Ky. convention, college affirm partnership
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- "Kentucky Baptists who had concerns that Campbellsville University refuses to allow on [its] faculty professors who believe the Bible is literally true can be assured that such professors are welcomed at Campbellsville," Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said after an April 29 meeting with college officials.
Michael Carter, Campbellsville's president, and trustee chairman Joseph Owens met with Chitwood and KBC President Dan Summerlin as part of an open dialogue involving 18 university and KBC representatives.
"Moreover, Dr. Carter stated unequivocally that everyone who teaches at Campbellsville is a professing Christian and believes God created the world," Chitwood said.
The dialogue was prompted by concerns over professors who allegedly reject biblical authority and biblical inerrancy that surfaced in emails and on Twitter and blogs of current and former students. The accusations followed the university's recent decision not to renew the contract of a popular New Testament and Greek professor who has been described as conservative in theology.
Chitwood said the accusations about other professors were "difficult for many Kentucky Baptists to swallow." Campbellsville officials, however, have strongly disagreed with the accusations, stating that they were perplexed by "unfounded charges" thrown at the university's faculty.
Campbellsville University has not changed in its historic commitment to the Kentucky Baptist family, school officials maintained.
The three-hour meeting, in which Chitwood and Summerlin were joined by eight other Kentucky Baptists, was described as "candid and transparent."
In a joint statement with the Campbellsville representatives following the meeting, KBC leaders said they had received assurance that those who believe the literal truthfulness of every word of the Bible are welcomed as students and as faculty members.
"While, as a liberal arts university, a diverse faculty and curriculum are typical in higher education, CU affirms its desire to prioritize the integration of faith and learning," the statement read in part.
Campbellsville officials reaffirmed the university's commitment to remain a Kentucky Baptist institution and to operate in accordance with a covenant agreement with the state convention.
"We look forward to further dialogue with CU leaders that will strengthen our partnership," the statement added.
"I'm grateful for the outcome of today's meeting," Chitwood said. "I believe the cause of Christian higher education that drew the support of Kentucky Baptists in the beginning is still a worthwhile cause for Kentucky Baptists."
Dan Summerlin said the open dialogue "helped everyone to understand the importance of our partnership."
"As a local pastor, and since we have students attending and planning to attend Campbellsville, I see the importance of higher Christian education in our state -- through not only Campbellsville University but also the University of Cumberlands," said Summerlin, pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah, referencing another Kentucky college with a trustee relationship to the state convention.
In a joint statement for the Western Recorder, Carter and CU trustee chairman Owens said, "We remain committed to our partnership with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the churches as we have exemplified for nearly 100 years.
"We thank the committee of KBC leaders for visiting with us and look forward to moving ahead in our ministry together," they added.
The desired outcome for the meeting, Chitwood said, is for Campbellsville and Kentucky Baptist churches to be able to "walk closely together in our efforts to make disciples and disciple-makers of the rising generations of students." He said he anticipates ongoing conversations that "prayerfully will yield good results for both CU and the churches of the KBC."
Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.