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Prior to Ky. primary, Clinton appears at joint Baptist worship service

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew inspiration from a joint worship service combining two Kentucky Baptist congregations working to build community unity during a campaign visit to Louisville in advance of Tuesday’s Kentucky primary.

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Hilary Clinton began her Sunday itinerary at an Ethnic Diversity Weekend worship service at St. Stephen Church in predominantly African-American West Louisville.

The Democratic candidate for president began her Sunday itinerary at an Ethnic Diversity Weekend worship service at St. Stephen Church in predominantly African-American West Louisville, which hosted Broadway Baptist Church from the city’s more affluent east side.

Introduced by St. Stephen Pastor Kevin Cosby as “she who shall be the next president,” Clinton said she was honored to worship at a church with “such a mission” that “shows such leadership and witness.”

“I reach out my hands in great admiration for this congregation,” she said. “St. Stephen has done so much for so many.”

Clinton congratulated Cosby for the success of Simmons College, a historically black college in Louisville being revitalized since Cosby became president in 2005.

She offered praise to the St. Stephen choir, which she said the mayor had told her is best in the nation. “But to see them combined with Broadway Baptist is a special blessing,” Clinton said. “I will tell President Obama what he missed.”

Clinton called the service “a real blessing” at a campaign stop later in the day.

Chris Caldwell, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church, speaks during the combined service.

Chris Caldwell, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church, speaks during the combined service.

“It was a combined service,” Clinton told supporters gathered at a South Louisville union hall. “St. Stephen is a black church, and they were hosting Broadway Baptist, which is a white church. The choir was integrated. Both preachers spoke.”

“I sat there with my heart just brimming over, thinking about ‘this is what we need more of in America,’” she said, “where we are listening to each other, talking to each other, respecting each other.”

“There are different ways for us to do it,” Clinton said, “and I know this election is going to be about a lot of things.”

“But you know, at the core of it is what kind of country we are and want to be and what kind of examples do we want to set for our own children,” she continued. “Because I think every single child is a gift of God. Every child has God-given potential, and it’s up to families and churches and schools and neighborhoods to help support that potential.”

Broadway and St. Stephen churches have cooperated previously in Empower West Louisville, a collaboration spearheaded by Cosby between urban and suburban churches along with Simmons College and the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship as a community-wide effort to boost black-owned businesses.

Broadway deacons approved the idea of the joint worship service, according the church newsletter, as a gesture “sending a message of love by our presence.”

“Our presence will minister to St. Stephen by showing them a congregation, not merely a delegation, who values them and the people of west Louisville,” the article explained. “The Pentecost worship will also bless us by allowing us to experience God speaking in the ‘language’ of a different congregation. And, not to be overlooked: It’s going to be a joy filled experience!”

Recognizing that not all Broadway members would be up to the excursion, the article said deacons opted to cancel Sunday services at Broadway because they didn’t want a service there to “reduce a generous gesture by a congregation to a small gesture by a delegation.” The church organized carpooling for anyone needing a ride.

Clinton needed a strong campaign push in Kentucky to narrowly defeat Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary. Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, won the Oregon primary, keeping his campaign alive until the next big challenge, June 7 primaries in California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota and a caucus in North Dakota.

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State CBF group forging ties with historically black college

By Bob Allen

The Kentucky Baptist Fellowship is forging a partnership with both a historically black college and a large African-American congregation whose pastor does double duty as its president.

bob foxBob Fox, moderator of the statewide affiliate of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, reported in an e-newsletter March 20 on recent conversations with Simmons College of Kentucky, formed after the Civil War as a training institute for former slaves and now undergoing a renaissance on its original campus in Louisville, Ky.

Fox, pastor at Faith Baptist in Georgetown, Ky., said for years he has been concerned about lack of diversity in the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, but his attempts at outreach gained little success. Then out of the blue, he said, KBF Interim Coordinator received a call from leaders at Simmons, who wanted to meet with them.

“I had the pleasure of meeting with Frank Smith, their dean, and Kevin Cosby, their president along with Chris Sanders, [Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville Pastor] Chris Caldwell, and Matthew Johnson,” pastor of Ridgewood Baptist Church

“We were received with warmth in their downtown Louisville administrative offices,” Fox reported. “A productive discussion began which left all of us encouraged. They told us that they were interested in partnering with KBF not for monetary reasons but for reasons of identity. They were pleased to find a group of Baptists that valued the same things they did.”

“The news only got better when Cosby took me by the hand at the meeting and said, ‘We need you,’” Fox said. “He told me that in addition to a partnership with Simmons, St. Stephen wanted to join KBF.  ‘I’m ready to write a check,’ he told me. My heart leapt with joy at the prospect (not of the check) but of KBF growing and more specifically building a relationship with an African-American congregation.”

A week later, Fox said, he was invited to bring greetings on the Fellowship’s behalf at the February pastor’s conference of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, a grouping of churches from the four largest historically African-American Baptist denominations who work together primarily to support Simmons College and the American Baptist newspaper.

Simmons College opened in 1879 as the Kentucky Normal & Theological Institute, at the time the state’s only African-American liberal arts college and where all of the state’s black teachers received their training.

Renamed Simmons University in 1918, the school added a new building in 1924 but hit hard times in the Great Depression. The campus was sold to the University of Louisville, which operated it as the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes until 1951, when U of L integrated.

Simmons University, which had relocated to west Louisville in 1935, continued with a narrower focus of educating young men and women for Christian service. In 1982 the school was renamed Simmons Bible College to more accurately reflect its mission.

The original campus near Seventh and Kentucky streets was long owned by Jefferson County Public Schools, which declared it surplus in the 1990s. At the urging of his father, at the time chairman of the school board, Cosby and St. Stephen Baptist Church, where he is pastor, acquired the four-acre campus in 1997 for about $130,000.

Cosby was named 13th president of Simmons in 2005 and returned the college to its liberal arts roots in 2014.

The school holds candidate status with the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education and is close to receiving official designation as a historically black college, which would make it eligible for both federal grants for students and capital improvement funds.

An matriculation agreement allows transfer of up to 64 credit hours to the University of Louisville.

Simmons College of Kentucky currently enrolls 225 students, up from 112 a year ago. Last year it granted nine degrees, all in theology, while this year it projects 21 graduates, most with liberal arts degrees.

Cosby, 56, holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. Kentucky Baptist-affiliated Campbellsville University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2011.

Cosby has taught as an adjunct professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and spoken in chapel. He preached at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastor’s Conference in 2002 and the following year was appointed to the SBC Committee on Committees by SBC President Jack Graham.

In 2003 SBC Life included Cosby and St. Stephen Baptist Church in a story profiling African-American Southern Baptist churches. The church is included in a database locating Southern Baptist congregations on the SBC website.

Fox said his understanding is the talks with the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship began with conversation between an associate pastor at a St. Stephen satellite congregation in Elizabethtown, Ky., and Roger Jasper, pastor of Living Faith Baptist Fellowship, a partner congregation of both the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship based in Decatur, Ga.

“I have for many years been concerned about the diversity of our fellowship,” Fox wrote. “I have even been involved in some attempts to widen our fellowship. Typically they were met with polite disinterest. But now as we partner with Simmons and accept St. Stephen into our membership, it has been nothing but the work of God’s grace that has brought us together. And I for one celebrate these great things of God that have happened without my effort. Thanks be to God!”