Paul Chitwood Gives Farewell Address to Kentucky Baptists

Kentucky Baptist Convention President Charles Frazier thanks Executive Director Paul Chitwood for his service to the state. Photo by Robin Cornetet/Kentucky Today

Messengers to the Annual Meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention approved dissociating with congregations that are also part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, broke ties with a university and adopted a $22 million Cooperative Program budget goal.

Paul Chitwood, who is expected to be elected president of the International Mission Board on Thursday (Nov. 15), also shared what may have been his last address to Kentucky Baptists as executive director.

With the theme “Bring Good News,” the KBC annual meeting convened on Nov. 13 at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center, marking the first time Kentucky Baptists have met in the Appalachian city of Pikeville.

Ties cut with dually aligned churches

The 669 registered messengers approved a recommendation from the KBC’s Committee on Credentials declaring churches contributing to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will no longer be considered “in cooperation” with the state convention.

KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood said the move by messengers should be seen as “a call to those congregations to safeguard biblical teaching and maintain their historic relationships, understanding that the Bible speaks clearly on the issue of homosexuality and that they would not want to support groups that embrace unscriptural lifestyles.”

In February, the Fellowship’s Governing Board struck down its hiring policy prohibiting their “purposeful hiring of a staff person or the sending of a missionary who is a practicing homosexual.”

From the Committee on Credentials’ view, congregations that continue to remain dually aligned are now supporting an LGBT affirming network and funding the employment of LGBT persons.

The committee’s motion, which was endorsed earlier by members of the KBC’s Administrative Committee and Mission Board, was adopted overwhelmingly after approximately 20 minutes of discussion that included an unsuccessful move to table it indefinitely.

KBC officials and committee members have been in contact with about 25 congregations that were contributing to both groups to determine if they planned to continue supporting CBF. And the action now could potentially affect about a dozen remaining churches, Chitwood reported. Dually-aligned churches will be given up to a year to comply before being removed from the KBC’s list of affiliated congregations.

Ties with university dissolved

Messengers also approved a recommendation from the Mission Board to dissolve the KBC’s Covenant Agreement with the University of the Cumberlands, effectively severing their formal ties and allowing the Williamsburg university to begin electing its own trustees.

This past summer, university officials approached convention leaders and the KBC Administrative Committee to request the modification to the 1986 Covenant Agreement between the convention and university.

Cumberlands requested the covenant change to be able to appoint alumni and friends to its Board of Trustees who are members of other Christians denominations and who could provide expertise and resources for the university, according to university officials.

The Administrative Committee, however, decided that “it wasn’t in the best interest to maintain a formal agreement with the university if the KBC had no voice in the selection of its trustees.” Currently, all trustees for the university are elected by the KBC.

“University of the Cumberlands is grateful to the KBC for our many years of shared ministry and for the generous support of Kentucky Baptists,” President Larry Cockrum stated earlier. “Cumberlands remains committed to fulfilling its mission as a Baptist institution encouraging intellectual and spiritual growth, leadership, and service through educational programs enriched with Christian values.”

As a gesture of appreciation and goodwill toward the KBC, Cumberlands offered to make a $1 million gift for its church planting efforts. The university also was asked to return nearly $350,000 in Cooperative Program funds received during the current fiscal year.

The KBC action breaks its relationship with the last remaining university supported through an allocation in the KBC’s Cooperative Program budget. In 2005, Georgetown College asked to sever its covenant agreement so it could elect its own trustees, and Campbellsville University moved to create a self-perpetuating board in 2014.

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Source: Baptist Press