Campbellsville, KBC leaders discuss partnership
A proposed partnership agreement would allow the historically Baptist school and Kentucky Baptists to work together apart from funding and election of trustees.
By Bob Allen
A month after airing public criticism of each other, representatives of Campbellsville University and the Kentucky Baptist Convention are talking again about continuing to work together following the school’s move to a self-perpetuating board of trustees.
Leaders of both groups exchanged kind words after a meeting Aug. 13 about a new partnership agreement that would allow the university and Kentucky Baptists to work together on shared ministry and mission ventures not tied to denominational funding.
In pulling out of their 1986 covenant agreement with Kentucky Baptists, Campbellsville trustees voluntarily surrendered about $1 million a year in funding from the statewide affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, about 2 percent of the university’s $57 million budget. In return, the old agreement gave the KBC “the right and responsibility in the selection and orientation” of the school’s 44-member board of trustees.
KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood criticized the move in a letter July 11 to the state convention’s Mission Board. Campbellsville’s trustee chair responded with a statement reporting “significant deterioration” in ongoing relations with current Kentucky Baptist leaders in recent days.
According to the Western Recorder, the state convention’s news journal, the two sides smoothed out differences in a meeting Aug. 9.
“We are hopeful that a new agreement can be reached as partners in mission and ministry so that we are able to partner together for the cause of Christ,” Campbellsville President Michael Carter told the newspaper.
“While the university’s future relationship with Kentucky Baptists will probably look different than the past, I truly believe we can walk forward supportive of one another and engaging in a ministry partnership that will advance the kingdom in Kentucky and to the ends of the earth,” Chitwood wrote in a blog post dated Aug. 10.
The two sides met again, after Campbellsville trustees endorsed the idea Aug. 12.
“We have enjoyed our association with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and remain grateful for the KBC’s support to our school and its students,” Campbellsville board chairman Joseph Owens said in a press release. “The time has come for us to reaffirm Campbellsville University’s historic nature as a Christ-centered institution of higher learning with a strong Baptist affiliation and identity.”
The press release, issued jointly by both organizations, said state convention leaders regret the university’s desire to no longer allow Kentucky Baptists to choose the university’s trustees but respect the university’s right to do so and recognize fundraising and governance challenges leading up to the decision.
“Campbellsville has a tremendous heritage and a unique role in Christian education in south-central Kentucky and beyond,” Chitwood said. “CU President Dr. Michael Carter pledges to maintain the university’s commitment to a Christian worldview and to preparing students to serve Christ’s Kingdom. I rejoice in that commitment and pray much success for the university.”
Last year Kentucky Baptists severed ties with another historically Baptist school, Georgetown College, citing the school’s decision to adopt a more ecumenical Christian identity less sectarian than Baptist.
Also in 2013, the state convention investigated reports that Campbellsville terminated one professor for being too conservative, while keeping others who teach evolution and believe the Bible contains errors.
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