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Ky. Baptists urged to ‘Tell Your Story’

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (BP) — Sharing inspiring stories of their salvation in convention addresses and ministry reports, keynote speakers and ministry leaders encouraged their fellow Kentucky Baptists to “Tell Your Story.”

The 748 registered messengers had a busy agenda for their Nov. 11 annual meeting at Bowling Green’s Living Hope Baptist Church, which included parting company with one of its universities and severing ties with a Louisville congregation over its stance on homosexuality.

They also approved a Cooperative Program budget goal of $21.25 million; recognized Don Mathis, an evangelist from Bowling Green, with the Distinguished Cooperative Program Leadership Award for his lifelong devotion to Southern Baptists’ missions and ministry offering; and elected a Bowling Green pastor as president.

The KBC’s 2015-16 operational budget represents a reduction of $750,000 from last year’s goal for KBC and SBC causes. After setting aside 7 percent for shared expenses, $9,881,250, or 46.5 percent, is projected to be forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries.

More than a meeting theme, Tell Your Story is an initiative that the Kentucky Baptist Convention has embarked on to encourage every Kentucky Baptist to tell others how they met Jesus and how He has changed their lives.

“Our prayer,” KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood said, “is that hearing these stories will motivate each of us to more readily share the glorious story of what God has done in our lives to bring us to Himself and, as we share that story with those who aren’t yet saved, God will use our story as one of His methods to convict them of their sin and convince them of their need for a Savior.”

The Tell Your Story initiative also is on the Internet to allow Kentucky Baptists to share their salvation experiences with a broader audience through social media at www.tellyourstory.today.

Kentucky Baptists also will take to the airwaves with a series of TV and radio commercials promoting church attendance. Chitwood unveiled the new ads as part of his report to the convention. The KBC will make these spots available free to Southern Baptist churches and organizations that want to buy air time on TV and radio markets.

Campbellsville departs

In approving a recommendation brought by KBC President Chip Hutcheson from the KBC Mission Board, messengers elected to “take no action” regarding Campbellsville University, except to remain “prayerful and hopeful.”

Stating that Campbellsville had “clearly chosen to remove itself from our convention” through its recent election of 11 trustees without KBC approval, Hutcheson announced that the university is no longer affiliated with the convention.

Campbellsville’s trustees voted earlier this year to unilaterally terminate its covenant agreement with the KBC and surrender its Cooperative Program allocations of nearly $1 million.

Hutcheson assured messengers that the KBC has made every effort to salvage the relationship but was unable to persuade CU President Michael Carter and trustees to re-establish a connection with Kentucky Baptist churches.

Church ‘disfellowshipped’

Messengers also voted overwhelmingly to sever ties with Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, which announced recently on its website that it would be open to granting ordination, hiring or performing wedding ceremonies for gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals.

The KBC credentials committee voted in October to recommend the action against Crescent Hill, determining the congregation was no longer “in friendly cooperation” with Kentucky Baptists.

Greg Faulls, vice chairman of the committee, made the motion to “disfellowship” the church during the convention, saying he did so “with great sadness and brokenness of heart.”

“Our churches are clear on this: We call sin ‘sin’ rather than choosing to affirm it,” said Faulls, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Owensboro.

Prior to the vote, Crescent Hill’s pastor, Jason Crosby, appealed to messengers not to sever ties with his congregation.

Transgender resolution

In other action, messengers approved a resolution that takes a stand on transgender identity. The resolution seeks to extend convictional kindness to an estimated 700,000 Americans who perceive their gender identity opposite their biological sex at birth.

The resolution affirms that Kentucky Baptists “love our transgender neighbors, seek their good always, welcome them to our churches and, as they repent and believe in Christ, receive them into church membership.”

While condemning acts of violence or bullying committed against transgender persons, the resolution opposes all efforts to validate transgender identity or present it as “morally praiseworthy.”

New KBC officers

Bowling Green pastor Tom James was elected as KBC president by acclamation.

James, pastor of Eastwood Baptist Church, was first vice president in 2012 and president of the state Pastors’ Conference in 2009. On the national level, he was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee from 1999-2004.

Serving with James as vice presidents are Jerry Tooley, director of missions for Daviess-McLean Baptist Association, and Mark Payton, pastor of Dry Ridge (Ky.) Baptist Church.

Payton previously served as pastor of Shively Heights Baptist Church in Louisville, which drew national media attention when it merged in 2009 with a predominantly black congregation to become St. Paul Baptist Church at Shively Heights, where he and Lincoln Bingham served as co-pastors.

Princeton editor Chip Hutcheson, a member of Southside Church, challenged messengers to be “all in” for the cause of Christ in his address as KBC president.

“We, as Kentucky Baptists, must remind ourselves daily to be ‘all in’ when it comes to modeling our faith and obedience to the Lord in the midst of a world that is traveling at warp speed away from God,” urged Hutcheson, a trustee of the Western Recorder newsjournal of the Kentucky convention.

“We see the statistics; we read the stories about many churches declining in membership,” Hutcheson said. “We are troubled over the fact that many churches go lengthy periods of time without any baptisms. We are perplexed that Cooperative Program giving struggles to keep pace with what was given the previous year. We grieve about disagreements within churches and among churches. All of these factors help us realize that being ‘all in’ is sorely needed in 2014.”

In the convention sermon, KBC Associate Executive Director Curtis Woods weaved his salvation story into a message on Jonah’s mistake in being unwilling to speak up for God.

Woods told Kentucky Baptists that God wants to use their salvation stories to reach unbelievers, and that they must be willing to speak up for God. Sharing salvation stories, he said, is an act of Christian love.

Chitwood, executive director of the KBC since 2011, was selected to preach the annual sermon at next year’s convention in Elizabethtown.