by Robert Earl Houston
LOUISVILLE, KY – This week I am a delegate representing First Baptist Church at the oldest and largest assembly of African-American Baptists in our state. Better known as the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky.
Kentucky has a unique system that may be one of a kind in the nation. It’s not a state convention, it’s a general association, composed of district associations and churches from throughout the Commonwealth. As an organization, it is not affiliated with any national convention. Therefore, you have churches that are from six different stripes – independent (no national affiliation), National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. International, and Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. Not to mention some churches are aligned with Southern Baptist and American Baptist.
This General Association has its own objectives. It has three main focuses – Simmons College of Kentucky, which is now led by Dr. Kevin Wayne Cosby; the American Baptist Newspaper, of which I serve as Chairman of the Board; and the State Home Mission Board, which is led by Dr. Bernard Crayton. All three of the objectives are based in Louisville and the General Association operates a headquarters building near downtown Louisville, which houses the American Baptist Newspaper and the State Mission Board. Simmons College is located nearby on its historic campus.
Our Moderator is Dr. A.E. Reid, who is completing his tenure of four years and he has presided in probably one of the stormiest periods in GABIK history. When he became Moderator, the Association had just suffered a schism over the issue of women and women in ministry, and frankly, operational issues. The issue of women in ministry has been a particularly thorny issue and it resulted in the formation of another, much-smaller group, which is mostly comprised of older pastors. Not only that, the Association was deep in debt, and many people wondered if Simmons, the American Baptist, and the State Home Mission Board would even survive.
But this moderator, Dr. Reid, has demonstrated a loving care of the Association as Moderator that is rarely on display. Each year he logs over 15,000 miles traveling the state by car, to show his concern for the Association – at funerals, local associations, meetings, planning sessions, etc. He has preached for me in the pulpit of First Baptist in Frankfort and when I was sick, he called to check on me – which is not unusual because every now and then, he gives me a call and says “Son, I’m just calling to check on you.”
Working with Dr. Cosby, Simmons College has made tremendous strides and now is becoming a viable entity due to partnerships with the business community and the University of Louisville. Today, students can not only attend college, but the entrance threshold is accessible to low and lower income families. It still remains the training ground for young ministers seeking a career in full-time ministry.
Dr. Reid’s love of our American Baptist Newspaper has kept it afloat. Under his leadership the last three years have been some of our best fundraising years and now we are preparing a transition to electronic media that will keep our paper cutting-edge.
He has presided over a revamp of the State Mission Board, which for years was led by the late Dr. Robert Childs, who was also editor of the American Baptist Newspaper. Now a new group of pastors and leaders are seeking to serve Kentucky churches.
Not forgetting that the State Youth Convention, the Youth Matter to Christ march, has its genesis under Dr. Reid’s tenure and the Youth convention pilot project is alive and well.
For many of us, his greatest achievement will be the fiscal achievements. We met one year shortly after we were told of our financial condition and he presided as the body came together and made pledges and paid off the indebtedness of the General Association. This is not to say we’re rich. This is to say that as of today, we have no outstanding debts, no liens, no foreclosures, and we can say we are out of debt.
Dr. Reid’s Georgia-Tennessee-Kentucky style is just what we needed at this time. No leader of any group has 100% support of everything – but he has been able to lead us across this chilly Jordan of a critical point in our history, brought us together, and has been an encourager, a father, and yes, challenged us to do better.
He assembled around himself a “Moderator’s Team” which is almost the “Dream Team” of leadership. With the support of Dr. C.B. Akins, Dr. Crayton, Dr. Michael Rice, and Dr. Porter Bailey, he has covered the spectrum of age, experience, and successful pastoral leadership of these gentlemen that make us proud to be Kentucky baptists.
Last year, for the first time in 147 years, a female, now sits in the Executive Board of leadership in the General Association. This is a great accomplishment and signals a new day in Kentucky. He has brokered peace between pastors and last year we had an historic “rap session” that allowed pastors of all ages to come together in a casual-free wheeling forum.
Last night, a PACKED house of constituents filled the ballroom at the Hyatt Hotel to say “thank you.” I haven’t seen a denominational leader receive gifts from such a wide spectrum of supporters in my life. Dr. Reid, who has a larger-than-life personality mixed with the seasoning of time, has made him worthy and due of all of these gifts.
Now that we are across this stormy sea, a new day is about to dawn in the General Association. Dr. Cosby will be making announcements tonight relative to Simmons’ future. We’ll hear Dr. Reid’s final address on Wednesday evening. And then on Thursday evening I hope to make some announcements regarding our newspaper. All of our announcements are made possible by the past support and vision of Dr. Reid.
Thank you Dr. Reid and thank God for the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky.