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Monday, January 3, 2011
A Pioneer Dies
George Canty: 1911 to 2010
By Adrian Hawkes
Special to ASSIST News Service
LONDON, UK (ANS) — I was sitting in London with a friend on New Year’s Eve celebrating the end of 2010 when my mobile phone rang. It was around 9.30 By Adrian Hawkes
Special to ASSIST News Service p.m. On that last day of the year, the voice at the other end said “sorry to tell you but George Canty ‘went home’ at 9.00 p.m.”
I was upset, I know he was 99, but I wanted him to make the 100, and I also wanted him to finish the autobiography that I knew he was half way through. I also knew he was ghost writing another important book for Christ for All Nations (CFAN) — http://www.cfan.org — and wondered if that had been finished.
I phoned a relative of his the next morning to get the details of his passing in a Solihull, Warwickshire, hospital, and also asked what had happened to his CFAN book.
“I took in the finished script early in the week,” that person replied.
“Why didn’t he stay until 2011?” I asked.
“I went to see him,” the relative went on, “and he told me off for walking around, and said “for goodness sake rest, sit down, and relax,” then at 9:00 p.m. he went!”
What and who was George Canty? Well like most people, he was different things to different people. He was a father to some, pastor to others, and for me he was personally a friend, who although I did not see him often — actually it was over a year ago when I saw him last.
On that occasion I asked how he was doing, and his reply was typical. “I am working full time still, so I am a little tired. But I am still praying for you every day,” he told me and I believed him.
He also told me that he had taught himself to use a computer, set up a web site and now I could email him. He told me that the website was http://www.canty.org.uk Not bad for a 98-year-old.
George Canty was born in Hull, Yorkshire, England, and he used to say to me, “I can say this because I am a Yorkshire man.” Then he smiled and added, “but you cannot say, that he is from Hull — strong in the arm, thick in the head.”
Well, he wasn’t that strong, being small in stature, and he certainly was not thick in the head. What was he really like? Well he will be missed, but from my perspective again, he was awkward, sometimes difficult to work with, highly intelligent, a man who when I first met him as a youngster, was already ahead of his time, thinking in new ways, understanding where others did not, not willing to be boxed by the past or the establishment and therefore not often fitting in to the establishment expectations.
As usual people like George fall foul of the establishment who of course want them to conform and be a company man. He did become president for a while of the Elim Churches in the UK, probably because he connected as he would have said “with the ordinary folk”.
As a young man, myself and my friend Mark Drew worked with George on meetings in Port Talbot where Mark and I spent many weeks living in a marquee, underneath a motorway slip road. It had a big impact on us and Mark is now a pastor.
George Canty’s approach was different to say the least. We would sit and go through the advertising for the meetings and he would ask, “Are there any religious or spiritual words in this advertising?” If we came up with any then they came out of the script. People who were absolutely non-religious, not church goers, often not interested in God, would flock to the meetings; they came because he said he could heal the sick.
That caused problems amongst the establishment, who would say that “only God can do that!” I said to him on one occasion, “Why don’t you change your language? You are upsetting the establishment figures.”
His answer was interesting. “For years, I could give you a thousand theological reasons why the sick would not be healed by praying for them,” he said. “I never prayed for anyone to be healed and no one ever was, then God did something in my life and I changed. I started to pray for people, and guess what, some of them were healed. Sure it was God’s power, but I needed to do it and act on it, so I heal the sick and that’s what Jesus told us to go and do!”
As I worked with George, who for a time was my pastor at the Sparkbrook Elim Church, Birmingham, I saw amazing things in those meetings, and many other meetings like them. The deaf did hear and the lame did walk. Was everyone healed? No!
I asked him about that too, saying, “Why are some healed and others not? He responded in his usual nonchalant way. “Some are,” he said, “and guess what? I don’t know why they are.” When those who were not healed asked him the same question in a more personal way, he would always respond in the same way, by saying, “Have faith in God.”When they would press him and ask for how long, “Until the end,” he would respond.
Another reason people came to the meetings was because he would paint in oils, scenic views of the Lake District and other photogenic places, while he was talking to the audience, and give them away to the person who brought the most people to the meetings at that time. What a nightmare that was for Mark and I as sometimes the people would want to fight over them and argue as to who really had brought the most friends.
Later in life, I bumped into that nonchalant approach when I was in college. George turned up as one of the lecturers, and his subject was “Church History,” and, as usual, he made those who wanted things “normal” quite angry. There were hardly any dates in his lectures as to which pope was when in charge of the Catholic Church and who killed who, and when Luther or Calvin was born. That was what people expected from this topic. Instead, what you got was,
“This is the history of the church and this is how it has molded us and this is where we went wrong and this is what you should now do to change things, and to move on.”
