The Rev. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., one of the country's pre-eminent conservative evangelicals, announced he is dropping his bid to become president of the Southern Baptist Convention after a tumor was found in his colon.
Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says he'll undergo surgery for the pre-cancerous tumor, which was discovered during a routine colonoscopy on Feb. 11.
The surgery is likely to require an extensive recovery period, according to a statement by the Louisville-based seminary on Thursday.
While giving thanks for having discovered the tumor early, the 48-year-old Mohler said he has decided to bow out of the race to lead the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) – the largest Protestant denomination in the country – to address his health condition and to minister to his family.
"This is clearly not the right time for me to accept this nomination," Mohler said in his statement. "I have asked my good friend Robert Jeffress not to proceed with nominating me for president of our Southern Baptist Convention this year."
While dropping his bid, Mohler expressed little worry about the future leadership of the SBC.
"Frankly that decision (to bow out) is made much easier by my knowledge that there is at least one strongly conservative, committed pastor who intends to be nominated," Mohler said.
The annual SBC meeting converges in June in Indianapolis.
Three other Southern Baptists remaining in the race include Dr. William L. (Bill) Wagner, president of Olivet University International in San Francisco and former Southern Baptist missionary; Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga; and Wiley Drake, a California pastor and former SBC second vice president.
Mohler underwent major abdominal surgery in late December 2006 for blood clots in his lungs. Doctors will take special precautions to prevent a recurrence of the blood clots with the new surgery. A date for the surgery will be announced soon.
"For most of human history, a tumor such as this one would have gone unnoticed until it was too late. I am thankful for modern medicine, but I am even more thankful that we live in a world in which our God hears us when we pray, a Father who listens to his children," said Mohler.