2018 Year in Review

Executive departs for IMB, WMU leader named, university cut ties, CBF churches dismissed

By Todd Deaton

Published: January 8, 2019

LOUISVILLE—Kentucky Baptists saw their executive director elected president of the International Mission Board and welcomed a new Woman's Missionary Union leader in 2018. They also cut ties with their university and dismissed churches that were also affiliated with an alternative missions network.

Here are the top headlines for Kentucky Baptists during the past year:

IMB: Chitwood 'God's next leader' for entity—Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, was elected unanimously as the 13th president of the International Mission Board on Nov. 15. "Being a member of this board (of trustees) for eight years changed my ministry, and it changed my life—so much so that Michelle and I questioned whether God had called us to overseas missions during our time on the board. But wrestling with that call, it became clear that God's call on our lives was to be mobilizers of the mission and of the missionaries. And what an incredible privilege it is to have that role, to be able to now see the culmination of that role by sharing in the work of the IMB and leading the IMB. It is overwhelming to us, and it is such a blessing to us."

Kentucky WMU elects Encinia as new executive director—Elizabeth (Liz) Encinia, missional lifestyle strategist of WMU of Texas, was unanimously elected executive director-treasurer of Kentucky Woman's Missionary Union by the group's Executive Board during a special called meeting, Aug. 18, in Louisville. Encinia succeeds Joy Bolton, who has served as executive director-treasurer of Kentucky WMU for the past 19 years. Encinia, who began her new role on Oct. 15, was presented to the board by a search committee appointed last December following Bolton's announcement of her intentions to retire.

KBC, Cumberlands take steps to end covenant agreement—The University of the Cumberlands worked with Kentucky Baptist Convention leaders to take steps to dissolve their voluntary covenant agreement. The proposal, which was approved by messengers at the KBC annual meeting in Pikeville, provided for UC to elect its own trustees. As a show of appreciation and good will toward the KBC, Cumberlands is making a $1 million gift toward the convention's church planting efforts. UC also returned nearly $350,000 in Cooperative Program funds received during the current fiscal year.

Ky. Baptists cut ties with dually aligned churches—The Kentucky Baptist Convention cut ties with a small group of churches that remain dually aligned with a missions network that took steps earlier last year to allow the hiring of LGBT staff members. Messengers to the KBC annual meeting in Pikeville accepted a recommendation from its Credentials Committee, the Administrative Committee and the Mission Board to terminate affiliation with congregations that choose to remain a part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. 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 other 2018 headlines:

Fire destroys activities center at Sunrise campus—Flames were shooting through the roof of the Sunrise Children's Services activity center at its Danville campus when local firefighters arrived on Jan. 19. "God was watching out for us," said Dale Suttles, president of Sunrise Children's Services. "We were blessed that no one was in the activity center at the time."

The Advocate-Messenger/Robin Hart

Sunrise's activity center in Danville was completely destroyed by fire on Jan. 19.

Ky. leader & pastors minister amid shooting aftermath—A school shooting in Benton provided Baptist leader Paul Chitwood and local pastors an extraordinary opportunity for ministry Jan. 23 among families of the two students killed and 18 others injured in the shootings at Marshall County High School." All the children have been traumatized," Chitwood said at the time. "They saw their friends shot. They had to run for their lives. We need to pray for healing and pray for the community and churches as they come together to minister to the families."

Church security draws 1,000-plus for training in Ky.—Concern for church safety drew more than 1,000 leaders for training offered at the Kentucky Baptist Convention's Church Security Conference on March 24. "Every church must think about church security in today's world," said Steve Rice, the convention's team leader who organized the training event at Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort. "Every church should have a comprehensive church security plan and a church security team in place," both of which would go largely unnoticed by members of a congregation.

Ky. lawmakers pass adoption, foster care bill—The Kentucky Senate unanimously passed the top House priority, a comprehensive adoption and foster care reform bill that changes the way foster care and adoption are handled in the state to better benefit children. The House concurred on a 90-1 vote. "These landmark reforms will transform social services in Kentucky, positively affecting the lives of countless children while also adding more oversight and accountability to those overseeing foster care and adoption," said Rep. David Meade, an adoptive father who serves as House Majority Caucus Chairman. 

Disaster Relief award recipient following what God says 'I need to do'—A Kentucky man who receive national recognition for helping thousands of people affected by last year's devastating hurricanes says he was just doing what God told him to do. Chris Cropp, a member of First Baptist Church of Fisherville, was presented the Distinguished Service Award from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief for his selfless service to others. "Chris is a servant leader who loves Christ and has a heart to help those devastated by disaster, said Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief Director Coy Webb.

Southern Baptists stepping up efforts to help in Appalachia—Southern Baptists, reacting to the stark conditions, are stepping up their efforts to help residents by opening an Appalachia Ministry Center that will distribute food and other supplies throughout the central Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and southern Ohio. Send Relief, an arm of the North American Mission Board, opened the Ashland-based ministry center so that Southern Baptists will have a base from which to get help to the needy in the region. The first major initiative saw volunteers pack more than 170,000 meals in April to be distributed through-out Appalachia.

