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Neville Callam Elected General Secretary Baptist World Alliance

Article by Marvia Lawes

Jamaica Baptist Pastor, Neville Callam was unanimously elected General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) on Friday July 6, 2007 in Accra, Ghana. Callam’s historic election to office makes him the first person outside of Europe and North America to hold this position and first non-white person to ever serve in this capacity.

The excited pride-filled words received from Ghana from a Jamaican source attending the BWA Annual Gathering increased my already deep envy of all who were present at this unforgettable event. The proud declaration was – “What a joy and honor for the people of Jamaica, Caribbean and two-thirds world!!!” [Their exclamation marks]

Indeed the entire South has been elevated to worldwide prominence among global Baptists as a result of this historic event. Caribbean Baptists are celebrating. However, nowhere will this pride resound than in Callam’s home country Jamaica.

The new General Secretary assumes his duties in September in Virginia, USA. There he will participate in the leadership of the BWA as its chief executive officer. That is one daunting task. However, our brother is no ‘weak-heart’ 🙂

Rev. Callam’s ministry will span continents, race and gender lines to touch millions of Baptists worldwide. The BWA reports a “membership of over 36 million baptized believers representing a general community of over 110 million Baptists worldwide that are part of more than 200 conventions and unions.”

We global Baptists are so many, so varied and yet as we say in the Caribbean – ‘Di whole a wi a one’ [We are all one].

According to a report in the Associated Baptist Press, Callam said at the BWA Annual Gathering, ‘[the] Baptist world family joyfully declares that the BWA has become a worldwide body with a truly global reach. Every member of the Baptist World Alliance is a gift to the organization. We all belong together.’

How true! My prayer is that the message of unity over doctrinal differences will spread among Baptists especially in North America. The winds of such change will have a profound impact on Panama as well. Panama Baptists need to catch the vision of the power in our unity as Baptists; a unity most desperately needed among Christians in general.

One report coming out of Ghana highlighted how the Baptist delegates who gathered in Ghana re-affirmed their commitment to unity. Finally, we members of the BWA are taking Jesus’ prayer in John 17:1-ff to heart to begin placing such an emphasis on it. Meanwhile, other Baptists are pursuing doctrinal wars.

My curiosity about a planned Memorial and Reconciliation service in my previous article has now been satisfied. Admittedly, I did wonder about the ‘reconciliation’ part of the service. I questioned whether there would be an act of confession by the attendees whose ancestors were either slaveholders or Africans who sold their fellow Africans into enslavement. A potentially offensive bit of truth I know.

On Thursday July 5th the special service was held at the Cape Coast Slave Castle. I understand that the service included moments of remembrance, confession, and yes there was pardon too. This act was in honor of the Africans who were sold into enslavement during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. I am certain I would have been moved to tears at such a service and doubt that I would be alone. Just the thought of it…

I congratulate Rev. Callam and the wider Baptist family! The Grace and Peace of Christ be with him and his wife Dulcie as they migrate to the USA to start their ministry there.

About the Author

The author is an ordained Baptist minister now serving as a missioner pastor in Panama, Central America. She is a dynamic speaker, writer and blogging enthusiast. Get more thought provoking Baptist news, mission adventure stories, and commentary on global social issues at her Blog – Marvia’s Panama Journal.

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