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Rev. Robert C. Campbell
dies in California at 85

New York, August 12, 2009 – The Rev. Dr. Robert C. Campbell, 85, the longest serving general secretary in American Baptist history, died July 27. 

Campbell served as American Baptist general secretary from 1972 to 1987. His entire acceptance speech at the ABC's Denver convention in May 1972 was, “Thank you, I think.”  

He served during a critical time in American Baptist history. His first task upon entering office was to implement a major reorganization of the denomination’s structure, a difficult but necessary challenge that was crucial so the denomination could, in his words, “get on with our most important task: the mission of Jesus Christ.”  

During the years that Campbell served, American Baptist mission efforts made great strides, including ventures like the “Alive in Mission” capital funds campaign, and “Grow by Caring,” an initiative that had the goal of planting 500 new churches. 

From 1987 to 1989, Campbell served as president of his alma mater, Eastern Baptist (now Palmer) Theological Seminary, until retiring to Santa Barbara, California. There he continued to minister as the interim pastor of several churches including the First Baptist Church of Pasadena. 

“Honorable, compassionate, and effective—those were qualities of Bob Campbell’s life,” said A. Roy Medley, current American Baptist general secretary.  

“As a New Testament professor, Bob understood the power of the Word to transform life and the importance that both the spoken and lived word of the Christian life conform to the revealed Word, Jesus the Christ. Happiness and joy came to Bob not because they were his first goals in life, but because he gave himself fully to Christ, his family and the church—and joy flowed into him and from him like a river because of these choices.” 

Born in Arizona in 1924, Campbell studied at a dozen institutions of higher learning, earned five degrees and received numerous honorary degrees. Many of his studies included linguistics, and his flawless Hebrew once attracted the attention of Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. 

After serving as a youth minister and a pastor in Philadelphia, Campbell joined the faculty of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1949 as instructor in Biblical languages. In 1953, he accepted a position in Covina, Calif., as Associate Professor of New Testament at the California Baptist Theological Seminary (now American Baptist Seminary of the West), where he served as dean and professor of New Testament until 1972. 

In 1963, Campbell presented network television’s first lecture series on the four gospels, on NBC’s “Frontiers of Faith.” In 1975, he again addressed the nation with his thirteen Bible studies on NBC radio’s “Art of Living.” 

Campbell’s published works include Great Words of the Faith, Evangelistic Emphases in Ephesians, The Gospel of Paul, and Jesus Still Has Something to Say, along with numerous journal articles and church school curricula. 

Robert C. Campbell is survived by his son Robin, an attorney, and his daughter Cherry, a university professor. He was preceded in death by, Lotus, his wife since 1945, who passed away in 2001. 

A family service will be held at 2pm on Friday August 21. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 19 at 2 PM at First Baptist Church of Pasadena, 75 N. Marengo Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101. 

Memorial gifts may be sent to International Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; or given for Breast Cancer or Alzheimer’s research.


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

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