By Bob Allen
Kentucky Gov.-elect Matt Bevin will break tradition by holding his inaugural worship service at a Southern Baptist church outside of downtown Frankfort, Ky.
Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, confirmed on Twitter Nov. 9 that his church is “honored and delighted” to host the governor’s inaugural worship service.
York, a past president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, is Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Bevin, a member of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, gave money to Southern Seminary in 2012 to endow the Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization in honor of his daughter killed in a car wreck near the campus in 2003.
According to the Associated Press, the invitation-only service will be at 8 a.m. on Dec. 8. York will deliver the message.
Previous governors in Kentucky have held inaugural worship services at churches or in facilities in downtown Frankfort. The current governor, Steve Beshear, held his first inaugural prayer service at First Christian Church and opened his second term with a worship service open to the public at the Frankfort Convention Center.
Traditionally the worship service kicks off a daylong public celebration including a parade through downtown Frankfort to the Capitol.
The tradition of a downtown worship service isn’t hard and fast. The 51st governor, John Y. Brown, started his inauguration day in 1979 with a worship service at his home congregation, Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville.
The downtown Baptist church in the Kentucky capital, First Baptist Church of Frankfort, separated from the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 and is now affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Observers expect Bevin, who ran as a Tea Party conservative, to change the equation in two major controversies involving religion in Kentucky — the refusal of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and taxpayer funding for a Noah’s Ark theme park being built by Answers in Genesis.
“What we can expect from this governor is that he is going to be serious about protecting religious liberty,” York said in a Nov. 6 story in the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I believe he is going to work to protect the legitimate constitutional rights of those whose consciences are bound by adherence to Scripture.”
On Friday Bevin told reporters in the Capitol rotunda that when he takes office in December he will issue an executive order to remove the names of county clerks from the marriage form.