And, as always, his passion to introduce a hurting world to Jesus, to the “God who really does care and love ordinary people, the good news is the word has become flesh, now go and let people know.” It was inspiring stuff, rather than dead dates, but there are always those who don’t want to rock the boat.
I remember one student confronting him angrily over a practical issue, saying to him, “But if you take that to its logical conclusion then….” I went away to laugh as I heard him say, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that!” “Do what?” the angry student responded. “Take it to its logical conclusion,” George replied as he walked away.
I also heard him in discussion with a theologian on the subject of Pentecostals and Charismatic’s, and again his answer to the critic made me laugh. He said “I am trying to work out some theology for us all on this subject. Don’t blame me if the church hasn’t had a good one for centuries on how the Holy Spirit works.”
George Canty did not fit into the box for a Christian leader, and I love people who don’t. I hate the boxes that people want to put us into, church boxes, Christian boxes, they even want to put God in a box too, and I love it that He never lets us; God that is.
George was the author of many books, my favourite being “In My Father’s House.” Unbeknown to many, he wrote a weekly column for a Yorkshire newspaper under the pseudonym of Jack Yorkshire. Again, under a pseudonym, a joke book that was sold at railway station bookshops under the heading of “Jack Yorkshire’s Weekend Book” It was full of cartoons, political comments, and just plain commonsense fun.
On a couple of occasions, I came across articles in magazines, often the denominational one of which he was a part, under pseudonyms, and I thought, knowing George, “this is Mr. Canty’s work.” One I remember was under the pseudonym of Jack Pullford. I asked him, “Did you write this?” I didn’t get a straight answer, rather he said to me, “The thing is, as you get older, people put you in a box and they say “Oh, that’s the sort of thing George Canty would say isn’t it? So some magazines I sometimes write for won’t take articles that have my name on.” So I said, “Did you write this one?” No answer!
I know that in recent years George had been doing a huge amount of work for the German evangelist Reinhard Bonnke and that was the book I was referring to at the beginning of this tribute to him. I am sure he was working full time right to the last.
To quote what I think really sums up his approach, I have lifted some words from his own web site which is still out there. Here they are:
“Standards are written across the pages of Scripture, but not in express commands. Issues of music, dress, hair, jewellery, entertainment are peripheral matters decided by the major principles of wisdom and love. Our rule book is love. The New Testament is not a law book like the Koran, nor does it give us the right to legislate. Christianity is not routine religious performances but action and love to please God that is the God who sets us free.
“God planted a garden, and the devil led Adam out of it. A young Scottish minister one morning found the roads too frozen so he skated to church. Afterward, called by the kirk elders to give account of his Sabbath sin, they were in a dilemma. If he skated he broke the Sabbath and if he did not turn up at church it was worse. Then clarity inspired one leader. He demanded of the young man “It amounts to this – did you enjoy it or not? ‘Well, I’ve known people refuse ice-cream because they might ‘enjoy it’.. I have no such conscience. I hope there is ice-cream in heaven!”
Well, by now George will know the answer to that question.
I know he was 99, and some will say he has had a good innings. Personally, I would have liked him to stay a little longer, and have made the Big 100. But still, I will miss a radical friend. I had only just opened his Christmas card on which he had both painted the front picture and wrote the verse and had it printed up. I will miss him, even though I know I will see him again.
Some of the Books by George Canty:
1) Practice of the Pentecost by George Canty (Paperback – Apr 1987)
2) Evangelism by Fire: An Initiative for Revival by Reinhard Bonnke and George Canty (Paperback – 3 Nov 1989)
3. What’s Going on?: The George Canty Viewpoint by George Canty (Paperback – Apr 1977)
4. The Practice of Pentecost by George Canty (Paperback – Jul 1987)
5. In My Father’s House: Pentecostal Exposition of the Major Christian Truths by George Canty (Paperback – Dec 1972)
6. The Hallmarks of Pentecost by George Canty (Paperback – 18 May 1989)
Adrian Hawkes lives in London, England, and was once the leader
of the Rainbow churches, and is still very involved internationally with
them in Kenya, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, France, Norway, the USA and
Canada, usually with church leadership teams overseas and also in
the UK. He has been married for 40 years to Pauline, and they have
three children and ten grandchildren. Adrian is the author of five
published books, and he spends much of his time now lecturing to
students at various UK colleges and venues on “Culture,” which
is a 30-hour course. He can be contacted by e-mail
at:email@example.com You can read more of Adrian’s material at:http://www.adrianhawkes.blogspot.com
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ASSIST News Service
Practice of the Pentecost
EVANGELISM BY FIRE: AN INITIATIVE FOR REVIVAL
What’s Going on?: The George Canty Viewpoint
The Hallmarks of Pentecost
By My Spirit