Bishop Leroy H. Cannady Sr., founder of the Refuge Way of the Cross Church of Christ, an Apostolic church, who also presided over a substantial radio ministry, died of complications from a stroke May 13 at Gilchrist Center in Towson. The Govans resident was 100.
“Bishop Cannady truly loved people regardless of their title, education, race, color or creed, and he made you feel as if you were the most important person in his life when you were in conversation with him,” said Bishop Troy A. Barnett, current pastor of the Refuge Way of the Cross Church of Christ in Govans.
“And he had the ability to show his true love for Christ. He was down home yet a unique and special individual,” Bishop Barnett said. “He just loved the word of God, principles of God, and showing the way of God.”
Leroy Henry Cannady Sr., son of farmers Benjamin Cannady and Crescie Cannady, was born and raised in Franklinton, North Carolina.
After graduating from G.C. Hawley High School, Bishop Cannady went to work on the family’s 500-acre farm.
Bishop Cannady initially planned to go into business.
“He wanted to be prosperous and didn’t want to be a farmer. He had a lumber and trucking business that failed,” said a daughter, Vivian Person, of Baltimore.
“He was nearly killed by a falling tree, and was bitten by a poisonous snake and spider. And this all culminated by him being blessed by the Lord, who wanted him to do a full-time ministry,” Ms. Person said.
Bishop Cannady began preaching in 1949 at the Greater Ransom Way of the Cross Temple in Henderson, North Carolina, and in 1957, moved to Baltimore where he established a mission church on Calhoun Street.
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The next year, he founded Refuge Way of the Cross Church of Christ on Laurens Street before relocating in the 1960s to North Carey Street. In 1970, the church moved to Old York Road in Govans.
In 1957, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the American Bible Institute in Kansas City, Missouri, and his doctorate in divinity from Grace Apostolic College in Niles, Ohio.
He was consecrated an Apostolic bishop in 1970, and elevated in 1985 to the office of presiding bishop of the Way of the Cross Church of Christ International. In 2010, he was appointed dean of the Apostolic Ministerial Alliance.
“The greatest name you can call me is a servant,” Bishop Cannady was fond of saying. “For I am a servant of God and to the people of God.”
“He has pastored judges, lawyers, accountants, teachers, government workers, the rich, the poor, the downtrodden and he ordained ministers, elders, bishops and licensed missionaries, as well as counseled thousands,” according to a biographical profile of Bishop Cannady. “His ministry was widespread and reached the continent of Africa.”
Beginning in 1968, he established a radio ministry that for more than 30 years was heard on WANN-AM in Annapolis, and in Baltimore on WAYE-AM, WBGR-AM and WCAO-AM.
In 1971, he established the Refuge Day Care Center, which is currently building a new facility at the church, and also founded the Refuge Housing Project Inc. to build low-income housing.
In 2001, he established the Elder Theodore Barber Scholarship Foundation Inc. Since its inception, more than $100,000 in scholarships have been awarded.
“It wasn’t just about the church being in the community, it was the church being about the community. He pushed us on that,” said Bishop Barnett, a former NFL player with the New England Patriots and what are now the Washington Commanders in the 1990s.
“We were to see what the neighborhood needs and the church was to be open seven days a week so people could talk, pray and find a safe haven there,” he said. “He wanted to help build people’s character. He wanted to help the marginalized.”
A licensed Apostolic minister since 1998, Bishop Barnett became the second pastor in the history of the Refuge Way of the Cross Church of Christ when he assumed that role in 2016.
“I am now living under the promises God gave him, and Bishop Cannady educated me to carry on his vision in Wilson Park. I grew mightily under his tutelage,” said Bishop Barnett, who has been at the church since 2007.
Bishop Cannady was the author of two books, “Give Me This Mountain: A Leap of Faith,” an autobiography, and “Understanding the Holy Bible: The Infallible Word of God.”
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Early last month, Bishop Cannady appeared before the House of Delegates, which presented him with a resolution celebrating his life’s work. The next day he attended the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture and was presented with citations from Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and former Gov. Larry Hogan.
Bishop Cannady was an inveterate traveler who “enjoyed visiting churches in the United States and Africa,” his daughter said.
She said her father followed no particular regimen in gaining centenarian status.
“He liked eating fresh food and ate whatever he wanted. He took no medicines,” Ms. Person said. “He harbored no ill will or carried grudges, no matter how he had been treated. He showed goodwill to all and had a good heart.”
His wife of 64 years, the former Virginia R. Parker, the first lady of Refuge Way of the Cross Church of Christ, died in 2008.
Funeral services for Bishop Cannady will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at The Way of the Cross Church of Christ at 1800 Hazelwood Drive in Capitol Heights.
In addition to Ms. Person, he is survived by three sons, Gregory Cannady and Michael Cannady, both of Baltimore, and James Cannady of Richmond, Virginia; three other daughters, Phyllis Cannady and Delphine Easley, both of Baltimore, and Shirley Whitfield of Bear, Delaware; 23 grandchildren; 42 great-grandchildren; and 16 great-great-grandchildren. Another son, Leroy H. Cannady Jr., died in 1988.