By Bob Allen
The Kentucky Baptist Convention passed a symbolic vote of no-confidence in an agency head who recently asked his board to consider dropping a policy against hiring gays.
Messengers at the 2013 KBC annual meeting Nov. 12 in Paducah also elected a new slate of 11 directors for Sunrise Children’s Services to replace board members who decided against the policy change proposed by President Bill Smithwick on Nov. 8. The new board members include Paul Chitwood, the KBC executive director and outspoken critic of Smithwick’s proposal.
For 13 years the agency formerly known as Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children has fought a legal battle over the use of taxpayer funds by ministries that proselytize that began with the firing of a lesbian employee in 1998.
Smithwick told convention messengers that his views on homosexuality haven’t changed, but he fears that employment discrimination will eventually cause the agency to lose $26 million of its $27 million a year budget funded by state contracts to provide services for 2,000 children who are wards of the state.
Convention messengers, however, appeared more concerned that the agency was straying from its Baptist identity. The Southern Baptist Convention constitution excludes churches that “act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.” During Smithwick’s report, messengers had more questions than time allowed him to answer.
The no-confidence vote is non-binding, because only the Sunrise board of directors has the authority to hire or fire. The 11 new board members replace six Sunrise directors who were scheduled to rotate off the board and five others who resigned. Thirteen current members of Sunrise’s board remain.
Based on reporting by the Kentucky Baptist Convention communications office.