By David Roach
GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) — E.W. McCall Sr., an African American Southern Baptist leader and champion of Sunday School, died April 19. He was 79.
Beginning in 1970, McCall pastored St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in La Puente, California for 37 years. During that time the congregation grew from 35 members meeting in a house to more than 4,000 members. Under his leadership, the church developed ministries to the community for children and youth, addressed the needs of the homeless population, and ministered to senior adults.
In 1993, McCall helped found the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, a group that now represents some 4,000 predominantly black congregations.
McCall was “a man of vision and courage to start a fellowship” of black Southern Baptist churches, NAAF President Marshal Ausberry said. “We stand on his shoulders and [those of] men of his era that were bold to be part of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
For the past nine years, McCall served as an African American ministry specialist with the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention.
Within Southern Baptist life, McCall was active in leadership at all levels.
He was elected SBC second vice president in 2002. McCall also served on the SBC Committee on Committees and became the first African American to chair the board of trustees at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (now Gateway Seminary).
On the state level, McCall served as first vice president of the California Southern Baptist Convention and was a longtime trustee at California Baptist University. Within his local Los Angeles Southern Baptist Association, he served as moderator, among other leadership roles.
A former public school teacher, McCall emphasized education and made Sunday School a hallmark of his ministry. St. Stephen’s Sunday School had grown to 1,000 in attendance by 1995, Baptist Press reported at the time. He wrote and taught extensively on Sunday School throughout the SBC.
Emmanuel McCall, a Home Mission Board liaison to black churches from 1968-91 and of no relation to E.W. McCall, remembered E.W. McCall as “totally committed to the SBC,” including the convention’s Sunday School methods and materials.
“He was a great Sunday School man and worked very closely with the Sunday School Board,” Emmanuel McCall said. “His church was always in competition [for] the largest Sunday School [among] African American churches in the SBC.”
Born Elijah W. McCall, he was the son of an Arkansas preacher and moved from the South to California in 1962, angry about racial discrimination, the San Gabriel Valley (Calif.) Tribune reported in 1995. McCall considered joining the civil rights movement but instead went into teaching and then the pastorate.
“When I came to California, I had this seething rage within me, but God turned and tilted it toward the Kingdom,” McCall told the Tribune.
McCall received his bachelor of science degree in elementary education at Grambling State University in Louisiana, later teaching for 20 years. He earned his master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from American Baptist Seminary of the West and did further studies at UCLA, Long Beach State University, and Fuller Seminary.
In 2013, the SBTC endowed a scholarship for African American master of divinity students at Gateway in honor of McCall.
SBTC executive director Jim Richards remembered McCall as “a giant among us” who was “faithful to the end.”
A celebration of McCall’s life and legacy was held April 27 at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill, Texas.
With reporting by the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’ s news service.