Two Kentuckians serve on IMB presidential search committee—International Mission Board President David Platt reiterated his desire that the 173-year-old missions agency stay on course for taking the gospel to the darkest, hardest-to-reach places while trustees searched for his successor. Two Kentucky Baptists were among those named to a 16-person committee to find his replacement: David Sills, professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of Ninth & O Baptist Church in Louisville; and Susan Bryant, state WMU president and a member of Graefenburg Baptist Church in Waddy.

Howerton named Crossings' new president—Lance Howerton, interim president of Crossings Ministries, was elevated to president of the Kentucky Baptist youth outreach ministry known for its popular summer camp programs. Howerton, a graduate of Campbellsville University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, brings more than 27 years of experience in camp ministry, recently as Crossings vice president of operations for the past two years. Prior to joining Crossings, he served as director of operations for Lifeway Kids, director of children's training and events, and managing director of Fuge Camps.

10,000 baptisms: Pastor sets milestone—Pastor Steve Ayers reached a milestone that has Christians across the state taking notice: 10,000 baptisms since he arrived at Hillvue Heights Church. Since becoming pastor of the Bowling Green congregation in 1991, Ayers has seen the church grow from 30 people into a megachurch where 5,000 people regularly attend Sunday morning services. Hillvue Heights consistently leads the state in baptisms and is the only church that consistently tops 500 per year.

LifeWay begins search for new president—LifeWay Christian Resources trustees began the initial steps to search for a successor to President and CEO Thom Rainer during their August meeting in Nashville. Named to a seven-person search committee to find LifeWay's next leader was Bill Langley, pastor of Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown and a former KBC president.

4 trucks with DR equipment head to Carolinas & Va.—Chainsaws, generators and other equipment and supplies were loaded onto four semi-trailer trucks in September ahead of Hurricane Florence at Southern Baptists' Appalachian Ministry Center near Cannonsburg. Rob Allen, director of the center, said the ministry of the North American Mission Board's Send Relief arm—was coming alongside state Baptist conventions in North and South Carolina and Virginia to help with hurricane relief. Volunteers, many of whom are disaster relief workers from northeastern Kentucky, put together dozens of "pastor packets" that included chainsaws, generators, fuel, water filters, gloves, goggles, extension cords, work lights and power strips.

Kentucky Baptists' Cooperative Program giving tops $22.6 million for missions—Kentucky Baptists gave more than $22.6 million dollars over the past year through the Cooperative Program to support missionaries and ministries taking the Gospel to the world. KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood called the level of giving "astounding." He said the giving amount was nearly $1 million more than the previous year and $650,000 more than had been budgeted. "I am continually amazed by the generosity of Kentucky Baptists when it comes to supporting missionaries who are working so diligently to share the good news of Christ in places that the average congregation wouldn't have the opportunity to reach working alone," he said.

Bolton honored for passionate work with WMU—Joy Bolton, champion of missionaries everywhere, stepped down as leader of Kentucky Woman's Missionary Union after 19 years. She was honored at a retirement reception for her selfless leadership and unwavering promotion of missions education in Kentucky Baptist churches. "She has been a blessing to Kentucky, a blessing to the kingdom and a great partner of the Kentucky Baptist Convention," said Executive Director Paul Chitwood. "It's never been about Joy," he said. "It's been about her Savior and His commission to the church. She has lived and served to that end."

Thousands gather in Pikeville for Hope for the Mountains crusade—Thousands of people gathered in Pikeville on Sunday, Nov. 11, for what was perhaps the largest religious crusade ever in central Appalachia, an economically depressed region where the scourge of drug abuse has broken families and filled jails. Aware of the hopelessness many people are feeling, the KBC organized the Hope for the Mountains crusade, an effort to trigger a spiritual revival in the mountains. The crusade featured evangelist Jon Reed from Georgia and The Jason Lovins Band.

Chitwood gives farewell address to Ky. Baptists—Paul Chitwood, who was anticipating being elected president of the International Mission Board on Nov. 15, shared what would become his last address to Kentucky Baptists as executive director. Chitwood recalled some faithful men who shared the good news of Jesus with his family when he was a boy. "Those deacons didn't have any way of knowing that ... there was a 5-year-old boy who needed to be invited to church so he could one day become the IMB president," Chitwood said. "And I don't know whether a future president of the KBC or SBC or IMB is out there on a hillside, in a holler, on a farm, in a subdivision, a trailer park, or a government project waiting to be reached," he added. "But what I do know is that there are millions of lost people out there waiting to be reached. And I do know that the Lord of the Harvest has called us to the fields. To the fields we must go."

KBC names Woods, Donnell co-interim exec. directors—Two top assistants to outgoing KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood will serve together as interim leaders of the organization while a search committee works to find Chitwood's successor. The KBC Administrative Committee appointed Curtis Woods, associate executive director for convention relations, and Jim Donnell, associate executive director for convention operations, to serve as co-interim executive directors. A 15-member search team, representing every region of the state, was appointed, and Tom James, pastor of Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green, was selected as chairman. (WR)