The Kentucky Baptist Convention no longer welcomes churches that dually align with the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Just over 400 messengers at the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Pikeville, Kentucky, voted Tuesday to approve a motion that churches making either direct contributions or forward members’ funds to the 1,800-church Fellowship “be no longer considered cooperating affiliated churches” with the 2,400-church KBC.
The move comes in response to a decision by CBF leadership early this year to relax an outright ban on hiring sexual minorities. The new policy, result of 2-year study called the Illumination Project, still limits candidates for leadership roles to persons who “practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man.”
Credentials committee chairman Jeff Carlisle said the compromise violates an article in the Kentucky Baptist Convention constitution barring from membership churches that “act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”
“Churches that contribute to a missions network that is approving of homosexual behavior gives appearance of approving of such behavior,” said Carlisle, missions pastor at Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The convention, which in 2014 withdrew fellowship from Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville for announcing on its website it would consider performing same-sex weddings, will lose about two dozen churches that send funds to the KBF despite differences with views held by some of its leaders
Jim Holladay, pastor of Lyndon Baptist Church in Louisville, said his church decided to maintain relationships with all its denominational mission partners “until or unless one of them decides to disaffiliate with us.”
“As a congregation, we are committed to working with a variety of denominational mission partners, which include the Kentucky Baptist Convention,” Holladay said. “Without a doubt, we could find points of major disagreement with nearly all those groups of people, but our decision to enter into and maintain relationships with such a diverse group of partners rose out of our concern to bear witness to the reconciling love of God in Jesus Christ.”
The vote also affects St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, a 1,600-member congregation part of Kentucky Baptist life for 90 years.
“The Kentucky Baptist Convention had an opportunity to demonstrate to a divided nation that we do not have to agree on everything in order to love each other and partner together in carrying out the mission Jesus called us to,” said Senior Pastor Greg Barr. “Unfortunately, the Convention chose a different course.”
“Our church believes that unity and difference of opinion can co-exist in the service of our Lord,” Barr said in a statement.
Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Decatur, Georgia,-based CBF, said she is grateful for Kentucky churches that support CBF missionaries 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,” Paynter said in a statement. “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.”
Bob Fox, coordinator of CBF Kentucky, received the news that the state convention would no longer tolerate dual alignment “with great sadness.”
“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,” said Fox, a former pastor. “Whenever the relationship between parts of the body of Christ are broken it is a tragedy. The sadness is multiplied when that brokenness is based on and promulgated by a campaign of guilt by association, misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric that has division as the inevitable – and preferred – outcome.”
The ban on dual alignment applies to churches that support either CBF Global or CBF Kentucky, as well as those who allow individual members to designate their mission gifts to CBF causes.
Any member of such a church currently serving on a KBC board or committee is ineligible and “considered as having resigned.”