LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — A Christian university in central Kentucky has changed its longstanding relationship with Kentucky Baptists so it can appoint its own trustees, and it also will be giving up about $1 million in annual church funding.
Campbellsville University board of trustees Chairman Joseph L. Owens and President Michael V. Carter wrote in a letter Wednesday that the move is to "avoid undue influence and the imposition of theological and doctrinal control." It said the board of trustees voted to phase out over four years the $977,000 it receives annually from Baptist churches.
The letter said the university also has adopted a revised set of bylaws that would allow it to select its own trustees and maintain academic freedom.
Baptist Convention President Chip Hutcheson said he was "terribly saddened" by the move, which upends a 1986 covenant agreement. The convention is the state organization for Southern Baptists, and includes about 2,400 member churches.
"As for concerns over 'undue influence' or 'theological and doctrinal control,' the KBC has no influence or control over the university except that of approving trustees the university selects," Hutcheson said in a media release.
He said he sees no reason for the university's move "and hate they have made this decision without so much as a conversation."
Campbellsville University spokeswoman Joan McKinney declined comment beyond what was stated in the Wednesday letter. The 3,600-student university operates on an annual $57 million budget.
The move by Campbellsville follows a similar action by Georgetown College in Kentucky nearly a decade ago along with several other formerly Baptist-affiliated higher education institutions that have sought autonomy from church influence. In 2005, Georgetown broke off an agreement with Kentucky Baptists so it could elect its own trustees, in an effort to boost fundraising. The school also gave up about $1.4 million in annual contributions.
Campbellsville's board of trustees adopted the changes to the agreement on Tuesday, according to the letter from Owens and Carter. The letter also said Campbellsville will maintain a board of trustees that is "100 percent Baptist."
But Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood said last week in a letter to its mission board that Campbellsville University's attorney informed him that the university "plans to create a self-perpetuating board and welcome non-Baptist trustees."