LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- The Kentucky Baptist Convention Mission Board is asking churches across the state to help support Sunrise Children's Services after the agency saw a major decline in annual giving last November while embroiled in controversy regarding a recommendation to hire gay employees.
In December the president of Sunrise Children's Services, Bill Smithwick, resigned amid disapproval from Kentucky Baptists over his support for allowing homosexual employees at the state convention-affiliated child care agency. Since then, Sunrise has asked the KBC to promote a Mother's Day offering to make up for the agency's financial shortfall.
"The Thanksgiving offering fell far short of the goal and even farther short of the needs," KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood said.
The special "Shine!" campaign "could potentially allow Sunrise to catch back up. Now that the Sunrise board has quashed the idea of hiring homosexual staffers, I believe Kentucky Baptists will again be willing to provide the financial support needed."
Smithwick received a vote of no confidence on Nov. 12 from messengers at the Kentucky Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Paducah. Sunrise trustees had already rejected Smithwick's controversial recommendation.
Chitwood said interim Sunrise President Dale Suttles and the board of trustees are committed to supporting biblical values and to ensuring that the organization reflects a strong Christian witness. Because of that, Chitwood said, the organization is worthy of financial support from churches across the state.
Chitwood explained the depth of the deficit on his blog and urged the state's 2,400 Baptist churches to get behind Sunrise.
"Sunrise receives about 70 percent of its funding from government contracts, leaving a funding gap of around $7.5 million," he wrote in a Feb. 25 post.
"Some secular funding sources, displeased with Sunrise's hiring practice that seeks to keep good role models in front of the children, have withdrawn the monies they had earmarked for Sunrise. To make up for this deficit and do much needed repairs on some of the aging facilities, Sunrise stands in need of $5 million."
Sunrise board Chairman William Hurley has assured Kentucky Baptists that there is no reason not to support the children's agency.
"Rest assured that if you and your church continue to support Sunrise financially, we will never forget our responsibility to the children extends not just to their physical well-being, but to their spiritual well-being also," Hurley wrote in a letter to churches last December.
"We will not knowingly expose any child in Sunrise's care to unbiblical influences."
Roger Alford is communications director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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