Past CBF leader praises SBC’s racial progress

Emmanuel McCall, a pioneer in Southern Baptist black-church relations before controversy led him to identify with the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, praised efforts of current SBC leadership to carry on the work he helped begin.

By Bob Allen

A past moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and pioneer in black church relations in the Southern Baptist Convention prior to a 1991 schism attended the recent meeting of a task force on race appointed by SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page and came away impressed.

emmanuel mccall cropEmmanuel McCall, interim pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta who presided as moderator at the 2007 CBF General Assembly, expressed appreciation for Page’s 2012 initiative to assemble the African-American Advisory Council to advise him on ethnically relevant issues.

“His approach was so much like Dr. Arthur Rutledge, the executive director of the Home Mission Board under whom I worked," McCall told Baptist Press after meeting with the group of African-American pastors, ministers and denominational leaders Feb. 6-7 in Atlanta. He was the first African-American professional staff member of the SBC when he joined the what is now called the North American Mission Board in 1968.

McCall, author of When All God's Children Get Together. A Memoir of Race and Baptists, published in 2007 by Mercer University Press, remained at the agency until 1991. He was a faculty member at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1970 until 1996, where he developed a Black Church Studies program later used by three SBC seminaries.

McCall has taught as a visiting professor at theological seminaries in Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria, and at Emory University. He has served on numerous boards, including the Ethics Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and the arrangements committee for the International Summit of Baptists Against Racism and Ethnic Conflict.

Honors presented to McCall include the E.Y. Mullins Distinguished Denominational Service Award in 1990, the highest recognition given by Southern Seminary.

In 2004, McCall told the CBF Coordinating Council that he objected to a decision taken without his knowledge by the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Network to present the Dr. Emmanuel L. McCall Denominational Servant Award to Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler.

Denominational politics aside and a decade later, McCall told Page’s African-American Advisory Council that he thanks God for every day he served at the Home Mission Board and has continued good wishes for the SBC.

"I live with the hope that the SBC continues to realize its unique opportunity to change the worldview of what being 'in Christ' can mean," McCall said. "Such a worldview is absolutely necessary for heartfelt evangelism. That momentum could greatly empower the Baptist witness beyond all current denominational divides."