Predatory Lending: The Time to Act is Now

By Sharon Felton, CBF Advocacy Outreach Specialist for Kentucky

“If you lend money to My people, to the poor person among you, you must not be like a moneylender to him; you must not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as collateral, return it to him before sunset. For it is his only covering; it is the clothing for his body. What will he sleep in? And if he cries out to Me, I will listen because I am compassionate.” -Exodus 22:25-27 

  • 391% interest rate for payday loans in Kentucky*
  • 20,000 payday and car title loan stores operate nationwide,*
  • 537 locations in Kentucky**
  • 17% of 1000 people surveyed had taken out a payday loan*

Payday lending has harmed enough families, taken money out of our local economies, trapped people in poverty and enlarged the racial and economic divide in our cities.

Enough is enough.

There is hope on the horizon and that hope begins with you and our faith communities!

On June 2, 2016 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a proposed new rule that would apply to payday and auto title loans nationwide. However, it cannot happen without your voice! Everyone must act and act now, before October 7 to make comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about the new rule. It is a great step forward, but one that must be strengthened.


People of faith are making a difference. When CFPB Director Richard Cordray announced the release of the proposed rule, he singled out the advocacy work of the faith community:

"Perhaps most telling of all, we have held numerous sessions with a broad set of faith leaders. They have shared searing experiences of how payday loans affect the people they care for every day in their churches and synagogues and mosques. And they have described how these loans undermine financial life in their communities. In devising this proposed rule, we have been listening carefully, and we will continue to listen and learn from those who would be most affected by it. And we will take their comments into account as we go forward and work to finalize new reforms in this area."


What have you seen? How has your community been impacted by payday loans? How has your church been impacted? You don’t have to be a policy expert to make a comment. Help the CFPB continue to build a record that makes the strongest case possible for the rule.


Why is this form of lending wrong? What does your faith say about this practice? How does scripture influence your decision to speak out? Make your best moral argument.


The rule represents a potential major improvement in payday and auto title lending practices, and for the lives of millions of borrowers. The pressures on the CFPB are great and since by law they cannot propose a limit on fees and interest, their tools are limited. Crafting an effective rule in this environment with these constraints is difficult. They have conducted meticulous research which has served as strong evidence in support of the claims people of faith have been making for years. Encourage them to be strong in preventing the harm they have witnessed and documented. 


While the intent of the rule is exactly right, some fear that too many exceptions and potential loopholes exist. Past history demonstrates how sophisticated, creative and sneaky lenders can be in response to reform – tell the CFPB we don’t want to see the rule evaded or weaknesses exploited. There is still time for improvement so consider including these suggestions for strengthening the rule.

1)   Strengthen the ability-to-repay requirements - 

 Allow no more than one short-term loan without a full assessment of the ability to repay – six usurious loans per year is too many

 Make sure borrowers have enough money to live on –require objective measurements

2)   Improve protections against repeated flipping of loans - 

 Return to the 60 day waiting period after each short-term loan as proposed in original outline

 Tightly restrict repeated refinancing of longer-term loans

 Prevent unaffordable, long-term indebtedness due to lenders manipulating exceptions to abilityto-repay standards and offering a variety of short and long-term loans to an individual borrower

3)   Make sure all possible predatory, debt-trap loans are covered - 

 Cover all loans with extraordinary leverage to extract payment – bank accounts, car titles and wage garnishment – not just those that do so within 72 hours

 Lenders are notoriously creative and the incentive to avoid being covered by the rule is high

Payday lending is a fairness and justice issue, a human dignity issue and it is a race issue. In a recent survey of 1000 people created by Lifeway, African Americans and Hispanics are disproportionality affected by payday loans, 49% of African Americans had taken out payday loans and 24% of Hispanics.

We do a lot of head shaking and gasping when people talk about the destructive payday lending practices,  or hear the 391% interest rate quoted, but it’s time now to take action. And right now it is as simple as making a few clicks!

