LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — The Kentucky Baptist Convention’s administrative committee has unanimously approved a recommendation to withdraw from the convention’s ministry relationship with Georgetown College.
The administrative committee’s Sept. 11 recommendation next will go to the KBC Mission Board, which could place it before messengers to the convention’s Nov. 13 annual meeting.
“The Kentucky Baptist Convention and Georgetown College have had a long and fruitful relationship for many, many years,” committee chairman Floyd Paris, pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, told the Western Recorder, Kentucky Baptists’ newsjournal. But the time has now come to allow both organizations the freedom to pursue the direction of the Lord’s leadership, Paris said.
“In recent years, Georgetown has sought to expand their ecumenical appeal by increasing the number and influence of non-Baptist board members,” Paris added. “During this same period, the KBC has sought to focus more on helping Kentucky Baptists and Kentucky Baptist churches.”
The partnership accord between the KBC and Georgetown College was struck in 2005, following a decision by Georgetown’s trustees to end its covenant relationship with the KBC in order to establish a self-perpetuating board, rather than accepting trustees appointed by the state convention. At the time, Georgetown officials also cited the college’s desire to meet Phi Beta Kappa academic standards and to expand its donor base as reasons.
Major provisions of the partnership agreement specified that Georgetown would elect its own trustees beginning in 2006 and, in turn, the KBC would phase out its $1.3 million Cooperative Program allocation over a four-year period. The plan also called for 75 percent of the college’s trustees to be Kentucky Baptists and for a jointly funded campus ministry position.
In presenting the motion to withdraw, Charles Barnes, chairman of a workgroup formed in 2010 to study Georgetown’s relationship with the KBC, noted that withdrawing from the partnership agreement would allow a greater focus of KBC resources on institutions that are covenant partners. He read the following statement from the group’s September minutes to the administrative committee at its Sept. 11 meeting:
“In these days of limited resources and a more focused ministry assignment, Kentucky Baptists are choosing to invest Christian education resources, energies and attention on our institutions that are in covenant agreement with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Therefore the KBC will terminate its ministry partnership with Georgetown College pursuant to the memorandum of understanding between the parties dated Nov. 15, 2005. Upon expiration of the ministry agreement partnership, the KBC will no longer maintain a partnership agreement with Georgetown College, which elected to terminate its covenant agreement with the KBC in 2005. We appreciate the Baptist foundation of Georgetown College and offer our prayers for their endeavors to serve Christ and His kingdom.”
The partnership agreement reached its formal conclusion in 2009 with the phasing out of all CP support by the state convention, and subsequent negotiations between the two organizations have reached an impasse, Barnes observed.
In contention, according to the workgroup’s minutes, were issues related to the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, with ties to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, that is housed on the Georgetown campus; a recent broader revision of the school’s “Christian Identity” statement; and removal of a requirement that 75 percent of the trustees be Kentucky Baptists from university bylaws.
KBC President Adam Greenway affirmed the recommendation.
“While the KBC and Georgetown do enjoy many historical linkages, the passage of time has revealed changing priorities for both,” Greenway said. “Georgetown is desirous of broadening its affiliations and identity as a Christian institution, while the KBC is more focused than ever on serving churches and evangelizing the lost.
“Like Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15, I believe the ending of this partnership agreement will allow both the KBC and Georgetown to fully pursue their respective chosen paths,” Greenway added.
In response to the KBC’s decision, Georgetown President Bill Crouch issued the following statement to the Western Recorder:
“Today, as for 225 years, our existing foundation is grounded in distinctively Baptist principles. We use that foundation to serve the world in a Christ-like manner. Georgetown College will remain committed to serving Baptist students in the future and will seek other Baptist donors and supporters who will provide scholarship funds to replace the funds that will no longer be available through the Kentucky Baptist Convention to the Baptist students who choose a Georgetown College education.”
Members of the KBC Mission Board will take up the matter when they meet prior to the KBC’s annual meeting. If approved, the recommendation will proceed to convention messengers for consideration during the Nov. 13 convention. With messengers’ approval, a written notice of termination would follow, fulfilling a requirement of a one-year notification.
Under the terms of the current agreement, Georgetown no longer receives any Cooperative Program allocation. However, according to information supplied by the Kentucky Baptist Foundation, based on the previous fiscal year’s figures, Georgetown stands to lose approximately $53,500 of a $75,500 distribution from endowment funds.
In addition, scholarships awarded to Georgetown students through the foundation for the preceding academic year totaled $34,800, and the KBF already has approved $22,800 in awards for the coming academic year.
Georgetown, however, will remain a partnering institution throughout the final year of the agreement, and any scholarship funds will be distributed accordingly during that period.
Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.