A West Indies pastor and broadcaster has been nominated as the next leader of the Baptist World Alliance.
Neville Callam, 55, is pastor of Tarrant Baptist Church in Kingston, Jamaica, and past president of the Jamaica Baptist Union. If elected at the BWA General Council meeting in Accra, Ghana, in July, he would become the first non-white general secretary of the 102-year-old worldwide fellowship of Baptist conventions and unions.
“In reviewing the documents and references and after the interviews, it is clear that Neville Callam is the kind of ecclesiastical and Christian statesman that we can have pride in,” search committee chairman John Sundquist said in a press release. “It is wonderful to meet someone whose biblical and theological grounding is not only deep, but whose life is such that his relationship with Christ and commitment to the church is so obvious.”
Callam is nominated to succeed Denton Lotz, the eighth BWA general secretary, who retires Dec. 31 after 19 years. BWA leaders honored Lotz, a former American missionary to Eastern and Central Europe, along with his wife, Janice, Saturday at a banquet in Virginia. Under his leadership, the BWA has grown to include more than 200 member conventions and unions from more than 130 countries around the world.
That’s despite loss of the largest member body, the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention, which left the alliance of which it was a founding member over allegations that some of the other member unions were too liberal.
Callam, a pastor in the Jamaica Baptist Union since 1975, is a chairman of the board of Jamaica Public Television and host of a radio program called “The Breath of Change.”
He was educated at University of the West Indies and Harvard Divinity School. He has served on the BWA Christian Ethics Commission, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and as vice chairman of the BWA Division of Study and Research. He has lectured at United Theological College of the West Indies and written on human rights.
He has co-chaired the BWA’s Academic and Theological Education Workgroup and last year participated in international conversations between the BWA and the Catholic Church.
The Jamaica Baptist Union traces its beginning to George Lisle (sometimes spelled Leile), a freed slave from Savannah, Ga., who moved to Jamaica to begin churches. Though not appointed by any board, Lisle was one of the earliest Baptist missionaries to go to a foreign land to preach the gospel, just a decade behind British missionary William Carey.
Today the Jamaica Baptist Union has 302 churches, 107 ministers and more than 40,000 members.
Callam is a former vice president of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, one of six continental unions or regional fellowships under the BWA umbrella.
Established in 1970, the 30-member-body Caribbean Baptist Fellowship works closely with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in promoting evangelism, church planting, training and social issues. It has had a short-term partnership with the Florida Baptist Convention, and currently has a short-term partnership with the Baptist General Association of Virginia, a BWA member.
Lotz praised Callam for his international experience and concern for the poor.
“I am particularly pleased that the nominee is from the Southern Hemisphere,” Lotz said. “This sends a clear message that Baptists worldwide recognize the growth of the church has moved to the Southern Hemisphere. The fact that 60 percent of Christians are in the Two-thirds World necessitates that Baptists open their hearts and minds to the new things God is doing in mission worldwide. I look forward to working with Neville Callam as he assumes leadership at the end of this year.”
Callam has been married to the former Dulcie Allison Brown since 1975. They have two adult children.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.