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Kentucky Baptists establish committee to examine Baptist Faith and Message

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (BP)–Kentucky Baptist messengers voted to establish a study committee to recommend how the convention should relate to the new Baptist Faith and Message statement during their Nov. 14-15 annual meeting in Bowling Green. The nine-member study committee will bring a recommendation to next year’s KBC annual meeting.

In other action, retired international missionary Jim McKinley was elected KBC president by a vote of 1,091-978 over Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. Most other elections also were contested with moderate-backed candidates elected to the KBC’s top three offices.

Messengers voted 879-747 to form the Baptist Faith and Message study committee, proposed by past KBC President Charles Barnes. He noted that several states have responded to the new statement of faith and that Kentucky Baptists should also. “The question is how,” he said.

“Oftentimes, as you all know, how we do things is equally important as what we do,” said Barnes, a messenger from Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville and a trustee at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

Barnes called the committee the best way to “thoughtfully and carefully consider how Kentucky Baptists should best respond to this.”

Others, however, opposed the idea, seeking a vote during the convention on whether to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message.

“All of us here today know if we’re Baptists or if we’re something else,” said Bill Dodson, pastor of Bell City Baptist Church in Murray. “We don’t need to wait a year to decide if we want to really be in the mainstream of Southern Baptist life.”

Dodson offered a motion that the convention affirm the Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in June, but KBC President Terry Wilder ruled that the motion was actually a resolution and referred it to the resolutions committee. The resolutions committee later reported it would not introduce a resolution that could contradict Barnes’ motion to form a study committee.

Jay Adkins, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in South Shore, also recommended that the convention address the statement of faith during this year’s convention. “With all due respect, aren’t you glad God so loved the world that he didn’t send a committee?”

But Willis Henson, pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, said a study committee would prepare Kentucky Baptists to make an intelligent, Christian decision.

“I don’t have a disagreement with the 2000 statement of faith and message, not at all,” Henson said. “I do have a disagreement, though, with us narrowing our circles and not … making decisions on an informed kind of way.”

The Baptist Faith and Message has been a hot topic among Baptists since it was unveiled in May. Messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., endorsed it to replace the previous 1963 Baptist Faith and Message. Several state conventions have taken action on it in recent weeks.

During debate on Barnes’ motion, Bill Henard, pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, offered a substitute motion that messengers affirm the new Baptist Faith and Message, saying, “I believe that it is time for Kentucky Baptists to speak and stand now.”

After consulting with parliamentarians, however, Wilder ruled Henard’s proposal out of order because it called for the opinion of the convention messengers, not action by the convention. “An opinion of the Kentucky Baptist Convention is a resolution, and a resolution cannot substitute a motion.”

Some questioned that ruling, stating that last year a motion was offered to affirm the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message.

When Wilder called Dobson’s motion a resolution and referred it to the resolutions committee, Mike Harris, a messenger from Ashland Avenue Baptist Church, Lexington, appealed the ruling. Messengers, however, supported Wilder’s decision on a show of ballots.

McKinley, the KBC’s new president, said he hopes to be a peacemaker among all Kentucky Baptists during his yearlong term.

“When it comes to my relationship to Christian brothers and sisters, I’m a compromiser to the core,” he said. “When it comes to facing the evils of the world, I don’t give an inch in words or actions.”

Citing his primary goal as KBC president for the coming year, McKinley said, “Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one. I can’t improve on that. Anytime I can help in the healing process, I’ll do it. That’s who I am.”

McKinley, who said in October that he “would not want meetings held to support me for any position,” was later endorsed in a letter by Robert DeFoor, pastor of Harrodsburg Baptist Church. DeFoor said the letter was mailed to several hundred “middle of the road, moderate kind of people.”

Ezell was endorsed by the conservative Kentucky Baptist Laymen’s Network in a newsletter distributed outside First Baptist Church of Bowling Green as messengers entered the church where the KBC annual meeting was held.

Ezell said before the election he was not recruited by the laymen’s network but was “thrilled to have their support.” He told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the close vote shows the tide is turning toward electing more conservative candidates.

With the presidential election helping spark a near-record turnout of more than 2,100 messengers, McKinley said he was shocked to be elected KBC president. “I wasn’t shocked that it was close,” he said. “I was shocked that I had more votes than Kevin.”

