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Kentucky Baptists defeat motion to affirm 1963 faith statement

COVINGTON, Ky. (BP)–Kentucky Baptist messengers narrowly defeated a motion Nov. 16 to affirm Southern Baptists’ unamended 1963 Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs.
In other actions, Terry Wilder was elected state convention president by a vote of 687-542 in a race against Paul Badgett. Wilder is pastor of Burlington Baptist Church and Badgett is pastor of First Baptist Church of Pikeville.
Although neither candidate sought political endorsements, Wilder was endorsed in a letter by moderate pastor Bob Defoor of Harrodsburg, and among Badgett’s supporters was Jerry Johnson, assistant director of development at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. A seminary spokesman noted in a statement, however, that the seminary does not endorse candidates for KBC office, that it is fully supportive of the state convention, yet it does hope “for conservative leaders to be elected at all levels of Baptist life.”
Both candidates, nevertheless, said they would seek to serve all Kentucky Baptists if elected.
“I don’t want to be on anybody’s side but the Lord’s side,” Badgett told the Western Recorder state newsjournal.
During a post-election interview, Wilder said, “We came to this convention with diversity and as Kentucky Baptists we must trust God to lead us through this diversity into the future. Our unity must be found in what we do together to reach Kentucky for Jesus Christ.
“I genuinely want to lead all Kentucky Baptists,” he added. “I want to see us pull together, pray together, grow together and make the year 2000 a Great Commission year in Kentucky Baptist life.”
In other races for convention office, Dan Ferguson, pastor of Second Baptist Church of Hopkinsville, was elected first vice president by a vote of 512-397 over Alice Marshall, co-director of the Marshall Center for Christian Ministry at Georgetown College. Scott Kilgore, associate pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, was elected second vice president by a vote of 313-228 over Tim Mathis, pastor of First Baptist Church of Danville.
The Baptist Faith and Message proposal, introduced by Louisville pastor Bill Shoulta, described the 1963 document as “a non-creedal consensus of clearly defined beliefs among Kentucky Baptists.” His motion also called the faith statement “a sufficient confession of faith which enables freedom of thought within biblical and historical Baptist parameters.”
Following a standing vote that was too close for tellers to call, the motion was defeated 408-374 on a ballot vote.
The Baptist Faith and Message, originally adopted in 1925, was revised in 1963. It is a concise statement of Baptist beliefs on topics ranging from the doctrine of God to religious liberty. The only change to the 1963 statement came last year when Southern Baptist Convention messengers adopted an amendment on the family.
Disagreement in Baptist circles has centered on one of the amendment’s statements, that “a wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” Supporters of the amendment say the statement about wives and the article’s statement about a husband’s sacrificial love for his wife are an accurate interpretation of Ephesians 5, while opponents criticize the omission of Ephesians 5:21 which teaches mutual submission.
Additionally, SBC President Paige Patterson recently appointed a 15-member study committee to consider other changes to the 1963 statement. The committee, authorized in June by SBC messengers, is expected to bring a report to next year’s SBC annual meeting.
During discussion about the motion, Shoulta said the 1963 statement “undergirds our strong heritage of religious freedom, church autonomy and priesthood of the believer.”
“By reaching back to 1963, we can emphasize the numerous beliefs which have held us together rather than a few issues which tend to divide us,” said Shoulta, pastor of Melbourne Heights Baptist Church. “It would be lamentable for us to reject this great biblical, historical and theological statement of true Baptist identity.”
Russell Howard, pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, countered that the motion was “problematic not so much for what it affirms as for what it opposes.”
Alluding to the 1998 amendment, he said the Shoulta’s motion “opposes the Baptist Faith and Message as that venerable confession has been embraced by the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Russell said the proposal “seeks to place Kentucky on the same quasi-secessionist path being followed by other states who seem intent upon departing the pro-family Southern Baptist mainstream.”
Shoulta and Russell were the only two messengers to address the motion before a motion by Ron Sisk, pastor of Crescent Hill Baptist Church, Louisville, to cut off debate was approved by messengers. That was followed by the ballot vote that defeated the motion.
In other business, messengers voted to increase the Cooperative Program budget 4 percent for the 2000-2001 fiscal year, beginning next Sept. 1, while slightly changing the percentages for Kentucky Baptist and Southern Baptist work.
The KBC Cooperative Program budget was increased to $21 million, a 4 percent increase compared to the 1999-2000 budget.
Recent percentage divisions between KBC and SBC causes have been determined based on the change each year in the total churches’ CP gifts as a percentage of undesignated cash receipts. That has led to percentages being computed to thousandths of a percent. KBC Executive Director Bill Mackey said the new plan will be easier to communicate.
The new percentage will be 35.6 percent of undesignated 2000-2001 funds going to SBC work. The percentage will increase 0.2 percent for two more years until it reaches 36 percent. “Thirty-six percent is the average given by state conventions to the Cooperative Program,” Mackey said.
Approval of the plan was not unanimous. Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, spoke against the proposal, opposing taking a greater percentage of money from Kentucky Baptist work. He also said the plan threatened to disrupt the cooperative spirit of the convention because it will force churches to give more money to the SBC.
Churches are considered to be in cooperation with the Kentucky Baptist Convention based on their undesignated giving to the Cooperative Program, which does not allow money to be designated away from the SBC.
Messengers also adopted five resolutions including support for public education, opposition to expanded gambling and affirmation of families and religious liberty.
The resolution on public education called on Kentucky Baptists to “nurture within our public schools the free expression of heartfelt personal devotion and the responsible teaching about religion, while avoiding the coercion of hollow religious practice by any student or teacher.”
The anti-gambling statement urged state leaders to avoid basing economic decisions “on the false hopes of gambling.”
The resolution of families and religious liberty encouraged officials “to support legislation that upholds the institution of the family and to work vigorously to protect the religious liberty of all its citizens.”
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 14-15 in Bowling Green.

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