Chitwood: Kentucky Baptists remain unified in age of division, strife
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Kentucky Baptists remain committed to working together for the cause of reaching Kentucky and the world for Christ, the leader of the state’s largest religious group said Monday.
“Thankfully, there’s no indication of a waning devotion to this cause,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Evidence, in fact, points to the contrary, as Kentucky Baptists are pulling together and doing more in a day and age when polarization, strife, and division seem to characterize just about every facet of life.”
Chitwood said the unified voice of Kentucky Baptists paid off in the state Capitol in the last legislative session when lawmakers passed a bill banning an especially barbaric abortion procedure that involves dismembering unborn babies and bringing them out of the womb piece by piece.
Lawmakers also passed legislation endorsed by Kentucky Baptists that reduces wait times for adoption, creates greater accountability for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, removes some of the bureaucracy from the system, and increases pay for social workers who work with these vulnerable children.
Kentucky Baptist leaders had passed a resolution at last fall’s annual meeting calling on lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment giving crime victims important rights, including notifications of upcoming court hearings and notifications if the accused is being released from custody. Lawmakers approved that amendment, which will appear on the ballot this fall to be ratified or rejected by Kentucky voters.
Also worthy of note, Chitwood said, is legislation that would have legalized casino gambling didn’t pass. Kentucky Baptists had opposed the legislation. Pro-gambling interests proposed using tax revenue from casinos to shore up pension systems for state workers and teachers, saying doing so could have generated hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Not only would the end result of funds in all likelihood been far less than that, the thinking is in error because the pro-gambling folks didn’t factor in the hundreds of millions of dollars state government would be out for government programs to help families broken by gambling addictions and to help children from those families,” Chitwood said. “Thankfully, none of the proposals gained traction.”
Chitwood said Kentucky witnessed perhaps the strongest push yet to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, saying taxes from legal sales could also help solve the state’s financial problems.
“Lawmakers wisely saw through that argument and stood their ground,” he said. “Our KBC Public Affairs Committee has taken the stand that the Food and Drug Administration, not politicians, should be the ones to determine which drugs are legal and permissible.”
Chitwood said people in other states have taken note of the unity among Kentucky Baptists who work together despite holding differences of opinion on some theological issues.
“Kentucky Baptists have always stuck together, acknowledged our differences, but remained committed to our mission,” he said. “And I thank God that hasn’t changed.”
One of the unifying factors in the KBC has been a willingness to take stands on issues to which the Bible speaks clearly while remaining charitable on issues open to interpretation.
“On the issue of homosexuality, Scripture speaks with clarity and so have Kentucky Baptists,” Chitwood said. “That’s why, after turning a blind eye toward two decades of the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship siphoning off missions dollars from dually aligned churches, the messengers at the KBC annual meeting last November voted to task the Committee on Credentials with studying whether churches supporting the KBF should be considered KBC cooperating churches. It’s not an issue of finances but an issue of biblical faithfulness.”
In February, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s governing board voted to allow LGBTQ applicants to be hired in the national office. “Several of the dually aligned churches have already broken ranks with the CBF and I’m certain more will,” Chitwood said. “Kentucky Baptists are ‘a people of the Book’ and aren’t willing to rewrite their Bibles for anyone.”
The Kentucky Baptist Convention Credentials Committee is recommending that the Mission Board vote to find churches “not in cooperation” if they’re dually aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
The Credentials Committee’s recommendation will go to the KBC Administrative Committee Monday evening and could potentially be voted on by the Mission Board on Tuesday.