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Baptist World Alliance Elects First Black Leader

Baptist World Alliance Elects First Black Leader

A global Baptist body that says it represents over 110 million Baptists elected its first non-white leader over the weekend during its annual convention.

Jamaican pastor and theologian Neville Callam, 56, was unanimously elected as general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance a day prior to the close of the July 2-7 gathering.

Callam, who is a former BWA vice president, is also the first leader to head the Alliance that is not from the United States or Europe, according to Associated Baptist Press.

God is working "to make a wonderful mosaic that models the diversity that enriches and builds up unity, rather than diluting or diminishing it," reflected Callam following his election, according to ABP.

The chairman of the search committee, John Sundquist, described Callam as "an articulate Baptist statesman with a global reputation … and a faithful follower of our lord and savior Jesus Christ," according to the Baptist news agency.

Sundquist also highlighted the depth of Callam's theological knowledge, praising the new BWA general secretary as "the most seminal theological thinker I have ever met."

The new BWA head is an expert in Christian ethics and a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Harvard Divinity School. He is a lecturer and has taught at the United Theological College of the West Indies – the leading theological institution in the English-speaking Caribbean. Moreover, he has also taught at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, the Jamaica Theological Seminary and as a guest lecturer at the Barbados Baptist College.

In addition, Callam sits on the University Council of Jamaica, the major accreditation body for colleges and universities on the island.

Callam succeeds Denton Lotz – the longest serving general secretary/CEO of BWA.

Lotz, who has been general secretary since 1988, gave his successor his blessing, declaring that he gives "100-percent support" to Callam being the new general secretary, according ABP.

In addition to his extensive educational background, the new BWA leader brings to the organization his experience behind the pulpit.

Callam is the senior pastor of two churches in Jamaica and has been active in BWA for more than 20 years. He has also held the position of president of the Jamaica Baptist Union as well as its acting general secretary and general treasurer.

The president of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, Burchell Taylor, hopes that Callam's election will add a "new creative dimension…to Baptist world history."

The election took place at the annual BWA General Council meeting in Accra, Ghana, where over 500 Baptist leaders gathered to discuss global social issues such as genocide, poverty, HIV/AIDS as well as missions.

Callam has a wife of more than 30 years named Dulcie and they have two adult children.

The new general secretary-elect will assume his new role at the BWA headquarters in Falls Church, Va., in September.


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