Saturday, November 2, 2013

This Is A Sad Story

Over the years in which I served as a Kentucky Baptist Pastor, the two churches I served in Boyd County and the city of Ashland were faithful supporters of what was then known as the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children. website located here .
We supported KBHC through our Cooperative Program giving, and through the annual KBJC offering.  One year, we at Ashland Baptist also participated in the "Mile of Pennies" drive, hundreds of dollars were given to the home in the pennies we collected all over Kentucky.  We could barely lift the big plastic water cooler bottles in which the pennies were collected.  Also, Community Trust Bank officials nearly croaked when Tandy Kemper's body shop crew and this pastor wheeled those pennies into the big bank lobby on dollies to make our deposit!

We were happy to support this ministry, and why not?  This great ministry, a long time entity of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has impacted the lives of thousands of children by providing wonderful homes, educational opportunities, and instilling Godly values. Over the years they have added other campuses and have grown tremendously in the number of children served. Over the years, they have also become more and more dependent on Federal dollars to be able to operate and expand the work.

A year or so before I was called to pastor Westmoreland Baptist Church in the neighboring state of West Virginia, KHBC (Sunrise) was hit with a major crisis.  Through a series of events the administration learned that a staff member was living in a same sex relationship while employed by Sunrise.  Since the lifestyle of the employee was unscriptural and in direct conflict with the values being taught by KBHC, the employee was terminated.  As one might guess, a lawsuit was brought against Sunrise, its director, Bill Smithwick, and the Kentucky Baptist Convention.claiming that the plaintiff had been unfairly terminated. The ripple effects of this issue has gone on and on.  The history of all this is easily found on Google and the Western Recorder (KBC official Newspaper) and I will not go into that in this blog.

Baptist Press and other media outlets are now reporting that Sunrise is presently considering changing its hiring policies, doing a 180 degree turn and allowing for the hiring of homosexual persons to staff positions with the agency.  The Baptist Press story is located here.

When I read this story, the first thing that popped into my mind is how after the lawsuit had been filed, Bill Smithwick (The Director of Sunrise) made a tour of the state, meeting with pastors and leaders of the local associations of Baptist Churches.  I remember, well how he stood before a good number of us gathered at Oakland Avenue Baptist Church in Catlettsburg, and told us, "We will never give in and change our employment standards. We will never agree even if it means the loss of federal funding."

Churches and associations rallied around Smithwick, bathing him in prayer and recommitting themselves to the support of Smithwick and the KBHC.

Well, it appears Mr. Smithwick has changed his mind, to the dismay of state Convention leadership, and, I am sure, the vast majority of Baptists across the Bluegrass State.

Now hear me on this.  I am not trying to generate a bunch of comments and debate.  Facebook is not the place for that.  Please do not post any inflammatory comments here.  I hope you hear my heart on this.

I have ceased to be a "Cultural Warrior" several years ago.

I am not  homophobic.  I seek to minister to those who are dealing with this issue in their lives. They are welcome at Westmoreland Baptist Church,  We want to show them the love of Christ, but we would never knowingly place a practicing homosexual person in a teaching or leadership position in the church .

I am no longer a pastor in the KBC, (so I don't have "a dog in that fight") but I do still live in the northeastern corner of the Commonwealth and have many dear Baptist friends from the mountains to the Mississippi, and my heart is breaking for what is happening here.

This situation is exactly what I have been trumpeting for some time now. The Church is increasingly having to learn that we are a spiritual people in a secular world.  We are not in the majority.  If we faithfully practice the tenants of our faith (and I am not talking about "legalism" here) we will find that we are increasingly going to be considered "out of the mainstream".  American Christians have been spoiled over the past 300 years of freedoms and guarantees from our government that millions of Christ Followers around the globe have never had.  We have never tasted the government intrusion, persecution, and even martyrdom that many of them have faced. Many of us just don't get it.

The American church is at a cross roads.  Decisions must be made as to with whom we will partner financially for the furtherance of our ministries and programs.  Are our would be benefactors motivated by the same love for Christ and for lost people as are we?  Are we unequally yoked?  If so, will the end justify the means?

Can we expect a secular pagan government to continue to smile kindly upon those whose belief in an alleged resurrected Messiah, will eventually come to be in direct conflict with governmental decrees?  Ask Daniel and his three Hebrew friends in the Old Testament about that.

If our ministries and entities receive Federal funds and depend on them for their existence, they must then abide by their secular guidelines.  Sunrise is in that position now, and they must make some difficult decisions. (the BP article explains both sides well).

Will you join me in praying for Bill Smithwick?
Pray for boldness, wisdom, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Will you pray for the Kentucky Baptist Convention?
For the people in the pews that have faithfully prayed for and supported the ministry,  And that Executive Director Paul Chitwood and the churches across Kentucky will display wisdom and Grace, and that they would seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Will you pray for the Sunrise Children's Ministries, and the hundreds of lives they impact for Christ?
That they might have a quiet and peaceable life, and exalt the Savior, even if it means a scaling back the scope of the ministry.

May God grant wisdom to all involved, and may His Will be done!

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