Published January 8, 2019
During our December trustee meeting, I made an offhand remark that "we've been through a lot together." In the 10 years since I became editor, "much, indeed, has changed," I added. My observation drew an unexpected chuckle. They evidently thought it something of an understatement. Looking back, here's a cursory overview of some Baptist happenings that Western Recorder covered in the past decade:
• Around 9,000 Southern Baptists descended on Louisville in 2009 for the SBC annual meeting, held in the city in recognition of Southern Seminary's sesquicentennial. Messengers approved the formation of a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force to determine how "Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ …." At their own annual meeting, Kentucky Baptists also approved the formation of a similar task force to examine the efficiency of their state convention.
A pair of SBC entity leaders announced retirements. IMB President Jerry Rankin left the post he had held for nearly 18 years, and Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, stepped down.
• SBC messengers overwhelmingly adopted the GCR Task Force's report in 2010, the crux of which was aimed at sending more money to international missions efforts to bolster their dwindling missionary force. Little more than two months later, the Kentucky task force released its report, calling for a move to a 50-50 allocation of CP funds between state and national conventions within seven years.
Bill Mackey, KBC executive director for nearly 13 years, retired in May. Mackey's tenure was marked by a strong emphasis on evangelism, missions and church planting. Louisville pastor Kevin Ezell was tapped as president of the North American Mission Board, and Frank Page, of South Carolina, was chosen to lead the SBC Executive Committee.
• In 2011, as the state convention moved toward a 50-50 CP split, the KBC Administrative Committee began a downsizing of the Mission Board's staff. In June, Paul Chitwood, pastor of First Baptist Church of Mt. Washington, was elected as executive director.
Oklahoma pastor Tom Elliff took the IMB's helm, and Fred Luter, of New Orleans, was elected first vice president of the SBC. He would become the denomination's first African-American president when the SBC met in his home city the following year.
• The KBC Mission Board embraced a reorganization plan in 2012 to sharpen focus of KBC staff into three areas: church consulting and revitalization, evangelism and church planting, and missions mobilization. In a called meeting in June, Mission Board members approved several key staff leaders, including Curtis Woods, former campus minister at Kentucky State University, for associate executive director for convention relations and communications. In November, KBC messengers approved fast-tracking the move to reach a 50-50 split in CP funds.
In March, attention focused on the massive destruction caused in West Liberty by deadly tornadoes that ripped across eastern Kentucky. More than 175 Kentucky Disaster Relief volunteers raced to help storm victims recover.
• Controversy erupted in 2013 when Kentucky Baptists learned that Sunrise Children's Services was considering changing its hiring practices to allow employment of homosexuals at the KBC-affiliated agency. In November, Sunrise's president, Bill Smithwick, received a vote of "no confidence" at the KBC annual meeting in Paducah, subsequently leading to his departure.
More than $700,000 in CP funding was shifted from Kentucky Baptist agencies and institutions to increase support for international missions, in keeping with a recommendation from a workgroup formed by Chitwood. The move was intended to enable Kentucky Baptists to reach their goal of equally dividing CP dollars with SBC causes seven years ahead of schedule. During 2013, Kentucky Baptists also topped the $750 million mark in total CP giving since 1925.
Among various transitions, Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary, was elected president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Adam Greenway, immediate past president of the KBC, was appointed dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern.
The KBC also ended a partnership arrangement forged in 2005 with Georgetown College after its trustees moved to establish a self-perpetuating board.
• La Grange pastor Tony Rose was appointed in 2014 as chair of a 23-member SBC advisory body comprised of church leaders and professionals in the mental health field, and David Platt, a Birmingham pastor, succeeded Elliff at the IMB.
Campbellsville University elected its own trustees, prompting the KBC to escrow CP funds. Convention officials declared that Campbellsville had "clearly chosen to remove itself" from partnership with the KBC. Meanwhile, Mid-Continent University in Mayfield, birthed by First Baptist Church of Clinton, closed its doors.
Kentucky Baptists exceeded expectations in a bucket project to help AIDS victims by sending more than $125,000 in hospice supplies to Sub-Saharan Africa. They brought more than 1,458 buckets to the annual meeting in Bowling Green, adding to the 2,000 buckets that they shipped earlier in the year.
• Kevin Smith, teaching pastor of Highview Baptist in Louisville and a Southern Seminary professor, made history in 2015 by becoming the first African-American elected as KBC president. Later, Smith was unanimously elected as executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network (Maryland-Delaware).
Kentucky Baptists implemented a three-pronged strategy—employing a lobbyist, a chaplain and a journalist—to give them more input in state political issues with moral and ethical implications.
The Woman's Missionary Union elected Linda Cooper, a Bowling Green hygienist, to serve as national president. She was the first Kentuckian ever elected to the post.
In October, David Melber, president of Crossings Ministries, was named senior vice president of Send Relief, a new compassion ministry of the North American Mission Board.
Two new agency leaders were elected: Dale Suttles, at Sunrise Children's Services, and Richard Carnes, at the Kentucky Baptist Foundation.
• As soon as the bill arrived in his office, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed an amendment to the state's informed consent law in 2016, making it the first pro-life measure enacted in 12 years.
National WMU President Linda Cooper named a search committee to select the SBC auxiliary's next leader, and she asked Joy Bolton, then executive director of Kentucky WMU, to be chairperson. And, Jeff Dalrymple, vice president of hospitality services at Southern Seminary, was selected to lead Crossings Ministries.
Nearly 6,000 people gathered on the state capital lawn to pray together and hear Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Association, in connection with his "Decision America" tour.
An estimated 5,100 DR volunteers from 23 states, including Kentucky, were deployed following historic flooding in Louisiana in which 61,000 homes and 75 churches were damaged. Later, Kentucky DR trucks rolled into North Jacksonville following Hurricane Matthew.
Kentucky Baptists far exceeded projections for the fiscal year, giving more than $22.3 million and surpassing their CP goal by more than $1 million.
• A Paintsville Baptist, Marlana VanHoose, sang at the presidential inaugural concert in 2017. VanHoose, who has limited mobility due to cerebral palsy, later made an appearance at the KBC annual meeting in November.
Hundreds of pro-life Kentuckians gathered in Frankfort to watch Gov. Bevin ceremonially sign two pro-life bills—one banning late-term abortions; the other requiring the viewing of an ultrasound.
An August eclipse, the first over the U.S. since the 1970s, gave HR Ministries, a Princeton-based outreach, an opportunity to host a three-day festival, featuring food, vendor booths, music and a 5K run. Meanwhile, an eastern Kentucky church, Campton Baptist, became one of the first congregations to embrace solar power.
Kentucky Disaster Relief served more than 78,000 meals in response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Nineteen Kentuckians also worked on the tiny Caribbean island of St. Thomas.
As the year ended, the Mission Board heard plans to merge its Business and Finance team with the Executive Office team, reducing the number of ministry teams from five to four.
(For 2018's highlights, see our story on page 1.)
I'm no prophet, but I think it's safe to say big changes are ahead in the coming decade for Kentucky Baptists … and for the Western Recorder. This, too, may prove to be an understatement. Stay tuned.
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