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Chitwood gives farewell address to Ky. Baptists

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Messengers to the Annual Meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention approved dissociating with congregations that are also part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, broke ties with a university and adopted a $22 million Cooperative Program budget goal.

Paul Chitwood, who is expected to be elected president of the International Mission Board on Thursday (Nov. 15), also shared what may have been his last address to Kentucky Baptists as executive director.

With the theme “Bring Good News,” the KBC annual meeting convened on Nov. 13 at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center, marking the first time Kentucky Baptists have met in the Appalachian city of Pikeville.

Ties cut with dually aligned churches

The 669 registered messengers approved a recommendation from the KBC’s Committee on Credentials declaring churches contributing to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will no longer be considered “in cooperation” with the state convention.

KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood said the move by messengers should be seen as “a call to those congregations to safeguard biblical teaching and maintain their historic relationships, understanding that the Bible speaks clearly on the issue of homosexuality and that they would not want to support groups that embrace unscriptural lifestyles.”

In February, the Fellowship’s Governing Board struck down its hiring policy prohibiting their “purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.”

From the Committee on Credentials’ view, congregations that continue to remain dually aligned are now supporting an LGBT affirming network and funding the employment of LGBT persons.

The committee’s motion, which was endorsed earlier by members of the KBC’s Administrative Committee and Mission Board, was adopted overwhelmingly after approximately 20 minutes of discussion that included an unsuccessful move to table it indefinitely.

KBC officials and committee members have been in contact with about 25 congregations that were contributing to both groups to determine if they planned to continue supporting CBF. And the action now could potentially affect about a dozen remaining churches, Chitwood reported. Dually-aligned churches will be given up to a year to comply before being removed from the KBC’s list of affiliated congregations.

Ties with university dissolved

Messengers also approved a recommendation from the Mission Board to dissolve the KBC’s Covenant Agreement with the University of the Cumberlands, effectively severing their formal ties and allowing the Williamsburg university to begin electing its own trustees.

This past summer, university officials approached convention leaders and the KBC Administrative Committee to request the modification to the 1986 Covenant Agreement between the convention and university.

Cumberlands requested the covenant change to be able to appoint alumni and friends to its Board of Trustees who are members of other Christians denominations and who could provide expertise and resources for the university, according to university officials.

The Administrative Committee, however, decided that “it wasn’t in the best interest to maintain a formal agreement with the university if the KBC had no voice in the selection of its trustees.” Currently, all trustees for the university are elected by the KBC.

“University of the Cumberlands is grateful to the KBC for our many years of shared ministry and for the generous support of Kentucky Baptists,” President Larry Cockrum stated earlier. “Cumberlands remains committed to fulfilling its mission as a Baptist institution encouraging intellectual and spiritual growth, leadership, and service through educational programs enriched with Christian values.”

As a gesture of appreciation and goodwill toward the KBC, Cumberlands offered to make a $1 million gift for its church planting efforts. The university also was asked to return nearly $350,000 in Cooperative Program funds received during the current fiscal year.

The KBC action breaks its relationship with the last remaining university supported through an allocation in the KBC’s Cooperative Program budget. In 2005, Georgetown College asked to sever its covenant agreement so it could elect its own trustees, and Campbellsville University moved to create a self-perpetuating board in 2014.

CP budget increase

KBC messengers approved setting a Cooperative Program Budget Goal of $22 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year, a $500,000 increase over this year’s goal. The CP funds will be equally divided between Southern Baptist Convention and KBC causes, with $11 million allotted for each, for an equal increase of $225,000.

The Operational Budget, however, sets aside 10 percent of each portion for Cooperative Program Resourcing.

KBC churches gave nearly $1 million more through the CP in 2017-18 than they did the previous fiscal year to support 3,600-plus international missionaries and a host of state and national mission endeavors to reach Kentucky and the world for Christ.

New KBC officers

Tim Searcy, pastor of Allen Baptist Church near Prestonsburg, was elected as KBC president, defeating Nick Sandefur, of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, by a 189 to 184 vote, one of the closest margins in recent memory. Searcy was nominated by Tommy Reed of Fitzpatrick.

Elected by acclamation as 1st and 2nd vice presidents were Jeremy Atwood, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Glasgow, and Joshua Schmidt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Grayson.

Crossover and crusade

Even before the opening gavel sounded, Kentucky Baptists’ presence was evident to Pikeville’s residents. Outreach events for Crossover included packing Thanksgiving meals at Grace Baptist Church, door-to-door evangelism near Creekside Baptist Church, winterization of homes in Hazard and Prestonsburg, a youth basketball camp at the University of Pikeville, and a deaf community dinner at Hilton Garden Inn.

A new event this year, the “Hope for the Mountains” crusade at the Expo Center on Nov. 11 was led by Georgia evangelist Jon Reed. The crusade also featured the Jason Lovins Band and a mass choir of more than 600 voices. An estimated crowd of 3,000 attended the Sunday night event that saw at least 53 decisions made.

Chitwood’s farewell

Chitwood recalled some faithful men from a church who shared the good news of Jesus with his family when he was a boy.

“Those deacons didn’t have any way of knowing that … there was a 5-year-old boy who needed to be invited to church so he could one day become the IMB president,” Chitwood said. “And the preachers who stood in the pulpit of the First Baptist Church of Jellico and preached Sunday after Sunday to 125 folk who gathered, they never knew.

“But it wasn’t what they didn’t know that compelled them to make their visits or preach their sermons. It was what they did know,” he said. “And what they did know was that the Lord of the Harvest had called them to the fields. So, to the fields they went.”

The Lord of the Harvest is still calling people to the fields, Chitwood continued.

“And I don’t know whether a future president of the KBC or SBC or IMB is out there on a hillside, in a holler, on a farm, in a subdivision, a trailer park, or a government project waiting to be reached,” he added. “But what I do know is that there are millions of lost people out there waiting to be reached. And I do know that the Lord of the Harvest has called us to the fields. To the fields we must go.”

The 2019 annual meeting will be held Nov. 12 at Lexington’s Immanuel Baptist Church.

    About the Author

  • Todd Deaton