Canadian Baptist History

By Ian Hugh Clary

Canadian Baptists have a history too, eh? Though some of you may have heard of T. T. Shields, you are probably not as familiar with names like Alexander Stewart, R. A. Fyfe, Henry Alline, or C. J. Holman (and his powerful wife Caroline!). These are just a selection from a group of men and women who helped establish the Baptist denomination in Canada. Our history is colourful, theologically rich, and is deeply significant not only to Canadian Baptist identity, but to Canadian history as a whole—for instance, did you know that the man who discovered that the Germans were using chlorine gas in the Great War was Col. George Nasmith who attended Jarvis Street Baptist Church in Toronto?

Last month the Canadian Baptist Historical Society met at Heritage College in Cambridge, ON. We were delighted to see our numbers doubled and two members join the executive—including yours truly. Papers were given by our president, Michael Haykin, and one of his students, Michael Plato, who is also a professor at Seneca College in Toronto. Dr. Haykin presented on Andrew Fuller and trinitarianism, while Plato gave a stimulating paper on E. Y. Mullins. You might find it odd that neither address dealt with a Canadian; we’re okay with that, we have confidence in our identity!

The Society is based out of McMaster Divinity College and is connected to the work at the Canadian Baptist Archive. We were thankful to hear a report that the Archive is making progress in terms of preserving old and deteriorating manuscripts, and that they have made changes so that scholars have an easier and more comfortable time doing their work. I, for one, have benefited greatly from the Archive this past year. The Society is also hoping to have a social media presence, so keep your eyes peeled for us on Facebook and Twitter in the coming weeks. Our most important work, however, is the publication of various works related to Baptist history. McMaster’s series in Baptist history published with Wipf & Stock is a vehicle towards that end. Our first book dealt with Baptists in Canadian public life, and our upcoming book is on Baptists and War; many of the papers from a recent Fuller Center conference will be included.

As a Canadian and a Baptist, I am thankful that there are a growing number of men and women committed to keeping the memory of our forebears alive. If you are a Chronicling Canuck with a Baptist flavour, or you if are merely interested in coming to the next event or becoming a member of the Society, please go to our website to find out how.


Ian Hugh Clary is finishing doctoral studies under Adriaan Neele at Universiteit van die Vrystaat (Blomfontein), where he is writing a dissertation on the evangelical historiography of Arnold Dallimore. He has co-authored two local church histories with Michael Haykin and contributed articles to numerous scholarly journals. Ian serves as a pastor of BridgeWay Covenant Church in Toronto where he lives with his wife and two children.