brother of a Jesuit priest, recognized how much western literature was rooted in the Bible, and so he taught the Christian faith as much as he taught literature. This set me on a journey with many waypoints, including being shaken by President Kennedy’s assassination, falling in love with J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion,” and spending a period of more intentional seeking that took me to the Faculty of Divinity at McGill University, and, on Sundays, to Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal. Along the way, I made a commitment to Christ and his Church, which I sealed in my confirmation on Holy Saturday, 1971. 

I completed my divinity degree at McGill, and then stayed for a PhD. I’m a bit of a generalist, so I decided to concentrate on history, since I figured that everything is history, and I wouldn’t need to foreclose on future academic interests. As I was finishing my doctorate, a position came open at Wycliffe, which I can believe was a matter of providence. I’ve been at Wycliffe ever since.

My thesis was on a period of the English Reformation, 1535–1540, but while I was at Wycliffe I began to recognize how much Canadian church history was waiting to be researched—in contrast to English religious history, which is a very populated field.  Canadian Christianity has grown into my main research interest. For the past several years, my particular focus has been the relation of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the history of Canadian Christianity. The historical theme that most interests me is the diversity of ways in which Christian institutions and spiritualities sometimes reflect and sometimes challenge their surrounding cultures.

Along the way I was ordained to my academic ministry. As part of my formation for this vocation, I served an assistant curacy at St. George’s Anglican Church, Willowdale. After that I was honorary assistant priest at St. James, Humber Bay (now “Christ Church St. James”), which has had many connections with Wycliffe; and for the past dozen years I’ve been honorary assistant priest at St. Simon’s, Oakville. It’s a great blessing to feel thoroughly involved in a Christian community that isn’t an academic one! I’m an honorary canon of Christ’s Church Cathedral, Hamilton. 

At McGill I met the woman who would become my wife, Morar Murray-Hayes, who was ordained in the United Church around the time I was appointed to Wycliffe. She’s still in pastoral ministry 45 years later. We have two children and four grandchildren. My experience over the years has been that my greatest happinesses, my greatest anxieties, and my greatest sorrows have involved my children and grandchildren. 

And through it all, in the highs and in the lows, God has been very, very good.    

Areas of Expertise

  • History of Canadian Christianity, especially Anglicanism
  • The religious relations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples
  • Early Christianity
  • Historiography

Select Publications and Media:

  •  “The Evolution of Governance at the Toronto School of Theology, 1969–2014, in Toronto Journal of Theology 37, 1 (2021): 51–85  
  •  “T.B.R. Westgate: Organizing and Financing Indigenous Erasure for the Anglican Church, 1920–1943,” in Toronto Journal of Theology 36, 1 (spring 2020): 54–74
  •  “The Elusive Goal: The Commitment to Indigenous Self-Determination in the Anglican Church of Canada, 1967–2019,” in Anglican and Episcopal History 89, 3 (2020): 255–280
  • “The Historiography of Indigenous–Settler Religious Relations in Canada,” Historical Papers 2019: Canadian Society of Church History, ed. Bruce L. Guenther, Scott McLaren, and Todd Webb (CSCH, 2020).  
  • “Anglican Deaconesses in Canada 1889−1969: Two Operational Models of a Gendered Order of Ministry,” in Thomas P. Power, ed., A Flight of Parsons:The Divinity Diaspora of Trinity College Dublin(Wipf and Stock: 2018): 223–272
  • “Sam Blake’s Projects and Ministries: A Canadian’s Church of Ireland Vision,” for Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society 53 (fall 2015): 40–66.  
  • Anglicans in Canada: controversies and identity in historical perspective (University of Illinois Press, 2004)
  • Church and Society in Documents A.D. 100-600 (Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press, 1997)
  • Editor and Contributor, By Grace Co-workers: Building the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, 1780-1989 (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1989)
  • Several entries for the Dictionary of Canadian Biography
  • Several history web resources at