By Bob Allen
Kentucky’s new Tea Party-backed governor has strong ties to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Matt Bevin, a political outsider who captured 52.5 percent of the Nov. 3 vote to 43.8 percent for Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, is a member of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky.
In 2012 Bevin and his wife made a significant gift to the Southern Baptist Convention-owned seminary to endow the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization to honor their oldest daughter, who died at age 17 in a car accident on Lexington Road in front of the seminary campus.
Seminary President Albert Mohler described Bevin as a “personal friend” and “very generous donor” to Southern Seminary. The mission center endowment was Bevin’s first involvement with the seminary, Mohler told the Louisville Courier-Journal in May, but since then “the life of the seminary with the Bevins has become intertwined in many different ways.”
Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty who taught at Southern Seminary prior to his election in 2013, tweeted his congratulations, pledging “prayers for you and your family as you lead the Bluegrass State.”
Bevin, a Louisville businessman who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Mitch McConnell in the 2014 Republican primary, ran for governor as a “pro-life, pro-family, pro-Second Amendment” candidate. Television ads identified him as a Christian conservative and defender of Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
After winning the spring GOP gubernatorial primary over Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer by 83 votes, Bevin, 48, is now posed to succeed Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat who served two terms as governor. If elected Bevin promised to repeal Beshear’s decision to set up the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, commonly known as “Kynect,” and to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
The program, hailed as a success story for Obamacare, reportedly provided more than 500,000 Kentuckians with affordable health insurance. Bevin, labeled a hypocrite during the campaign because his family-owned business once received $200,000 from the state of Connecticut to rebuild its 180-year-old bell factory burned down by a lightning strike, said Beshear’s program is too expensive to sustain over the long haul.
Bevin also pledged to “end the monopoly that exists in Kentucky’s school system” by supporting school vouchers and to get rid of the “one size fits all” approach of the Common Core educational standards. He vowed to fight the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “war on the energy sector in Kentucky, particularly the relentless attacks on the coal industry.”
Bevin’s Democratic opponent was criticized as attorney general for refusing to defend a voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage struck down by a federal court, one of several cases that led to the eventual U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states.
Bevin, who has ownership interest in several businesses, reported a net worth between $13.4 million and $54 million in filings when he was running for Senate. He is a self-described “full quiver” parent of nine children ages 5-16, four of them adopted from Ethiopia.
“Quiverfull” is a term used to describe conservative evangelical couples who, for religious reasons, eschew the use of artificial birth control, typified by the Duggar family of TLC’s reality show 19 Kids and Counting.
A 10th child, Brittiney Bevin, died Sept. 22, 2003, while driving home from Louisville Collegiate School just weeks into her senior year. Her parents established the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization near the site of their daughter’s fatal accident and dedicated it to her interest in missionary work.
“We have confidence that Southern is an institution that will steward this in a way that will serve God best,” Matt Bevin said in a dedication ceremony Oct. 9, 2012.
Mohler said during the ceremony that because of the family’s generous gift, Southern Seminary now owns the “stewardship” of Brittiney’s dream of being a missionary since she was 14.
“Matt and Glenna Bevin are a wonderful Christian couple whose vision and generosity are so evident in the establishment of this new center and its endowment,” Mohler said. “To know them is to know their heart for missions and the deep personal dimension of this commitment, especially as it is linked to the memory of their daughter Brittiney and her heart for missions.”