LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)—The Kentucky Baptist Convention will cut ties with a small group of churches that remain dually aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a missions network that took steps earlier this year to allow the hiring of LGBT individuals for some staff positions.
Messengers to the Kentucky convention’s annual meeting voted Nov. 13 to accept a recommendation from its Credentials Committee, Administrative Committee and Mission Board to terminate affiliation with congregations that choose to remain a part of CBF.
Dually aligned churches will be given up to one year to comply before they are removed from the state convention’s list of affiliated congregations.
Messengers to the annual meeting debated the matter about 20 minutes before the motion passed overwhelmingly.
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, 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.”
CBF leaders respond
Bob Fox, CBF Kentucky executive coordinator, issued a statement in response to the state convention’s decision to end its relationship with dually aligned churches.
“The Baptist witness in our state and in the world is weaker because of this decision by the KBC today related to our collaboration for the sake of Christ,” Fox said. “Whenever the relationship between parts of the body of Christ are broken, it is a tragedy.”
Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of CBF, expressed gratitude to “our partner churches in Kentucky that send and support CBF missionaries bearing witness to Jesus Christ in 25 countries around the world.”
“Our Fellowship’s understanding of Baptist faith and practice is expressed by our emphasis on and steadfast commitment to freedom in biblical interpretation and local church autonomy,” she said. “We will never attempt to coerce or dictate decisions to our partner churches. We will, however, continue to invite and encourage individuals and churches to join us in living out the Great Commandment and Great Commission, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
State conventions react to CBF hiring policy change
Last year, Kentucky Baptist Convention messengers essentially put dually aligned churches on notice when they directed the Committee on Credentials to monitor the situation and return with a recommendation at this year’s annual meeting in Pikeville.
At the time, CBF was involved in what it called the Illumination Project, a “process of discernment” to find a way to address potentially divisive matters, such as issues related to human sexuality and gender identity.
Members of the Committee on Credentials contacted dually aligned congregations to ask if they were aware of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s new hiring policy and to ask if they intended to remain affiliated with the group. Some have broken ranks with the group, while others have not.
The Western Recorder, Kentucky Baptists’ newsjournal, reported the state convention’s move affects about 25 churches that have given financial support to the Kentucky Baptist Convention in the past two years and currently are supporting the CBF financially.
In early February, the CBF Governing Board adopted a revised hiring policy and implementation procedure that allows LGBT individuals to be considered for some staff positions. However, CBF requires candidates for ministry leadership posts and missions field personnel to practice a “traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man.”
In response to the revised hiring policy, the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board voted to revise its contribution forms to delete CBF as a recognized designated offering and to encourage any BGCT-affiliated churches that support CBF to send their contributions directly to the Fellowship. A few days later, the Baptist General Association of Virginia Executive Board took similar action.
With additional reporting by Managing Editor Ken Camp.