Callam announces plans to retire as BWA general secretary

Neville Callam announced his intention to retire as general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance Dec. 31, 2017. (File Photo)

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. (BWA)—Neville Callam announced his intention to retire as general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance Dec. 31, 2017.

Policy requires the general secretary, chief executive of the international umbrella organization for Baptists, to give a minimum notice of 12 months.

Callam, a Jamaican, was elected to the position in July 2007 during the BWA annual gathering in Accra, Ghana. Since the BWA’s founding in 1905, all previous general secretaries were American or European.

callam carter 300Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam shakes hands with former President Jimmy Carter. (BWA Photo)Callam took on the BWA leadership post just when economic recession occurred. Working with the budget and finance committee, he led the organization through the financial crisis and global economic meltdown. Under his direction, BWA streamlined its office administration, employ relevant technology to improve BWA functions while minimizing cost, and put in place a conference management system to secure greater economic sustainability. BWA also merged several divisions.

BWA membership has grown since Callam came into office, from 214 to 235 member organizations in 122 countries and territories.

BWA adopted a Covenant on Intra-Baptist Relations to provide a framework for response to the diversity of language, culture, opinions and perspectives in meetings and in the various operations of the international body.

In his retirement notice letter, Callam said his commitment in serving the BWA was to “draw attention to the church’s mission as the mission of God,” locating the ministries of relief and development, the defense of freedom and justice and a commitment to the unity of the church within that vision. He ceaselessly insisted “on the theological foundation for these values.”

“You are one of those gifts from God for the church,” BWA President Paul Msiza said in response to Callam’s announcement. “I have been touched and encouraged by your deep faith and commitment to God and to the mission of the church. Your hard work and sacrificial service describe your deep commitment and love for the BWA.”

“My first response was one of sadness. It felt I was losing something very significant and precious,” said John Upton, former BWA president and current chair of the human resources committee, upon learning of Callam’s plans to retire from the organization. 

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“I have been deeply grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Neville, not only while serving as president of the BWA, but in every other capacity. His deep commitment to the BWA and his tireless service to it will long be appreciated.”

Noting Callam’s scholarship and commitment to theological rigor and integrity, Upton said he “modeled unsurpassed excellence of service” and that “his leadership has challenged the BWA to become increasingly an authentic global Baptist community.”

Callam acknowledged God’s guiding presence and the support of his wife, Dulcie. “Serving in this position, God has never failed me and, through all the opportunities and challenges, I have benefited from the unwavering faithfulness of my wife who has helped me selflessly,” he said.

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