The Case of D.M. Canright

Chapter 11 - Among the Baptists

After Canright withdrew from the Otsego Adventist Church on Feb. 17, 1887, he joined the local Baptist fellowship. The Otsego Union of March 4 (p. 1) contained this information:

"Rev. D.M. Canright and his wife and family will connect themselves with the Baptist church of this village on Saturday, and on Sunday following he will occupy the pulpit of the Baptist Church, and remain their pastor for three months at least."

The records of the Otsego Baptist Church begin on Dec. 26, 1835. I have surveyed those handwritten accounts and carefully noted all they contain concerning Canright. On March, 5, 1887, Mr. and Mrs. Canright and daughter Veva applied for membership and were received by vote. On March 6, he first preached for the church. At a business meeting on March 17, he was licensed to preach, and it was moved to call an Ordination Council for him, which convened on April 19th.

On July 3 the record contains this account:

"A unanimous vote was given Elder Canright to accept the pastorate of this church for one year, dating from July 3rd, the expiration of the first three months, during which time the prosperity of the church has been very marked. An encouragement for a brighter future seems to be before us. Moved and carried that we pledge to pay Elder Canright ten dollars per week by weekly subscription for the first three months."

Referring to this arrangement about a year later, Canright wrote:

"In Otsego, where I had lived for six years and was well known, there was a small Baptist church, in debt and unable to hire a pastor. They invited me to preach for them, but said they could offer me next to nothing as a salary. Here was a church needing help, just such as I felt I could give. I...accepted this [offer] and have been their pastor ever since. ... God has greatly blessed my labors here; many have been converted, all debts are paid off, and now they are able to pay a fair salary. I have engaged to remain another year at least." (SDAR, 1st ed., ch. 1)

The account of Otsego Church historian Mrs. Carl W. Coulson summarizes the events of that spring and summer in these words:

"The first ordination service to be held in our church was that of the beloved Rev. Dudley M. Canright on April 19, 1887. He obtained two hundred dollars from the [Baptist] State Mission Board for the maintenance of a pastor, which he afterwards applied on the church debt. ... In the summer of 1887 the prosperity of the church was very marked. ... The church voted to pledge to pay Rev. Canright ten dollars a week. The Communion Services began to grow in attendance" (p. 19).

Although Canright had, in the summer of 1888, accepted the church’s invitation to be its pastor for another year, the interest in his book became so great that on Sept. 13 following, he resigned, with a view to terminating his pastorate on Oct. 1st. The church record for the former date reads: "Moved and carried that we tender Elder Canright a hearty vote of thanks for the efficient labor he has rendered us during the past year and a half, (and regret to lose him)."

On Oct. 6, 1888, Rev. L.B. Fish was invited to occupy the Baptist pulpit for the 14th. When Mr. Fish came, he was not at all well, and we find that Canright frequently substituted for him.

On Oct. 30, 1890 – over a year after Canright had ceased to be the pastor of the Otsego church – we find in the church record: "After prayer meeting a letter from D.M. Canright was read, requesting letter for himself and family to join the Wealthy Avenue church in Grand Rapids." When the church letter was sent, it was accompanied by the communication already quoted in chapter 4: "We wish to say that as we lose four of our highly prized members, we are glad to send them to you, hoping you will love them as well as we do. We hold Rev. D.M. Canright in highest esteem as a faithful minister of the New Testament and shall continue to pray for his success in the Lord’s work."

In an historical account of Berean Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, published for its fiftieth anniversary in 1942, we read: "In 1890 a number of Baptist Christians, living in the north end of our city, felt the need of a Sunday School and so proceeded to organize one. They were assisted by the late Rev. D.M. Canright. ...

"The blessing of God rested upon this small beginning in such manner that by June 5, 1892, a congregational meeting was called and a church organized. Fifty believers became charter members. Rev. Canright was called as their first pastor" (p. 5). ... It used to be rumored among Adventists that this was a Negro church.

Mr. Canright remained as Berean’s pastor until Dec. 5, 1893, i.e., for a year and a half. He then resigned, but, when the church experienced some difficulties under his successor, he returned to be its pastor again, from October 20, 1895 to November of the following year. Referring to his relation to the Berean Baptist Church in 1914, Canright said: "Have twice been its pastor, always an active member. At present I teach a large adult Bible class every Lord’s Day and often preach for them. Have always been in perfect harmony with the church. They honor me as their father, consult me on all important matters, and hotly resent the foolish reports which some circulate concerning me." (SDAR, p. 10)

On Sept. 23, 1915, A.J. Bush, then clerk of the Berean Baptist Church wrote: "The church has always acknowledged with gratitude the work Elder Canright did under God, in starting it on a solid Scriptural foundation, which it has always zealously maintained." (The Lord’s Day, p. 20)

On page 76 of the 1919 [Michigan Baptist Church] annual we read: "Rev. D.M. Canright, of Grand Rapids, died May 12, 1919. He was well-known and beloved as a pastor and writer." Thus, having lived in the Baptist communion for 32 years – four years longer than he had been in Adventism – Canright died in it.

The record of Canright’s association with the Baptists effectively disproves the malicious reports, to which we referred in the previous chapter, and in the Introduction, that he was "cast out by the Baptists."

If it be asked why Canright did not remain in pastoral ministry, the answer seems obvious. He plainly felt that God intended him to fulfill a task for which His providence had specially prepared him. The task was the exposure of the fallacies of Seventh-day Adventism. Accordingly, he maintained himself by his own labors – and gave himself to the duties of his special divine calling. Yet all along he continued to have himself listed as a minister of the gospel, and he was so esteemed by those around him.

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