Died: Duke McCall, 'Giant Among Southern Baptists'
Update (Apr. 3): Baptist historian Bill Leonard assesses McCall's impact, noting, "His death this week at age 98 in many ways marked the end of an era reflecting the height of denominational identity in the United States, and its subsequent dramatic collapse."
Former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) president Duke McCall, a former Baptist leader respected in both conservative and moderate circles, died earlier today at the age of 98.
Baptist Press reports that McCall's impressive 30-year tenure as SBTS president–just one of his many leadership roles–"stretched from the civil rights movement to the beginning of the conservative resurgence in the SBC." During the conservative resurgence, however, McCall "sided with the moderates" and lost a close race for the SBC presidency.
But as a result of McCall's denominational leadership, he was highly respected among a wide range of Baptists—and among Christians in general.
"He served Baptists faithfully, but he recognized that God wasn't a Baptist," Chris Caldwell, one of McCall's successors at Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "He had a broader view of the church. He was a larger than life figure, a charming gentleman."
Similarly, SBTS president Al Mohler said in a statement that McCall is a "giant among Southern Baptists."
"The death of Dr. Duke K. McCall reminds us of the lengthened shadow one man can cast over a great denomination," Mohler said. "He belongs to that great generation of Southern Baptist leaders who shaped the convention as the 20th century brought new opportunities and new challenges."
McCall also served as executive secretary-treasurer of the SBC Executive Committee, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA).
According to BWA general secretary Neville Callam, McCall will be remembered for "the expansiveness of his vision of the BWA mission, the depth of his appreciation for the extensiveness of BWA's potential reach, and the deep commitment that marked his engagement to help BWA secure the physical infrastructure to support its ongoing ministry."
Editor's note: This post has been updated.