Frankfort—On his first day in office, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin asserted his evangelical convictions with a morning worship service Dec. 8 hosting an estimated crowd of 1,500 and an inaugural clergy that included leaders from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler Jr. and Hershael York, professor of Christian preaching at Southern Seminary and senior pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, were among the 11-member clergy.
A businessman who never before held political office, Bevin won Kentucky’s gubernatorial election in November over Democratic nominee Jack Conway. He becomes only the second Republican governor for Kentucky in four decades.
Mohler joined Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport of The Temple in Louisville and Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of the Archdiocese of Louisville as the clergy participating in the swearing in ceremony on the Capitol steps. Delivering the invocation, Mohler asked God for “daily guidance and protection upon our new Governor Matt Bevin, and upon our first lady Glenna Bevin, and upon their beautiful family.”
In his first public address as governor, Bevin focused less on policy and instead challenged Kentuckians to embrace the Golden Rule and practice unity. Bevin, who in 2012 endowed the seminary’s Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization, urged constituents to “treat our Commonwealth with respect” and to “go the extra mile” in serving other people.
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“Let’s change the discourse. Let us treat one another in a way that rises above partisanship, because Kentucky is better than that,” said Bevin, who also served as a U.S. Army captain. Remarking on how he prays for his children to have wisdom and courage, Bevin said he is now praying for Kentuckians to have those qualities as the state seeks a “fresh start.”
The historic event also marked another kind of fresh start for Kentucky with the swearing in of the first African-American to hold statewide office, Lieutenant-Governor Jenean Hampton. Hampton was raised in the inner city of Detroit and compared her rise from poverty to political leadership to an astronaut launching into space. Like Bevin, Hampton is a military veteran, having served in the Air Force.
Bevin’s evangelical convictions were made even clearer earlier in the morning with the worship service at the Frankfort Convention Center. York offered the welcoming remarks at the service, saying Bevin is “the governor of people of all faiths, or no faith, but he is unquestionably, openly, confessionally a man of deep faith, specifically a faith in Jesus Christ.”
Beneath the undulated rhythms of election cycles and legislative sessions lies fixed a bedrock of human rights that have been endowed by the Creator,” York said. “Among those is an absolute freedom of religious liberty that guarantees, wherever the pendulum of public opinion may presently swing, that any man or woman may choose to live out the convictions of conscience in the way of worship that expresses their heart of faith. In this, the first hours of the first day of a new administration, it is fitting and right to draw aside from the relentless pace and frenetic festivities of the day to acknowledge and worship the One who was granted those inalienable rights.”
The Kings Kids Choir at Buck Run also performed during the service.
Bevin is a member of Louisville’s Southeast Christian Church, one of the nation’s largest churches, and the service featured three of its pastors. In his message at the worship event, Bob Russell, Southeast’s pastor emeritus, called for those in attendance at the worship to service to “make a pledge to pray for Matt (Bevin) every day.” Russell said wisdom is the most important virtue in a leader and it is important for Kentucky’s governor to know he has “God’s people standing behind him, praying for him every day.”
Prior to Russell’s message, Southeast teaching pastor and bestselling author Kyle Idleman read to the audience Brittiney Bevin’s “dangerous prayer.” Idleman said when he participated in the funeral of Bevin’s eldest daughter 12 years ago, “the more I learned about Brittiney, the more her life inspired me.”
The prayer, recorded in Brittiney’s prayer journal shortly before her fatal accident, is displayed in the seminary’s Bevin Center, which is named in her honor. It includes references to Brittiney’s aspiring missionary endeavors, saying: “Please fill me with your wisdom, that I won’t just watch others suffer, but that I’ll be able to say what they need to hear. As a new week approaches, my dangerous prayer is that you’ll place brokenhearted people in my path and fill me with you so that I can let your love heal their pain.”
At the official midnight swearing in ceremony preceding inaugural festivities, Bevin used Brittiney’s Bible opened to Micah 6:8. In the public ceremony, Bevin used a personal Bible he received from Glenna and Brittiney. (SBTS)