McKinley said he believes the vast majority of denominational conflicts “would be resolved by genuine revival. We have a lot of pride. I hope we can get beyond that. I’ll pray for that.”

A member of Westport Road Baptist Church in Louisville, McKinley served 34 years as a Southern Baptist missionary to Bangladesh. He describes himself as “conservative theologically and middle-of-the-road denominationally.”

Immediately prior to the presidential nominating speeches, David Hinson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Frankfort, asked for a point of personal privilege.

Responding to the laymen’s network handouts, Hinson took issue with the newsletter’s characterization of his church as liberal. The handout described his congregation as one of “three liberal Kentucky churches” that recently severed ties to the Southern Baptist Convention.

John Michael, president of the Kentucky Baptist Laymen’s Network and editor of its newsletter, said Hinson’s comments likely affected the presidential election’s outcome. He said Hinson “basically labeled us as promoting disharmony.”

Hinson said the outcome of the election “did not enter into my mind” when he stood to voice his concerns. “I did not think what I said would affect it one way or another,” he said. “I felt moved by the Holy Spirit to speak.”

Later in the meeting, messengers adopted a motion prohibiting future on-site distribution of campaign material for KBC elections.

Michael called the action historically, procedurally and constitutionally inappropriate. Noting that the motion “was clearly directed at the Kentucky Baptist Laymen’s Network,” he claimed the action is “an infringement upon our First Amendment rights.”

Hinson said he appreciates the convention’s stand on the issue. “The material distributed [by the laymen’s group] at the convention was less than ethical,” he said. “I am grateful that the convention has a standard of ethics now.”

In addition to the presidential election, Harold Greenfield was elected first vice president and Dick Ham was elected second vice president.

Greenfield, retired director of missions for the Caldwell-Lyon Baptist Association, was elected first vice president by a five-vote margin (887-882) over Richard Oldham, pastor of Glendale Baptist Church in Bowling Green.

Ham, who recently retired as minister of music at First Baptist Church of Richmond, was elected second vice president by a vote of 432-211 over Rick Hatley, associate pastor for education at Central Baptist Church in Winchester.

Kentucky Baptist messengers adopted a record $22.4 million Cooperative Program budget for the coming year. The new budget, a 6.75 percent increase over the current budget, includes 35.8 percent for Southern Baptist Convention causes and 64.2 percent for KBC ministries. The KBC previously adopted a multi-year plan to gradually increase SBC support to 36 percent by next year.

Messengers adopted a resolution commending the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children for its “heroic commitment to … Christian moral values” as well as one affirming the 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program.

The children’s home resolution came in response to a pending lawsuit and other actions aimed at the KBHC after officials fired a lesbian staff member. Multi-million-dollar contracts with the state of Kentucky for the KBHC to provide childcare services appeared in jeopardy for several weeks this summer before the two sides agreed to renew the arrangement.

During a report to KBC messengers, KBHC President Bill Smithwick said, “We don’t think homosexuality is a lifestyle that should be presented to our children in any way as a viable option. … As long as Kentucky Baptists stand with us, we will provide Christ-centered ministry.”

The resolution affirmed that the Kentucky Baptist agency “has made it a condition of employment for all employees to exhibit values in their professional conduct and personal lifestyles that are consistent with the Christian mission and purpose of Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children.”

Noting that the KBHC “has withstood in recent months strong pressure from the commonwealth of Kentucky and special-interest groups to compromise its Christian values and principles,” the resolution called on Kentucky Baptists to financially support and pray for the institution as children’s home leaders “continue in the ministry of Christ-centered childcare.”

The CP resolution described it as “a vital unified giving program used by Kentucky Baptists to support missions and ministry here in Kentucky, throughout the United States and across the world.”

The resolution called on Kentucky Baptists “to continue to work together in the cooperative spirit embodied by the Cooperative Program to reach a hurting and lost world with the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Messengers also celebrated Cooperative Program giving with the annual meeting theme, “Partners in the Harvest.” A historical drama recounting the impact of the Cooperative Program and a mini-concert by Christian recording artist Clay Crosse highlighted the KBC’s Tuesday evening session.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 13-14 in Murray.

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