During the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s 2014 Annual Meeting, convention messengers voted to hear a report on Campbellsville University from KBC president Chip Hutcheson instead of viewing a promotional video forwarded by Campbellsville. CU president Mike Carter had been invited to present a report in person but declined the invitation and sent no one to represent the university. Upon hearing Chip Hutcheson’s report, the convention heeded his recommendation and took no action regarding Campbellsville. Here is Hutcheson’s report:
In light of recent actions taken by Campbellsville to remove themselves from their relationship with the Kentucky Baptist Convention of churches, I want to assure the messengers of this convention that we have done everything possible to discourage Campbellsville from moving away from her historic relationship with the KBC. To that end, a review of some of the basic facts and recent history of the relationship might be helpful.
First, the formal relationship granting KBC the right to appoint Campbellsville’s board was voluntarily entered into by both parties1938. The current version of Covenant Agreement has been in place since 1986 and requires that a four-year notice be given to terminate the covenant.
Second, even though the Covenant Agreement requires the KBC Committee on Nominations and messengers at the Annual Meeting vote to approve CU board members, those board members come recommended by the CU president and not even once has the president’s recommendation been refused by the committee or the convention.
Third, contrary to accusations of undue influence and doctrinal control, KBC has never had even a single meeting with Campbellsville except at Campbellsville’s request, nor does KBC have any platform from which to exercise control. The recommendation that the Executive Director sit on the boards of all CP supported agencies and institutions was only that, a recommendation, never a requirement. Our executive director has been welcomed onto the boards of Crossings, Oneida, and Sunrise. He is an honorary board member at University of the Cumberlands. Each of these agencies has already begun to see the benefits of having the executive director better informed so as to be a better advocate for their work. Not one has expressed concerns over undue influence.
As for recent history, Kentucky Baptists concerns about CU first came to our attention in early 2013 when CU refused to provide a new teaching contract to one of the professors teaching in their religion department. There were accusations that the professor being let go believed in the Bible’s creation account while the university keeps professors who do not affirm a literal interpretation of the Bible’s creation account. At the suggestion of Dr. Chitwood, Dr. Carter chose a group to represent Kentucky Baptists and a group to represent the university and pulled them together. While Dr. Carter stated his own disagreements with both a literal interpretation of the Bible and a high view of Scripture, he pledged that CU had some professors who believe the Bible is literally true and would continue to welcome them as well as students who believe the Bible. KBC and CU released a joint statement affirming their relationship.
One month later Dr. Carter contacted KBC to inform us that SACS, the university’s accrediting agency, was requiring Campbellsville to no longer allow KBC to have a part in the trustee selection process. When KBC contacted SACS we were assured that was not the case. Dr. Carter then backed off of that claim.
Very near the same time, Dr. Carter alleged that Kentucky law required that the university have a self-perpetuating board. When KBC’s attorney, James Taylor, challenged that notion, CU and KBC agreed to seek the opinion of a retired Kentucky Supreme Court Justice. That judge sided with KBC and, once again, Dr. Carter backed off his claim.
Next, on July 11th of this year, Campbellsville sent two attorneys who came, alone, to the KBC to inform us that the university was changing its bylaws and planned to create a self-perpetuating board, which is an obvious violation of the Convent Agreement. When KBC shared that information with Kentucky Baptists the university responded by saying that the bylaw changes did not violate the Covenant Agreement, which is false.
Under the legal counsel of KBC Attorney James Taylor, the Business and Finance Committee of the Mission Board voted to place in escrow Cooperative Program funds going to Campbellsville until the university backed off its plans to create a self-perpetuating board. Attorney Taylor explained that, legally, Campbellsville’s intent to breach the covenant was considered equivalent to a breach by the courts. He used the example of buying a used car. If you make a deal with someone to pay them $100 a month for 12 months and they promise to give you the car at the end of that 12 months but six months into the payments they inform you they will not give you the car, then, according to the law, you should not keep sending them money.
Before and after the funds were escrowed we made several requests to meet with Campbellsville to try to fix whatever problems they believed existed. They did not respond for weeks.
Finally, on August 9th, Campbellsville arranged a meeting. During that meeting CU shared that their board would likely be voting to terminate the Covenant Agreement but would like to create a partnership agreement. KBC leaders urged the school to maintain its connection to the churches and suggested that, rather than terminating the agreement, the university work with the convention to amend the agreement and thus achieve the university’s desire for a self-perpetuating board. We also reminded them that terminating the Covenant is a 4 year process.
On August 12th, the CU board voted to immediately terminate the Covenant Agreement.
KBC leaders met again with CU on September 18 to hear their proposal for a partnership agreement. KBC leaders requested that the CU board overturn its decision to immediately terminate the Covenant in order to open the pathway for the KBC to explore a partnership agreement with the university. KBC also offered to approve any slate of trustees Dr. Carter brought to us and release escrowed funds as a show of good faith.
On September 23, Dr. Carter did not attend the KBC Committee on Nominations meeting where he was to present his trustee slate.
On October 29th, Dr. Carter informed KBC that the Campbellsville board had elected their own slate of new trustees rather than bring their trustee candidates to the Convention, as the Covenant requires. This act was a clear violation of the Covenant. Upon hearing the news, KBC again offered to approve those candidates through the committee process and bring the candidates for convention approval as a way to salvage the relationship. That offer was refused.
CU has clearly chosen to remove itself from our Convention. We recommend the Convention take no action at this time except to remain prayerful and hopeful that the university will someday return to covenant with the churches that nursed her along for nearly 100 years.