Log on to, click the button that says Learn More and Comment, and then make a comment! Feel free to use your own story, use the suggested comments above or speak from your heart about why these practices are wrong. Gather your faith community together and watch The Ordinance (, a documentary about payday lending, then have everyone make comments! First Baptist Morehead is doing this and inviting others in the community to participate as well!

The time is now to make a difference. Christ has called us to make an impact in the world through His love. Let’s love our neighbors enough to advocate for them and stop predatory lending!

*Lifeway Research

**Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

CBF Disaster Response requests supplies, gifts and prepares for response following Louisiana flooding

Update: Monday, August 22 from CBF Kentucky : the needs/and requests have changed since the press release (below). Here's the scoop:
1) They need money. Give online, or mail a check payable to “CBF” with Acct. 17006 in the memo line to:Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, P.O. Box 102972, Atlanta, GA 30368-2972
2) They need teams to "muck out" homes of roughly 40 mostly elderly families of Broadmoor Baptist. Teams will stay at the church and utilize the shower trailers of CBF Arkansas. If someone is willing to head up a CBF/KY team, please let me know. 
3) They need chaplains/pastoral counselors for the families affected.

Our response so far:

  • A team from Highland Baptist in Louisville will be leaving August 23 to work out of Broadmoor
  • The tool trailer from First Baptist Middlesboro will be going with them

Thanks to Highland and FBC Middlesboro for your prompt response to this crisis!


August 16, 2016

By Aaron Weaver

DECATUR, Ga. – The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship announced Tuesday that a partner congregation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is requesting supplies as well as preparing to receive volunteer teams following devastating flooding in southern Louisiana.

CBF U.S. Disaster Response Coordinator Alan Williams said in an update Tuesday that CBF-partner Broadmoor Baptist Church in Baton Rouge is requesting supplies, including diapers in various sizes, feminine hygiene products, toiletries as well as water for individuals staying in shelters. Williams requested that churches gather these supplies and noted that updates will be forthcoming on where to send and deliver the items. CBF is working in partnership with CBF churches in the region as well as CBF of Louisiana and CBF of Mississippi to make evaluations, assess needs and determine ways to provide aid.

Williams also emphasized that volunteer teams will be needed as soon as permission is received to enter the affected areas and begin work. CBF Disaster Response is currently in the process of identifying host churches and will soon provide contact addresses and numbers for volunteer teams to call.

Additionally, a CBF partner congregation in Central Texas has created a matching fund to support flood victims in Louisiana. The First Baptist Church of Austin announced Tuesday that the church will match all donations up to $10,000 and that monies raised will be given to CBF of Louisiana, which will oversee the distribution of these gifts. CBF of Louisiana is led by transitional coordinator Mike Massar, who serves as pastor of University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

“This event is especially close to our hearts because our new senior pastor, Dr. Griff Martin, recently moved from University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, and we have members in our congregation who are from some of the hardest hit areas,” FBC Austin said in a statement.

To provide monetary support for CBF’s relief efforts in Louisiana, give online here, or you may mail a check payable to “CBF” with Acct. 17006 in the memo line to:

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
P.O. Box 102972
Atlanta, GA 30368-2972

For additional information, contact Alan Williams at

Mission Partner Update: Scarlette Jasper

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

I am so thankful! The Lord has blessed me so abundantly the last few months and I needed to share with you! As you know I have been struggling with transportation for over a year with my cars having so many issues. The Lord blessed me with a 2010 Toyota Prius! What a blessing! It is a Hybrid and it great on gas and with all of my travels that is certainly an added bonus! Thank you for all of the prayers that I know have been lifted up regarding this issue because they were answered in a big way!

Here are a few ministry updates:

I have continued advocacy efforts with state and national partners to stop usury in Kentucky through the Payday Lending industry. Please continue to contact your state representatives and inform them that we are against extended payday loans in any form and continue to advocate for a interest rate cap on existing Payday Loans.  See the CBF Kentucky article by Sharon Felton regarding other ways to advocate and make a difference! The time to act is now!

