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Ky. messengers overwhelmingly approve Georgetown proposal

FRANKFORT, Ky. (BP)–In a historic, relationship-altering move, Kentucky Baptist Convention messengers voted overwhelmingly to approve a new ministry partnership with Georgetown College.

In other action, messengers meeting Nov. 15-16 in Frankfort, Ky., elected conservative pastors to the KBC’s top three posts, including KBC President Paul Chitwood, pastor of First Baptist Church of Mount Washington. The new officers defeated three moderate pastors endorsed by Mainstream Baptists of Kentucky.

The Georgetown agreement, which will be implemented over four years, came in response to Georgetown’s decision in September to establish a self-perpetuating board. A detailed “memorandum of understanding” about the new relationship was produced by a 14-member joint workgroup of KBC and Georgetown representatives.

Major provisions of the agreement specify that Georgetown will begin electing its own trustees beginning in 2006 and that the KBC will phase out Georgetown’s $1.3 million Cooperative Program allocation over the next four years.

The plan also specifies that 75 percent of Georgetown’s trustees will be Kentucky Baptists, that Georgetown students will remain eligible for KBC-funded scholarships and that the KBC and Georgetown will continue to jointly fund a campus minister position.

The action comes one year after KBC messengers rejected a proposal to allow all four Kentucky Baptist college boards to include up to 25 percent of trustees who are not affiliated KBC churches. That was among recent decisions that prompted Georgetown’s board to revert to its pre-1942 status of naming its own trustees.

Prior to debate on the issue, KBC President Hershael York told messengers, “The way we conduct our business as Baptists says much about who we are. It is an act of worship, because we do it not in our own name, but in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…. I am asking that we conduct this affair in a God-honoring, Christ-like manner.”

Former KBC President Charles Barnes chaired the joint workgroup. Recounting Georgetown’s decision to establish a self-perpetuating board, he said KBC workgroup representatives “certainly regret that they are moving in this direction but we understand why they are. We want to be as supportive as good Baptists as we can as we move forward.”

Emphasizing that “the Kentucky Baptist Convention has never owned Georgetown College,” Barnes added, “In fact, Georgetown College is older than the Kentucky Baptist Convention and it was only in 1942 that the convention began electing trustees of Georgetown College…. The only question before us is how we will work through this four-year period” to phase out provisions of the current covenant agreement adopted in 1987.

Barnes noted that Georgetown officials affirmed their desire to have an ongoing relationship with the state convention. Although “they will no longer be an institution or agency of the convention as they are today,” Barnes said, “We want them to be part of our Baptist family…. We covenant together to work together as we can going forward to expand the Kingdom work in Kentucky.”

Georgetown President Bill Crouch emphasized that during dialogue with convention leaders, “the Spirit of God was felt in our meetings together and prevails even today.”

Acknowledging it was “a spirit I have not felt before in the Kentucky Baptist Convention,” Crouch added, “This spirit has opened the doors for conversations about all we hold in common and not what divides us…. The entire process has been above board and totally honest.”

While “some may view this agreement and proposal as a divorce,” Crouch said KBC leaders “join me in viewing it as a relationship of love and respect going forward.”

Describing the reasons for Georgetown’s decision to establish a self-perpetuating board, Crouch said “three strategic visions of Georgetown College” include becoming “nationally known as a superior liberal arts college,” seeking to “achieve Phi Beta Kappa, the highest academic ranking a college can achieve” and seeking to build a $100 million endowment within 10 years. The school currently has $28 million in endowment and $45 million in long-term debt.

Concerning Phi Beta Kappa status, Crouch said Georgetown will seek to achieve that goal while “remaining a Christian college, a rare occurrence in higher education today.”

Georgetown’s trustees believe “the best way to achieve this is through this proposal,” Crouch said. “We hope that you, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, will always want to have fellowship with Georgetown College and let us join forces with you in mission and ministry to advance the Kingdom of God.”

Opening the floor for debate, York explained that no amendments or substitute motions would be accepted. “Because this is an agreed partnership with another entity, to amend it is to nullify it,” he said. “Therefore only an up-or-down vote is in order.”

Darren Gaddis, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Corbin, described the dialogue with Georgetown as “Kentucky’s finest hour.”

“For the past 25 years, we’ve seen fighting going on in states all around us,” he noted. “Praise the Lord that most of that fighting has stayed out of the state of Kentucky.

“The truth is I’m tired of the fighting. I think it’s time for us to get our heads on straight and start focusing on what’s important.

“If they’re going anyway, let’s do the right thing,” he urged. “Let’s not fight. Let’s hug their neck, let them go their way and let’s pray God’s blessing on them.”

David Keuss, a messenger from Ninth and O Baptist Church in Louisville, said he opposed the proposal “because we are supporting a divorce.”

Since the current covenant agreement “allows them to leave voluntarily in four years, then we should allow them to do that,” he said. “But we should not support a divorce which is what we’re doing before the world.”

Corey Abney, pastor of Kings Baptist Church in Mount Washington, urged messengers to disagree “without being disagreeable.”

“I believe that as we affirm this motion, the world will see that our priority lies with leading people to Jesus Christ,” he said. “For the sake of our reputation and the reputation of the Lord Jesus Christ … I urge us to affirm this motion.”

The proposal was adopted on a show-of-ballots vote with only scattered opposition.

Crouch described the vote margin as “even more substantial than I had anticipated.” He said he hopes the KBC’s action “sends a national message to other conventions that this is something you don’t need to fight over.”

In other business, messengers adopted eight resolutions, including measures addressing gambling and the role of Christian parents in public education.

Declaring “our opposition to all types of gambling in our state,” the anti-gambling resolution warns that “the gambling industry preys on those who are poorest in our society” and that “gambling is a direct attack on the work ethic presented in Scripture.”

The resolution on public education is virtually identical to a measure adopted in June by Southern Baptist Convention messengers.

Emphasizing that “children have been entrusted to parents by the Lord and represent our nation’s future and our spiritual legacy,” the resolution states that “many negative influences are attempting to transform the moral foundation of the culture by reshaping the core values of our children, undermining historical truth, and promoting promiscuity, violence and other immoral behaviors.”

“Homosexual activists and their allies are devoting substantial resources and using political power to promote the acceptance among schoolchildren of homosexuality as a morally legitimate lifestyle,” the resolution adds. It urges parents and churches “to exercise their rights to investigate diligently the curricula, textbooks and programs in our community schools and to demand discontinuation of offensive materials and programs.”

Messengers adopted a 2006-2007 Cooperative Program budget of $23,562,000, a 2 percent increase over the current budget. Allocations include 64 percent for Kentucky Baptist ministries and 36 percent for Southern Baptist Convention causes, unchanged from the current allocation percentages.

The two-day meeting, which attracted 1,815 registered messengers, highlighted the theme, “Strengthening Every Church,” part of the KBC’s five-year “Kentucky Baptists Connect” emphasis. The Wednesday morning closing session featured seminars by Richard Blackaby on “Spiritual Preparation for Connecting People to Jesus Christ,” Art Murphy on “Taking Your Children’s Ministry to the Next Level” and Reggie McNeal on “Connecting Future Generations to Jesus Christ.”

Next year’s KBC annual meeting will be Nov. 14-15 at First Baptist Church of Bowling Green.

    About the Author

  • Trennis Henderson

    Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union). A Baptist journalist for more than 35 years, Henderson is a former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention newsjournal.

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