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McCall disagrees with Mohler receiving award in his name

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Being called upon to stand beside Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. as Mohler received an award for intercultural ministry was a “freak accident” and a regrettable circumstance, Emmanuel McCall told the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Coordinating Council June 24 in Birmingham, Ala.

The Black Southern Baptist Denominational Network presented Mohler the Dr. Emmanuel L. McCall Denominational Servant Award June 13 at the group’s annual meeting in Indianapolis. During the presentation, McCall stood next to Mohler and was photographed by Baptist Press.

According to the group, Mohler received the award for “role modeling the highest characteristics of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network embodied in the life and ministry of Emmanuel L. McCall.”

At the June 24 CBF Coordinating Council meeting, however, McCall requested a “special moment of personal preference” and told council members that he objects to Mohler receiving any award given in his name. McCall, who serves as an at-large member of the Coordinating Council, also said that appearing with Mohler made him look “like a fool.”

McCall did not identify Mohler by name as the award’s recipient at the Coordinating Council meeting but made it clear that he was referring to Mohler by referencing the date of the presentation and calling the recipient “one of the Southern Baptist Seminary presidents.”

McCall said he did not know who was to receive the award prior to its presentation and contemplated protesting when Mohler’s name was announced.

“At this banquet I was called up,” McCall said. “I was not pre-warned about who was going to receive it. They do not ask me my choices as to who gets it. They just called me up and said, ‘We want you to stand here.’

“And then they announced the name of the awardee, who is one of the Southern Baptist Seminary presidents. And so I had to make a quick decision: do I protest by walking out or sitting down? And I decided there is a higher road to take, so I stood there like a fool and allowed my picture to be made with that.”

Sid Smith, executive director of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network, said that Mohler’s leadership has been “exemplary.”

“I regret that Dr. Emmanuel McCall feels that being associated with an award to Dr. Albert Mohler was a ‘freak accident,” Smith said in an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness. “Dr. Mohler was awarded this award in recognition of appreciation for his commitment to advancing training for black church ministries which were pioneered at Southern Seminary by Dr. McCall many years ago.

“We were trying to make a statement about Dr. Mohler’s outstanding contributions by embracing the black church studies program leading to the Ph.D. in black church leadership, headed by Dr. T. Vaughn Walker, establishing the school of intercultural church studies, headed by Ken Fentress, an African-American, and selection of Lawrence Smith as vice-president of communications, at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. … We were trying to say ‘thank you’ for that commitment.”

McCall felt he owed CBF leadership an explanation for his behavior because he did not want them to think that he supports Mohler or his ministry, he said.

“I felt I owed you all that explanation, and I did not want you to think I was playing both sides against the middle or being ubiquitous in any way,” McCall told the council. “… You should know that my loyalty is here and not there. That was one of those freak accidents.”

In the future the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Network will not be permitted to present awards in McCall’s name without McCall first approving the recipient, he said.

“I let the executive secretary of that fellowship know that from now on if they’re going to use my name, I need to know who [the recipient is],” McCall said.

Smith said the executive committee of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network would review the award procedure.

“I don’t know what they are going to do,” he said. “But we will need to discuss this in light of his feelings.”
–With reporting by Joni Hannigan.