 I recently provided emergency shelter at the Olive Branch Ministry Mission Office for a woman and her two children who were in a domestic abuse situation and I hosted an Extreme Build partner overnight at the mission office facility during Extreme Build.

It was a pleasure to get to see some of you at CBF Kentucky Spring Gathering! I was able to have a display table set up and share my ministry with some individuals who I had not had the pleasure of meeting before!

I was blessed to be Ordained on May 21, 2016 at Cornerstone Fellowship Church in Monticello, Kentucky. Thankful for those that prayed, called, emailed, and attended this very special day. 

The 11th Annual Extreme Build was a huge success. It takes a lot of people to make it happen and I can't thank each person enough who had a part in this miracle of partnerships. We are looking at some exciting new developments in McCreary Co, I will keep you posted!


I was blessed to be able to attend General Assembly in Greensboro . It was an honor to serve on a discussion panel regarding the new proposed funding model for field personnel that was to be voted on by the fellowship. I was able to share some of what it is like to be partner funded and have to struggle day to day to stay on the field to do the work that God has called me to do. The fellowship enthusiastically voted for the new funding model. Basically this means that the presence for all field personnel will be funded with housing, salary, and benefits. All field personnel will be required to raise their ministry funds including program/projects funds, travel, equipment, all ministry related expenses. For field personnel like me, this is a huge blessing. Many field personnel over the years have had to leave the field due to lack of financial support. This is a great change, but it will not take effect until October 2017. 

As always, I would love the opportunity to come and share my ministry work and vision with your congregation, Sunday school class, women’s group or anyone else who may want to know more. Please feel free to call or email me to schedule a visit! There are several ways that you can partner with Olive Branch Ministries.
*School supplies for schools in McCreary Co as well as other families I work with- Collecting items now!
*Personal Care and Household items for monthly support groups and devotional groups.
*Shoe Boxes for children in need at Christmas, currently providing these to Wayne, Pulaski, and McCreary Co.
 If you are interested in any of these mission partnership opportunities, please contact me.

Philippians 4:6-7 Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 

Please pray for me as I continue my studies this fall at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. These studies help me to be more equipped to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of the families I serve. Please pray for mission teams in advance of their coming. Pray for the Together for Hope partnerships that are developing, pray for the individuals and families in need that I serve and please pray for the financial wellbeing of Olive Branch Ministries.
Specific prayers for individuals I am currently working with:
T- housing, employment, and relationship issues
A T- addiction, housing, and financial stability
Medical Patients I am working with- cancer and other health issues(one is a 10 year old little girl with cancer).
T, M, S, C, J- financial issues
W, M, J- family issues

Prayers for Amoreena (my daughter) and myself as we recover from surgery.

Additional Ministry Needs
* Book shelves for the ministry office.
*Large clear plastic totes to store workshop material in.
*Washer and Dryer for ministry office- there is not a laundry facility close by for when I am providing shelter here, often they need a way to wash their clothes.
*A handicap ramp built at the ministry office to make it more accessible as well as some small repairs and yard work.

Financial Partners Needed
First I want to thank those of you who currently support this ministry. Without you none of this work would be possible! As a CBF Partner Funded Field Personnel, financial partners are how my ministry is solely funded. This includes ministry office expenses such as utilities, ministry supplies, and other expenses including travel and salary. Currently I raise enough to pay most of the ministry expenses, but not enough for a salary. This is a financial hardship on my family as we struggle each month to pay our personal bills. Monthly sponsors are needed and appreciated. Olive Branch Ministries has received the 501 C (3) non-profit ruling from the IRS and your donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. If The Lord is calling you to be a part of this ministry, here is howyou can give:


To make a tax deductible donation, you may send your contribution to:

Olive Branch Ministries
104 Oakdale Drive
Somerset KY 42503


You may also donate online through the Olive Branch Ministry website here.

