PADUCAH –Several members of the Kentucky Baptist Convention Mission Board had questions at Monday’s meeting about the KBC’s covenant relationship with Sunrise Children’s Services.
The board met in regular session at Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, host of today’s annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Sunrise Children’s Services is one of 10 KBC-affiliated agencies and institutions. The agency’s board of directors voted Nov. 8 to continue its practice of excluding gays and lesbians as potential employees. In August, Sunrise’s president, Bill Smithwick, recommended that the board reverse the practice as a pre-emptive move to hang onto state and government funding.
Sunrise Children’s Services, formerly Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, provides care for about 2,000 children annually through an array of programs located throughout Kentucky. About $1 million of its $26 million budget comes from Kentucky Baptists who contribute through the Cooperative Program, an annual Thanksgiving Offering and direct gifts.
The remaining $25 million comes to Sunrise from government funding.
“Kentucky Baptists have been clear about how they feel about the truth of Scripture,” said KBC Executive Director-Treasurer Paul Chitwood, noting that he and KBC President Dan Summerlin were inundated with phone calls and email messages from pastors and church members pledging to contact Sunrise leadership to encourage them to hold fast to the biblical foundations upon which the ministry was founded.
“We celebrate the courage and conviction of the (Sunrise) board of trustees,” Chitwood said. “We do feel that the vote was swayed by the overwhelming response of Kentucky Baptists.”
Chitwood also told mission board members that “we understand the difficulty of this position (for Sunrise)” in taking a stand that, if sustained, could very well cost them government funding in the future.
Currently, Sunrise is under no outside pressure to change its hiring practice.
DaWayne Capps of Bowling Green asked what the vote was among the Sunrise board.
Chitwood replied that prior to the vote on the hiring practice, directors passed a confidentiality rule that prohibits them from discussing board matters outside the group.
Walter Davis of Glasgow asked what was expected of agencies and institutions in keeping the convention informed of their actions.
According to the covenant agreements, Chitwood said, agencies and institutions were required to report to the mission board and the convention annually.
Mike Jones of Marion asked if Smithwick was still on the agenda to speak at today’s meeting. Chitwood said yes, adding that he, Summerlin and Smithwick were scheduled to meet before the start of the meeting.
A relationship with a former covenant institution, Georgetown College, also was discussed at Monday’s meeting.
Board members agreed with the KBC Administrative Committee to send to messengers today a recommendation to end the partnership agreement with the college.
The recommendation was tabled for one year by the mission board prior to the 2012 annual meeting in Lexington when former Georgetown College President Bill Crouch announced his retirement.
The recommendation reads:
“In these days of limited resources and a more focused ministry assignment, Kentucky Baptists are choosing to invest Christian education resources, energies and attention on our institutions that are in covenant agreement with the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Therefore the KBC will terminate its ministry partnership with Georgetown College pursuant to the memorandum of understanding between the parties dated Nov. 15, 2005. Upon expiration of the ministry partnership, the KBC will no longer maintain a partnership agreement with Georgetown College, which elected to terminate its Covenant Agreement with the KBC in 2005. We appreciate the Baptist foundation of Georgetown College and offer our prayers for their endeavors to serve Christ and His Kingdom.”
At the college’s request, the covenant relationship with the KBC concluded in 2009. The partnership agreement was meant to maintain ties, but in 2010, a special committee of Kentucky Baptists found that Georgetown had strayed from the agreement.
Daryl Cornett of Hazard asked Chitwood what the impact to Georgetown College would be if the partnership concluded.
Chitwood said that some funds managed by the Kentucky Baptist Foundation might be unavailable to Georgetown if the partnership ends because those funds are designated for KBC educational institutions. Cooperative Program support to Georgetown College concluded in 2009.
Responding to a question from another mission board member, Chitwood said his recent meeting with Georgetown College President Dwaine Greene was cordial and that Chitwood assured him that the “door was always open” should Georgetown wish to again enter into a covenant relationship with the KBC, and if the institution’s leaders would be willing to meet the expectations of the covenant.
In their meeting, Greene asked if there might be other opportunities for KBC and Georgetown to serve together. Chitwood invited him to call any time to discuss those ideas.
In other business:
The board approved a recommendation from the KBC Administrative Committee that could permit the Kentucky Baptist Foundation to retain funds from undesignated bequests to the foundation.
With Monday’s action, the mission board grants permission to the Kentucky Baptist Foundation board to bring the recommendation to messengers today as an amendment to the foundation’s articles of incorporation.
According to Kentucky Baptist Foundation President Barry Allen, undesignated bequests are uncommon, but if messengers approve the change to the foundation’s articles of incorporation, a bequest given directly to the foundation and not earmarked for a specific church or ministry can be used by the foundation to support its work.
In presenting the proposal to the mission board, KBC Administrative Committee Chairman Adam Greenway said that all other state Baptist foundations, and the Southern Baptist Foundation, have always had the right to retain undesignated bequests for their work.
“The foundation appreciates the action of the mission board today,” Allen said.
- The mission board approved the budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which will proceed to convention messengers for final approval today.
- The Nominating Committee of the Mission Board, which assigns mission board members to the standing committees, has been renamed the “Placement Committee of the Mission Board.” The change was made to avoid confusion with the Kentucky Baptist Convention Committee on Nominations, which appoints Kentucky Baptists to serve as trustees on the mission board and on the boards of the 10 affiliated agencies and institutions.
- The board approved changes to the policy regarding the conduct of mission board staff members. Summerlin, Chitwood and Greenway emphasized that the changes in the policy were not in response to any misconduct, or alleged misconduct, by staff. Instead, the revision was meant to make the policy more clear.
For information on today’s annual meeting, visit www.kybaptist.org.