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Proposed representation change falls short at Ky. convention

LEXINGTON, Ky. (BP)–A constitutional change in the way churches gain representation to Kentucky Baptist Convention annual meetings failed to get the two-thirds majority vote needed for adoption Nov. 12.
A slim majority of messengers favored changing the KBC’s constitution to include the words “and/or other convention work” alongside “Cooperative Program.” However, the 298 to 271 vote fell far short of the two-thirds majority required.
Impetus for the change came from moderates who want to continue full participation in the KBC but don’t want to continue sending undesignated offerings to the Southern Baptist Convention. That led Bob Fox, pastor of West Point Baptist Church, Centertown, to propose a motion at last year’s annual meeting to substitute the words “convention’s work” for “Cooperative Program.”
The KBC’s committee on constitution and bylaws, which is charged with reviewing any proposed constitutional changes, offered a compromise wording that retained the words “Cooperative Program” while adding the reference to “convention work.”
Committee members and KBC President Floyd Price, an ex officio member of the committee, argued the compromise would benefit both moderates and conservatives. Not only would it have allowed moderates to give to the KBC without giving to the SBC, it would have allowed conservatives to give more money designated directly to the SBC without the KBC taking a percentage out.
The Cooperative Program is the KBC’s unified funding plan, which also feeds national Cooperative Program funding of SBC missions agencies, seminaries and other entities. Of undesignated money given by Kentucky Baptist churches to the Cooperative Program, 65 percent stays with Kentucky Baptist causes and 35 percent is sent to the SBC.
In the election of officers, KBC messengers chose three veteran Kentucky Baptist pastors who have served lengthy tenures in their current churches.
Gayle Toole was elected president in a race with Richard Oldham. Toole is pastor of Edgewood Baptist Church, Nicholasville. Oldham is pastor of Glendale Baptist Church, Bowling Green.
Toole received 642 votes (58 percent) to Oldham’s 463 (42 percent). Although not identified with Kentucky Baptist moderates and not running as a moderate candidate, Toole had been endorsed by leaders of the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship. He was widely considered to have drawn support from moderates and centrists in the convention.
Toole’s nomination had been announced months in advance by retired Lexington pastor Ted Sisk, and until the week of the convention he was the only publicly identified candidate.
Oldham was nominated by Mike Routt, pastor of Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church, Ashland, and a leader of Southern Baptist conservatives in Kentucky. One day earlier, Routt had been elected president of the Kentucky Baptist Pastors’ Conference after preaching a sermon in which he outlined five points of liberalism to identify those who disagree with the conservative turn of the national convention.
Other officers elected include Charles Midkiff, 20-year pastor of First Baptist Church, Greenville, first vice president, and Don Mantooth, 15-year pastor of First Baptist Church, Morehead, second vice president.
In other business, KBC messengers expressed opposition to gambling and partial-birth abortions as well as support for Louisiana’s new covenant marriage law and federal legislation intended to combat religious persecution worldwide.
The gambling and abortion issues were addressed through resolutions; the marriage and persecution issues were addressed by adopting motions from the floor requesting convention officials to write letters to specific elected officials.
The resolution on gambling originated with the KBC’s public affairs committee. It asks “all citizens of the commonwealth, all members of the Kentucky General Assembly and the governor … to protect our state from any expansion of gambling, including video lottery terminals, and to restrict the operations of all types of gambling currently provided in the commonwealth.”
The resolution on partial-birth abortions was presented by Rick Reeder of Mayfield. It was adopted with a small amount of opposition. A similar resolution was adopted at last year’s annual meeting.
This year’s resolution notes that messengers “reaffirmed the sanctity of life and registered opposition to abortion on demand in general (except where the life of the mother is clearly endangered) and partial-birth abortion in particular.”
The action on worldwide religious persecution originated with a motion by John Lawler of Louisville. His motion asked the KBC Executive Board to send a letter to U.S. senators Wendell Ford and Mitch McConnell asking them to vote in favor of the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act currently under consideration in Congress.
The motion on covenant marriage originated with Steve Treats of Paducah. He explained that the state of Louisiana recently adopted a two-track option for marriage licenses, with one being called “covenant marriage.” Couples who choose the covenant marriage option agree to stricter terms regarding the possibility of ever getting a divorce and the means by which a divorce may be attained.
Treats’ motion asked that the KBC president write a letter to elected officials expressing support for adoption of a similar covenant marriage law in Kentucky.
Messengers also approved without discussion an agreement on future relationships between the KBC and Baptist Healthcare System.
In March 1996, BHS trustees notified the KBC that the hospital chain was exercising its right to end the covenant agreement between the KBC and BHS. The primary effect of that decision was to ensure that BHS in the future would elect all its own trustees. Under the covenant, the KBC has elected 75 percent of the 24-member BHS board.
Although the KBC no longer will elect trustees for the hospital system, system trustees have agreed that at least 75 percent of the board will always be Baptists. The board also has outlined provisions for what would happen to the system’s assets in the event BHS is sold or dissolved.
Although BHS was founded and funded in its early years by the KBC, in recent years the system has become virtually self-supporting financially, receiving only $5,000 per year from the KBC.
At the time the BHS board voted to end its covenant agreement with the KBC, the reasons given were to better position the system to confront “rapid changes taking place in health care” and “to protect its work from being undermined by the kinds of struggles taking place in other Baptist institutions.”
The latter was explained to be a reference to the successful efforts of conservatives in the national Southern Baptist Convention to gain control of SBC agencies and institutions and change their directions and philosophies. Although successful on the national level, such a movement has not occurred among the agencies and institutions of the KBC.

    About the Author

  • Mark Wingfield