Connect with us! Check out our website if you haven't recently, we have updated it, and we have a new Facebook page so be sure to "like" it!

It is a Blessing to serve through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Together for Hope , and CBF Kentucky.

Thank you and many Blessings!
Scarlette Jasper
CBF Field Personnel
Director- Olive Branch Ministries

Payday Lending: Our Historic Reform Opportunity

By Sharon Felton, CBF Advocacy Outreach Specialist for Kentucky

In May of 2015 several large national religious organizations formed the Faith for Just Lending coalition to advocate for reform at the national level. The newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB has explicit responsibility and authority to enact new rules for payday lending across the country in order to “identify and prevent unfair, deceptive, and abusive acts and practices.” The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is part of this coalition of religious organizations working to reform predatory lending. As CBF/KY we too must come to the table and help make this reform a reality. We have listened to stories of our congregants and neighbors for over two years as they relayed the devastating effects of the predatory debt trap. We have been shocked at the 391% interest rate in Kentucky, and we have gathered to discuss how to follow the biblical mandate to protect the poor and vulnerable against usury practices. Now it is time to act.

On June 2, 2016 the CFPB released a proposed rule with the goal of requiring lenders to assess a borrower’s ability to repay a loan and be able to meet their other financial obligations and living expenses without needing to re-borrow. The CFPB rule represents an unprecedented opportunity to address the problem of predatory lending for the entire country. Until September 14, 2016 the CFPB will be accepting public comments on the rule. A well-organized and vocal religious community making the moral case for reform and strong regulations will have a critical impact on this process. We must share our stories, make comments on the rule and encourage others to do the same, so that as a state and as a nation we can finally have some consistent practical rules to protect our neighbors and communities.

Please know that I am available as a resource for you or your church as you move forward. I am always ready to have conversations about predatory lending. I would love to come and lead a conversation about payday lending, and I also have screening kits available for your church for the movie we debuted at CBF General Assembly, The Ordinance, a 30-minute documentary about payday lending.

Below are two important links. The first is a link to our CBF outline of the proposed rule and helpful suggestions for commenting. The second is a link to make comments. Maybe your church wants to partner with a neighboring church and watch the movie together then spend some time making comments, or have a friendly competition to see which church can submit the most comments in a week, and then enjoy a fellowship together celebrating the good work you’ve done to help your community. Whatever advocacy looks like for your congregation, now is the time to act. We have until September 14 to make a significant difference in the lives of millions of Kentuckians. Keep me posted! I’d love to hear and see how you advocate for those caught in the payday lending debt trap!

CBF Summary of Proposed Rule by the CFPB
Faith for Just Lending

White Christian Clergy Call for Racial Justice

CBF/KY Clergy, including CBF/KY executive coordinator Rhonda Blevins, join other clergy to call for racial reconciliation in light of violence in our nation. See their statement below:

Louisville, KY (July 8, 2016) -- The events of the past 48 hours leave us wearied and burdened. We grieve yet two more deaths of black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, at the hands of law enforcement officers. We mourn the vicious attack and death of five officers at the hands of vigilantes.


As Christians and ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are called to seek justice in ways that reconcile black and white. We are called to transcend the divisive rhetoric that seeks to inflame. We are called to declare, “We are one human family.” We are called to stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters, to grieve with them, to work with them for a day when peace and justice prevail, when racial violence no longer dominates our headlines, and when beloved community between black and white becomes more than a prophet’s dream. We are also called to stand with law enforcement officials who face the dangerous challenge of trying to keep the peace in a dangerous world and in violent communities.


