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David Mainses’s Crossroads debuted in 1962.

If you crossed a stereotypical Canadian with a fire-and-brimstone preacher, you would get Rev. David Mainse, the genial soul of 100 Huntley Street. As the creator and host of the Christian talk show for more than a quarter century, he would speak – never shouting, sweating or waving his arms wildly – about love, forgiveness, charity and grace.

For Mr. Mainse, the job of being a preacher wasn't about dogma, drama or scare tactics. His combination of calm and joy came from simply sharing the teachings and example of Jesus.

"We're not presenting a doctrine, definitely not a denomination," he once told an interviewer. "We are presenting Jesus. And people are open to Jesus."

Consequently, 100 Huntley Street became Canada's longest-running daily television talk show. This past spring, the show marked 40 years since its first broadcast on Global Television.

Mr. Mainse, who died last week at the age of 81, was this country's best-known television evangelist. He was "Canada's pastor," according to a recent magazine profile, and eminent enough in secular circles to merit a spot on the inside flap of telephone book covers, which featured emergency numbers in bold print. One of them was 100 Huntley Street's prayer line.

A lanky man with craggy looks, who bore more than a passing resemblance to U.S. talk show host Charlie Rose, Mr. Mainse was not a televangelist in the mould of many scandal-plagued American preachers.

Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, who once shuttled guests to Mr. Mainse's program, recalled "a loving person who was full of compassion and [who] wanted nothing more than to talk about Jesus and what it means to be a follower of Christ. He was pastor and evangelist to the country."

He was also instrumental in convincing regulators to license single-faith broadcasters. In the early 1980s, he helped convince the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to amend its rules and allow religious groups to own and operate their own broadcasting facilities, opening the door to all religious broadcasting.

"The Canadian government broadcast regulator didn't know what to do with Rev. Mainse," remarked Lorna Dueck, the current chief executive of Crossroads Christian Communications Inc., and an occasional contributor to The Globe and Mail. "He persistently nagged the CRTC for a break in the 50-year ban on religious broadcasters owning and operating a television station."

In 1998, he founded Crossroads Television System (CTS), following his successful application for a religious channel that broadcasts around the clock. (CTS has since been rebranded Yes TV and has additional stations in Calgary and Edmonton.)

Crossroads would mushroom into a family of ministries that included multimedia programming; a broadcast school that trained 1,200 Christian communicators from nearly 80 countries; a national prayer centre that fielded an average 1,200 calls a day; and an international relief and development organization, Crossroads Emergency Response and Development Fund (now Crossroads Relief and Development) that has disbursed more than $37-million in humanitarian aid worldwide since 1982, according to the ministry. The operations have been headquartered at the 13,285-square-metre Crossroads Centre in Burlington, Ont., since 1992.

Throughout his career, Mr. Mainse spoke out about social issues he felt were contrary to biblical teachings, including same-sex marriage, gay publications, euthanasia and abortion. His son, Ron, who is also a minister, contends this was done not out of hate or condemnation, "only out of love and wanting the best for individuals and our country."

David Charles Mainse was born Aug. 13, 1936, in Campbell's Bay, in western Quebec. Both his parents, Roy Lake Mainse and Norma Hazel Pritchard, had been missionaries in Egypt. Raised in a rural area outside Ottawa, David was said to be heavily influenced by his father, who went on to pastor in Ontario and Quebec.

But his mother was his compass. In a memoir, Mr. Mainse recalled that as a child of nine, he swiped an apple from a grocer and ate the evidence. As soon as he came home, his mother took one look at the lad and inquired, "What's wrong, David?" After squeezing a confession from him, she sent him to his room to pray for forgiveness, but also to get five cents of his own money and give it to the grocer, who then rewarded the boy's gumption with a delivery job. The episode taught him all he needed to know about honesty.

His mother died of cancer when he was 12. "My Dad and I had a big pity party," Mr. Mainse recalled in an interview last year. "While doing dishes, our tears would flow into the dish pan because of our grief."

