The University of the Cumberlands is formally cutting ties with the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC), and with that will be losing $1 million in annual funding through the KBC Cooperative Program.
UC said in a recent news release that it is working with KBC leaders to take steps to dissolve the Covenant Agreement between the two institutions, which was formally adopted in 1986. No formal affiliation agreement existed prior to that.
The proposal, which is subject to the approval of the messengers to the 2018 KBC Annual Meeting Nov. 13 in Pikeville, would provide for UC to elect its own trustees, which isn’t allowed under the current agreement.
This past summer, UC approached KBC Executive Director Dr. Paul Chitwood and the Administrative Committee of the Mission Board to request a modification to the covenant agreement between the Convention and the University.
One of the changes requested by UC leaders was the opportunity to have the sole responsibility for appointing trustees. At present, all UC trustees are elected by the KBC.
“Cumberlands has many distinguished alumni and friends who could provide expertise and resources for the University,” said Dr. Larry L. Cockrum, President of the University of the Cumberlands. “At present, the University is unable to include some of these outstanding alumni on our Board of Trustees because they are Methodist, Presbyterian or members of other Christian denominations.”
During its August meeting, KBC’s Administrative Commission decided “it wasn’t in the best interest to maintain a formal agreement with UC if the KBC had no voice in the selection of its trustees.” After continued discussions, UC’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a request to dissolve the Covenant Agreement between UC and KBC.
“University of the Cumberlands is grateful to the KBC for our many years of shared ministry and for the generous support of Kentucky Baptists,” Cockrum said. “Cumberlands remains committed to fulfilling its mission as a Baptist institution encouraging intellectual and spiritual growth, leadership, and service through educational programs enriched with Christian values.”
While asking KBC to approve the termination of the old Covenant Agreement, UC’s Board of Trustees expressed its hope that the University and the Convention will find new ways to cooperate in future ministries.
The split from the convention won’t come cheaply for UC. In addition to the loss of $1 million in annual funding, the school has agreed to give a $1 million gift towards KBC church planting efforts.
UC will also return nearly $350,000 in Cooperative Program funds that it received from Kentucky Baptist churches during the current fiscal year, which dates back to June 1, 2018.
KBC’s Administrative Commission expressed its appreciation for the monetary gesture and voted to endorse a motion to amend the Covenant Agreement and a subsequent motion to terminate the Covenant Agreement immediately.
Chitwood noted that the Covenant Agreement is a voluntary agreement between UC and KBC.
“The actions being proposed simply create the potential for a faster end to the existing covenant agreement rather than a four-year termination period that is currently stated,” Chitwood said. “This proposal, according to our legal counsel, is permitted because the terms of the covenant agreement can be amended at any time if both the UC board and KBC messengers agreed to the amendment.”
Barry Fields, a member of the KBC Administrative Committee, who chairs the Agency & Institutions Committee of the Mission Board, has called a special meeting to discuss UC’s request.
Chitwood said he anticipates the issue will be discussed at the next Mission Board meeting, which is set for Nov. 12 in Pikeville.
Other state colleges and universities have also split with KBC in recent years.
In 2006, Georgetown College left the convention followed by Campbellsville University in 2015.