We acknowledge that our silence is part of the problem that divides our nation. Today we break our silence. Today we no longer close our eyes and shut our ears to the pleas of those who live in constant fear. Today we say to our black brothers and sisters, “You are not alone. We are with you. We will not tolerate racial violence.” We call on community, civic, and religious leaders, black and white, to work tirelessly to solve this national crisis—to hear the growing cries of those who mourn. Today we also say to those in law enforcement, "We hear you when you lament having to face the end result of so many unsolved problems in our society, and we pray that the path to racial reconciliation might lead to safer streets on which you work."


Together, we must find a way to a better world. We must find a way.



Rev. J. Greg Alexander, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky

Rev. Rhonda Abbott Blevins, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Kentucky

Rev. Dean Brealos, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Mamie Broadhurst, Covenant Community Church, PC(USA)

Rev. Chris Caldwell, Broadway Baptist Church, Louisville

Rev. Amber Inscore Essick, Port Royal Baptist Church

Rev. John Inscore Essick, Port Royal Baptist Church & Baptist Seminary of Kentucky

Rev. Benjamin Hart, St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Louisville

Rev. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, Mid Kentucky Presbytery & Bellarmine University

Rev. Lee Hinson-Hasty, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rev. E. Glenn Hinson, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky

Rev. Emily Holladay, Broadway Baptist Church, Louisville

Rev. Jim Holladay, Lyndon Baptist Church, Louisville

Rev. Ken Jobst, St. Stephen Church, Louisville & Simmons College of Kentucky

Rev. Matt Johnson, Ridgewood Baptist Church, Louisville

Rev. Mark Johnson, Central Baptist Church, Lexington

Rev. Kelly Kirby, St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Louisville

Rev. Lauren Jones Mayfield, Highland Baptist Church, Louisville

Rev. Emily W. Miller, Louisville Seminary, PC(USA)

Rev. John Odom, Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rev. Joe Phelps, Highland Baptist Church, Louisville

Rev. Anita Roper, Highland Baptist Church Louisville

J. Chris Sanders, deacon, Ridgewood Baptist Church, Louisville

Rev. Adam Schell, Melbourne Heights Baptist Church, Louisville

Rev. Marian McClure Taylor

Rev. Jane Larsen-Wigger, Crescent Hill Presbyterian Church, Louisville

Baptist Seminary of Kentucky President Announces Retirement

May 26, 2016

GEORGETOWN, KY -- Dr. Greg C. Earwood, the first and only president in the history of Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, announced he will be retiring from the position this summer.  Earwood, who has served in this role since 2001, reported that his decision was accelerated by health concerns, but that he is confident he is leaving the seminary at a high mark in its history with its recent attainment of Association of Theological Schools (ATS) accreditation and the announcement of major gifts and endowments. “Prior to retirement, I had envisioned the completion of three major goals for the seminary: 1) accreditation; 2) additional collaboration alongside churches, cooperative organizations and institutions, and the larger Christian family; and 3) a stable financial base,” Earwood said. “I am pleased that the Seminary has achieved these goals.”

Earwood will remain as a consultant until October to assist the Seminary Board of Trustees and interim leadership.  “If there’s such a thing as a good time for a legacy president to hand off leadership, perhaps this is it,” Board Chair Larry Gray said. “The stage has been set for a great future.”

His retirement also coincides with the completion of the first phase of a major gift campaign, including the largest single pledge to BSK to date: $1 million from a single donor.  Half of the amount has been designated as an estate gift, with the remaining $500,000 to be given over the next five years. This generous gift will establish an endowed Office of the President named in honor of Dr. Earwood and his wife, Nell.

“We give to honor the supreme effort Dr. Earwood has made to bring BSK through the difficult and formative years and the process of winning ATS accreditation,” the donor, who requested anonymity, wrote in a letter announcing the gift. “BSK stands today as a living monument to his faith, calling, dedication and incredible work ethic.”

In 1995, he joined with a group who began to plan for theological education in a moderate Baptist tradition in Kentucky, leading to the launch of BSK in 2001.  Earwood guided the Seminary to locate initially at Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky. and then at Lexington Theological Seminary before transitioning to its current home on Georgetown College’s campus. Previously, he spent 29 years as a pastor in Indiana and Kentucky, including First Baptist Church in Murray, Ky., and Faith Baptist Church in Georgetown, Ky. 