A bit of a rebel, he was kicked out of a religious boarding school at 15. "I was mad at God until I was 16," when he went to a youth rally "and heard a simple message about Jesus."

He taught public school for a short time, then enrolled at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College (now Master's College and Seminary) in Peterborough, Ont., and was ordained in 1960. He pastored several Ontario churches within the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada denomination.

Meantime, his new wife, the former Norma-Jean Rutledge, had two musician brothers who had recorded a hit gospel record in Australia. Mr. Mainse, by this time a pastor in Deep River, Ont., persuaded a radio station in nearby Pembroke to play it. The station's owner also ran the local television outlet, CHOV, and agreed to give the young minister his own TV slot: 15 minutes on Saturday nights, after the late local news, before the late movie. It cost only $55, but that was more than two weeks' salary for Mr. Mainse.

The show, called Crossroads, debuted on June 2, 1962, with a simple format: Mr. Mainse calmed his stage fright enough to deliver the message, while his wife and her brothers shared their musical talents. The station manager had one condition: no full-scale sermon. The switchboard lit up, the segment was picked up by stations across the country, including the CBC, and the Crossroads television ministry was born.

Mr. Mainse resigned his pulpit at a Hamilton church in 1971 to focus on television. Early successes included Circle Square, a show for children that would run in 50 countries, and which inspired several children's summer camps called Circle Square Ranches.

The daily talk show 100 Huntley Street, named for its Toronto studio location, debuted on June 15, 1977. Mr. Mainse's initial team included a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest and clergy from several Protestant denominations.

"He was passionate about people, about Canadian unity and about ecumenical dialogue," Ms. Dueck, the Crossroads CEO, said in a statement. "That passion led to innovation. David used the platform of daily television to model open, respectful conversation on faith among citizens from coast to coast."

Inspiration for his gentle, non-Bible-thumping TV-hosting and preaching style was drawn from the Bible's book of Ephesians: "Speak the truth in love," his son Ron noted.

He "never compromised the truth of God's message, yet he presented it from a place of sincere love for the individual and humility, often with tears," Ron said. "One of Dad's quotes was, 'If your eyes leak tears, your head won't swell.'"

The 100 Huntley Street daily live telecast (originally 90 minutes long but now 30) was a mix of gospel music, interviews and a telephone prayer line. According to a ministry tally, as of June, 2016, the prayer line had received more than 11 million calls since its launch, with more than 13,000 about suicide.

Among the thousands of guests Mr. Mainse interviewed over the years were British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, chicken magnate Colonel Harland Sanders, U.S. evangelist Billy Graham and actor Charlton Heston.

After more than 10,300 episodes, the show, still the flagship program on Yes TV, claims an average of 1.3 million viewers a week, according to Crossroads.

In 1979, Mr. Mainse served as executive producer of a series of programs about faith that aired in the officially atheist Soviet Union. He travelled to Moscow to speak at what Crossroads says was the first-ever conference of Christian leaders from all 15 Soviet republics.

Scandals that swirled around American televangelists in the 1980s depressed donations. In the spring of 1987, for example, after PTL Club preacher Jim Bakker resigned amid allegations of fraud and other crimes, Crossroads Christian Communications announced that its own revenues had dipped 30 per cent over the previous six weeks.

"All TV ministries have come under a cloud," Mr. Mainse said at the time. "If [the U.S. scandal] continues, there could be ongoing difficulty for us." But donations soon bounced back, Ron Mainse said, adding that his father started carrying his tax forms in his pocket so he could show his modest salary if asked.

In 2003, Mr. Mainse retired as CEO of Crossroads, partly to campaign against same-sex marriage. He continued writing and launching new TV programs. His Thank You Canada tour took him to 170 communities across the country from 2010 to 2012.

Mr. Mainse, who died of leukemia on Sept. 25, in Hamilton, leaves two sisters, Willa Hodgins and Elaine Boudinot; his wife of 59 years, Norma-Jean; children Elaine, Ellen, Reynold and Ron; 16 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

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