BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (BP)–Continuing a recent trend of electing younger leaders, the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s top three officers elected Nov. 14 are under 40 years of age.
Darren Gaddis, 37, was elected president; Kevin Smith, 39, was elected first vice president; and Chad Fugitt, 27, was elected second vice president.
All three officers also have current ties to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Gaddis and Fugitt both are pursuing doctor of ministry degrees from Southern and Smith is an assistant professor of church history at the Louisville-based seminary.
A total of 1,428 messengers registered for the Nov. 14-15 annual meeting at First Baptist Church in Bowling Green. That was a decline from last year’s total of 1,814 messengers.
Gaddis, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Corbin, was elected by a vote of 792-403 over Steve Ayers, pastor of Hillvue Heights Baptist Church in Bowling Green.
Gaddis was nominated by former KBC President Don Mathis, staff evangelist at Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green.
Echoing a focus from this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting about the importance of electing officers from churches with strong Cooperative Program giving records, Mathis cited Central Baptist Church’s annual CP contributions of 15 percent of undesignated receipts.
State convention messengers voted earlier in the day to approve CP-related recommendations adopted in June by SBC messengers. The nine-point proposal includes calling for the election of convention officers “whose churches systematically and enthusiastically lead by example in giving sacrificially and proportionally through the Cooperative Program.”
“The bottom line is the Cooperative Program does matter,” Mathis said while nominating Gaddis. “You just can’t spell convention president without ‘CP.’”
During a post-election interview, Gaddis said he was “excited for Kentucky Baptists because we had two great Kentucky Baptist-focused candidates. I think the Kentucky Baptist Convention was going to win either way.”
Ayers’ congregation is the top Kentucky Baptist church in baptisms, with 435 baptisms reported last year.
Gaddis said his primary goals as KBC president will be to promote the Cooperative Program and Kentucky Baptists Connect, the state convention’s five-year ministry initiative.
In the only other contested race, Smith, pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, was elected first vice president by a vote of 423-208 over former KBC Second Vice President Skip Alexander, pastor of Campbellsville Baptist Church.
Smith was nominated by Bill Henard, pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, who told messengers, “To my knowledge, the Kentucky Baptist Convention has never elected an African American to any leadership position in our convention.”
In reality, Smith is at least the second African American elected as a KBC officer. In 1971, just a few years after the height of the civil rights movement, Charles King, who was pastor of Corinthian Baptist Church in Frankfort, was elected KBC second vice president.
Fugitt, pastor of Chaplin Baptist Church, was elected second vice president by acclamation.
In other business, Kentucky Baptists adopted a $24 million Cooperative Program goal for the 2007-08 budget year. The goal, a 1.86 percent increase over the current budget year, includes 63.3 percent for Kentucky Baptist ministries and 36.7 percent for Southern Baptist Convention causes. The SBC portion is an increase from the current budget allocation of 36.35 percent.
The budget proposal also includes a $1.3 million challenge goal for a total CP goal of $25.3 million.
Kentucky Baptists also focused on the Cooperative Program during a Tuesday evening session featuring a special “Celebrating Cooperation” emphasis.
Former KBC President Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort and a professor at Southern Seminary, hosted the CP celebration.
Describing the Cooperative Program as “the heart of our unity,” York said without CP gifts supporting ministry efforts around the world, “the Great Commission would simply be the great omission.”
York voiced concern that average church CP gifts across the state have declined from 10 percent of undesignated receipts a decade ago to just under 7 percent today.
“What is the Cooperative Program?” he asked. “It’s only the greatest missions enterprise this world has ever seen.”
In other messages during the two-day meeting, outgoing KBC President Paul Chitwood highlighted the convention theme, “Leading with Integrity and Godly Vision.”
“I’m asking you today to give your best,” Chitwood, pastor of First Baptist Church in Mount Washington, urged. “Do your best and don’t worry about the rest.
“Don’t go around building fences around the Gospel,” he added. “Give away the Gospel.”
Steve Ayers preached the annual convention sermon. Challenging fellow Baptists to “get back to the purpose of Jesus,” he declared, “Kentucky Baptists, we need to start being a Good News people.”
Warning that “money will never get us to where God wants us to be,” Ayers said, “You want to raise Cooperative Program giving? Let’s try raising baptisms. … I noticed our giving was up and our baptisms are down. Something is off the mark; they should match.”
For the second time in three years, a lack of a quorum during the closing session kept KBC messengers from adopting resolutions or conducting other business.
Rather than adopting resolutions, messengers heard a brief report from committee on resolutions chairman Dan Summerlin about the resolutions that would have been proposed, including measures opposing abortion, embryonic stem cell research and expanded gambling.
Summerlin, pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, said the committee also had declined to recommend a pair of proposed resolutions introduced by messengers on the issue of public schools.
Daryl Mullins, pastor of Butler Baptist Church, had proposed a resolution encouraging increased participation in public schools and Logan Weiler, a member of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, proposed a resolution on developing an exit strategy from public schools.
“Both resolutions were on the same topic,” Summerlin said, “but their solutions were diametrically opposed,”
Noting that messengers adopted a resolution last year on the role of Christian parents in public education, Summerlin said the committee declined to address the issue this year.
The 2007 annual meeting will be Nov. 13-14 at Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown.
With additional reporting by Western Recorder correspondent Ken Walker.