LOUISVILLE—The Kentucky Baptist Convention Mission Board heard a report from Dale Suttles Dec. 10, a former development staff member for Sunrise Children’s Services who was appointed interim president of the KBC-affiliated agency by its board Nov. 26.
The mission board met in regular session Dec. 9-10 at the Kentucky Baptist Building in Louisville.
“There’s a reason I’m here at this time,” Suttles told the mission board during the Agencies & Institutions Committee report. “I want to take this organization and I want to make it better and to make it whole.”
On Nov. 12, messengers to the 176th Annual Meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention in Paducah overwhelmingly passed a symbolic vote of no confidence in the leadership of Sunrise’s president, Bill Smithwick.
The vote was in response to Smithwick’s request to the Sunrise Children’s Services Board of Directors to change a longtime hiring practice at the former Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children that would permit the hiring of gays and lesbians.
Smithwick told the board that the move was pre-emptive action to sustain the millions of dollars in taxpayer funding that Sunrise receives each year to care for children removed from their homes by the state because of abuse, neglect and other crises.
On Nov. 8, following an outpouring of vocal concern from Kentucky Baptists that Sunrise maintain its biblical values, the Sunrise Board of Directors rejected Smithwick’s recommendation.
A 25-year employee of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass, Suttles joined the Sunrise staff in January 2012. He said he has told his fellow Sunrise employees that the agency will become even stronger and better “if we go hand in hand” with Kentucky Baptists.
Established in 1869 as a Louisville orphanage primarily for children displaced by the Civil War, Sunrise today cares for approximately 2,000 children annually through residential care, foster care and other programs located around the commonwealth.
Kentucky Baptists provide about $1 million to Sunrise by gifts made through the Cooperative Program and support of the Thanksgiving Offering, Mile of Pennies, Food Roundup and other direct giving.
Messengers to the KBC Annual Meeting appoint members to the boards of 10 affiliated agencies and institutions, including Sunrise.
KBC Executive Director-Treasurer Paul Chitwood said he is encouraged by the cooperative spirit among the current Sunrise board. He told the KBC Mission Board that the Sunrise directors are committed to biblical values, a gospel witness and “being Baptist.
“I feel like we have the right people leading Sunrise for this season,” Chitwood added.
Originally from Olive Hill and a graduate of Morehead State University, Suttles told the mission board that he and his wife have a 15-year-old son with Asperger’s Syndrome—their own “Sunrise kid.”
Suttles noted that gifts to this year’s Thanksgiving Offering supporting Sunrise are “coming in slowly,” possibly because of the recent controversy. Chitwood issued a challenge to board members.
“Go back to your church and tell them what assurances you heard today,” he said. “And ask them to make a sacrificial gift to Sunrise.”
Online giving is available via Sunrise’s website.
Following Suttles’ report, a mission board member asked Chitwood about Smithwick’s status at Sunrise. Chitwood said that because of the confidentiality of ongoing negotiations, he could not comment but to say that the board wanted to be “respectful of Dr. Smithwick.”
The KBC Mission Board also heard reports from Crossings Ministries, Oneida Baptist Institute and the Kentucky Baptist Foundation during its meeting.
After hearing that CP receipts for the past three months have been ahead of last year’s receipts, board members approved recommendations from its finance committee on the distribution of funds remaining from fiscal year 2012-13.
Unspent budget funds totaled $563,050. An additional $52,450 remained from short-term interest funds.
From that $615,500 total, the board approved setting aside $365,500 as income for KBC’s ongoing transition to share Cooperative Program gifts equally with Southern Baptist causes, and in response to reduced funding from the North American Mission Board.
The remaining $250,000 will be distributed as follows:
- $15,000 for ministers in need
- $20,000 for communications/media equipment
- $15,000 for unlimited partnerships project
- $30,000 for computer software development
- $2,500 for staff wellness emphasis
- $67,500 for repairs to the exterior wall of the Kentucky Baptist Building
- $75,000 for replacement and repair at Kentucky Baptist Campus Ministry facilities
- $25,000 for computer equipment
Also approved was the transfer of $9,906 for Executive Office Team special projects from the concluded Equestrian Ministries and More for Christ missions study report initiatives.