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Ky. convention adopts the Bible as basis for ‘faith, practice’

MURRAY, Ky. (BP)–Kentucky Baptist messengers adopted the Bible “as the basis for all our faith and practice” during the 2001 Kentucky Baptist Convention annual meeting Nov. 13-14 in Murray.

The action also called on Kentucky Baptists to “acknowledge the value” of faith statements ranging from the 1742 Philadelphia Confession of Faith to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

The proposal, adopted overwhelmingly on a standing vote, capped a yearlong study by a nine-member committee chaired by former KBC President Charles Barnes.

In other action, messengers elected retired director of missions Harold Greenfield as state convention president, approved a record $23.2 million Cooperative Program budget goal for the upcoming fiscal year and adopted a resolution urging prayer in the wake of terrorism and war. A total of 1,732 messengers registered for this year’s annual meeting, down from the 2,139 messengers who registered a year ago.

The KBC’s Cooperative Program budget goal for the coming year is a 3.49 percent increase over the current year. Messengers approved a division of funds totaling 64 percent for KBC missions and ministries and 36 percent for SBC causes. The 64/36 percent allocation completes a three-year plan to increase SBC gifts to 36 percent.

The vote on the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee report came during the convention’s closing session on Wednesday morning after messengers rejected an attempt to move the discussion to Tuesday afternoon after the presidential election.

The study committee, established at last year’s annual meeting, was charged with recommending how the KBC “can best relate to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as Kentucky Baptists seek to fulfill their purpose and mission.”

The report noted that the motion to establish the committee “did not instruct it to critique the contents or merits” of the various versions of the Baptist Faith and Message. They focused instead on how “Baptists have used various confessions of faith to better explain their understanding of the Bible.”

Several state conventions have responded to the faith statement revision adopted last year by Southern Baptist Convention messengers. Supporters of the new BFM say it better represents the SBC’s conservative shift of the past 20 years, with language limiting the office of pastor to men and opposing homosexuality. Critics voice concern about eliminating the phrase from the 1963 version, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”

Regina Morgan, a messenger from Zions Cause Baptist Church in Paducah, voiced concern that “we’re endorsing something we shouldn’t endorse.”

Noting that other state conventions and Southern Baptist entities interpret the 2000 document more narrowly, she said, “I don’t know how to clear up this dilemma that if some people don’t support every line of the revision, they lose their positions.”

“There is nothing in this report that would cause anyone to lose their position, so that is not a proper interpretation,” Barnes responded. “Many conventions have acted in somewhat different manners. We feel this is best for Kentucky Baptists.”

Mark Whicker, pastor of Brodhead Baptist Church, commended the study committee for its work.

“I see nowhere in there [as] this binding me, my church or the convention to any document of faith,” he said. Citing the convention theme, “Fulfilling the Mission,” he added, “That’s what we need to do. I support this. I thank the committee. I urge the passage of this recommendation.”

Willis Henson, interim pastor of Hawesville Baptist Church, noted that the committee proposal “affirmed the authority of Scripture.”

“I don’t look to the Baptist Faith and Message when I find my sermon for Sunday morning,” he said. “I look to the Scripture.”

Calling for the vote, Henson urged messengers to address the issue “and move on with the business of Christ in this convention.”

Attempts to amend the report on the floor of the convention never materialized. Some conservatives reportedly wanted a straight yes-or-no vote on endorsing the 2000 BFM while some moderates wanted to eliminate any mention of specific faith statements.

Prior to the vote, KBC President Jim McKinley explained that messengers were voting on the entire report and recommendation. In addition to the focus on Scripture and the value of various faith statements, the report’s preamble includes “certain Baptist beliefs and practices that Kentucky Baptists cherish,” including biblical authority, local church autonomy, cooperation and opposition to creedalism.

The recommendation encourages Kentucky Baptist churches and associations to “use confessions of faith as resources to inform and edify Kentucky Baptists concerning the basic tenets of our faith.” Specific faith statements cited in the report are “The Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742), The New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833), and The Baptist Faith and Message Statement of 1925, with revisions in 1963, 1998 and 2000.”

Addressing concerns that the report could be misinterpreted as elevating the 2000 faith statement above previous versions because it is the most recent, Barnes told reporters, “As a committee we felt the wording was very plain. It refers to multiple statements and multiple years. We are talking about each individual document — 1925, 1963 and 2000” as available resources for Kentucky Baptists.

“We feel as a committee that this report and recommendation is best for Kentucky Baptists,” he explained. “We obviously would like to see this be the position of Kentucky Baptists as far as we can see in the future.”

In the KBC presidential election, Greenfield was elected by a vote of 909 to 651 over Tom Butler. Greenfield served 29 years as director of missions for Caldwell-Lyon Baptist Association before retiring last year. Butler, a longtime news anchor and vice president of WPSD-TV in Paducah, retired in 1997.

While both men were described as theologically conservative, Greenfield received an unsolicited endorsement from the moderate Mainstream Baptists of Kentucky. Butler was endorsed by the conservative Kentucky Baptist Laymen’s Network, an organization in which he has been involved. Every candidate endorsed by the laymen’s network was defeated for the second straight year.

Greenfield, who served the past year as KBC first vice president, pledged to seek ways to “unify Kentucky Baptists, not divide us.”

“I want to be inclusive,” he said. “I want people of all stripes who are Baptist to be heard.”

In other elections, Garry Baldwin, pastor of First Baptist Church of Owensboro, was elected first vice president by a vote of 645 to 591 over Bill Henard, pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington.

Claude Witt, executive director of the Temperance League of Kentucky, was elected second vice president in a three-way race. He was elected by a vote of 377 to 231 over Jack Gordon, minister of music at Second Baptist Church of Hopkinsville. Rick Hatley, associate pastor of education at Central Baptist Church of Winchester, was eliminated on the first ballot.

Three motions introduced by messengers were referred to various KBC committees and boards for consideration.

A motion to deny state convention membership to churches that cut ties to the SBC was forwarded to the KBC constitution and bylaws committee. A proposal to forward CP gifts that exceed budget needs to international and North American missions was referred to the KBC executive board. A motion to invite a former homosexual to share a testimony at next year’s KBC annual meeting was referred to the KBC committee on order of business.

Messengers also heard a report from KBC executive board leaders about the possibility of a new Baptist Building facility. Convention leaders are exploring the option of selling the KBC’s current facilities in Louisville to a developer in exchange for a new facility to be built nearby. If negotiations move forward, executive board members will vote on the proposal Dec. 10.

The KBC resolution on prayer urged Christians to “pray for our nation, our president and his advisors, and the world, including our enemies.”

Other resolutions commended the state convention’s “Cross Over” evangelistic emphasis held prior to the KBC annual meeting, cited the completion of a three-year missions partnership with Baptists in Tanzania, commemorated the Western Recorder newsjournal’s 175th anniversary and congratulated Clear Creek Baptist Bible College on its 75th anniversary.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 12-13 at Cumberland College in Williamsburg.

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