Campbellsville seeks new relationship with Kentucky Baptists

Leaders of the school want to phase out direct funding from the Kentucky Baptist Convention over four years in exchange for more leeway in selecting the university’s board of trustees.

By Bob Allen

Campbellsville University has proposed renegotiating its affiliation with the Kentucky Baptist Convention to phase out nearly $1 million a year in cooperative funding in exchange for more flexibility in trustee appointments and academic freedom.

Trustees of the 3,600-student school in Campbellsville, Ky., approved bylaw changes July 15 intended “to protect the mission of the university and to avoid both undue influence and the imposition of theological and doctrinal control,” according to an open letter to Kentucky Baptists issued the following day.

Board chairman Joseph Owens and President Michael Carter signed a joint letter July 16 proposing talks to replace an affiliation defined by a covenant agreement signed in 1986 with a new “partners in ministry” relationship that allows trustees to elect their own successors without convention approval. The proposal calls for phasing out direct Cooperative Program funding from the KBC over a four-year period.

They said Campbellsville would remain “Christ-centered, Baptist-related and church-connected,” maintaining a board of trustees that is 100 percent Baptist and continuing a Church Relations Council that seeks input from pastors, church staff and lay leaders mostly in Baptist churches.

“We are deeply grateful to Kentucky Baptists for the support given to Campbellsville University through the years,” the university officials said. “We again stress that Campbellsville University has not changed — we remain the strongly Christian, evangelical, Baptist-connected institution that we have been since the founding of Russell Creek Academy in 1906.”

Last week KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood wrote members of the state convention’s governing board that changes under consideration by Campbellsville trustees were “clearly inconsistent” with the current agreement and could jeopardize continued funding from the state convention.

chip HutchisonAfter Tuesday’s vote, KBC President Chip Hutcheson issued a statement comparing the university’s statement to “the husband who wants to divorce his wife but still offers to live with her."

“The university has taken steps to remove itself from a covenant relationship yet still wants to claim it is ‘committed’ to the family,” said Hutcheson, a Baptist layman and publisher of newspapers in Princeton and Oak Grove, Ky. “Nevertheless, we have requested dialogue with the university but have yet to hear from them.”

A member of Southside Baptist Church in Princeton, Hutcheson has been active in Kentucky Baptist life for many years, serving multiple terms on the KBC Public Affairs Committee and as a trustee for Kentucky Baptists’ newspaper of record, Western Recorder.

Hutcheson said concerns voiced by the university over “undue influence” or “theological and doctrinal control” are unfounded.

“The KBC has no influence or control over the university except that of approving trustees the university selects,” Hutcheson said. “Kentucky Baptists have always been a diverse people with a ‘big tent’ mentality. That hasn’t changed. We had hoped Campbellsville would remain united in covenant with our family.”

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