“In the beginning of BSK, there was Greg,” said Dr. Dalen Jackson, BSK’s academic dean. “He did it all. He recruited students and faculty and trustees, rounded up financial support, oversaw the academic program, developed partnerships, and worked tirelessly to turn the vision of a new seminary into a reality.  In many ways Greg has been a pastor to the whole BSK community, while leading us to accomplish what many said couldn’t be done. The faculty is grateful for the leadership Greg has given BSK and the friendship and loyalty he has shown each of us through the years.”

The Seminary Board has accepted Dr. Earwood’s retirement date of July 31, 2016.  The Trustees will determine the structure for the search committee for the new president at their June 20th board meeting.  The search committee will represent an inclusive membership of faculty and staff, board, and friends of the seminary.

In a resolution presented to President Earwood at the celebration of the school’s accreditation, the seminary community declared that he “has led the seminary through much adversity to a place of vital contribution preparing women and men for life and ministry and into the promised land of accreditation with humility, loyalty, perseverance, wisdom, humor, and grace.”

On behalf of the Board, Dr. Everett McCorvey stated, “We look forward to carrying on the legacy started by Dr. Earwood and through our collaborations with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, the excellent relationship with Georgetown College, and the newly established relationship with Simmons College in Louisville.  With the ongoing work of our talented faculty, staff and students, the future is bright for BSK and we have a lot to celebrate as we move forward.”

Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, located on the campus of Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, is a graduate-level, accredited seminary founded in 2002.









Rebranding, scholarship recipient named at 2016 Spring Gathering

By Rhonda Abbott Blevins

Spring Gathering 2016 is in the books! We worshipped with preaching by Karen Thomas Smith of the Protestant Church of Morocco and music leadership by Naomi King Walker of Immanuel Baptist in Frankfort. On Friday night, Kristin Belcher and I were installed in our new roles. Those gathered said thank you to Iraline Craig of Midway Baptist for her year as moderator. Our thanks to Kimbrough Simmons, our new moderator, for his leadership in coordinating the entire event, and to Alice Mull for organizing the resource fair.

We hosted our first ever networking and continuing education event for chaplains and pastoral counselors, a workshop on human trafficking led by Candace Hansford of Campbellsville University. Steven Porter of CBF Global Missions led a workshop helping us rethink evangelism in today's context. Other breakouts included discussions about refugees, racial reconciliation in Louisville, women in ministry, predatory lending, and a session informing us about changes in structure in our global missions efforts.

Our thanks to Campbellsville University, president Michael Carter, and the staff, faculty, and students for their amazing hospitality. They went out of their way to welcome us and make our time in Campbellsville a wonderful experience.

Scholarship and travel grant recipients

Benjamin Burton was named the 2016 KBF Scholarship Recipient. Burton is a native of West Virginia and currently attends Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. He is a 2015 graduate of Campbellsville University. Burton works for Simply Mac Apple Premier Partner and is a member of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville. Congratulations, Ben!

For the first time, Kentucky Baptist Fellowship offered travel grants to first-time attendees of KBF Spring Gathering and CBF General Assembly. We are delighted to offer this year's travel grants to Pastor Lisa Zahalka of Big Spring Bloomfield Presbyterian Trinity Baptist Church in Bloomfield, Kentucky. Lisa led her congregation to partner with KBF following the church's dismissal from their local Southern Baptist Association after calling her as pastor. Congratulations, Lisa, on the travel grant! It's great to have you in the Fellowship!

A vote to rebrand as CBF Kentucky

During the business session on Friday night of Spring Gathering, participants voted to rebrand Kentucky Baptist Fellowship as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Kentucky (CBF/KY). Over the past year, a task force studied the opportunity to join CBF Global in their rebranding efforts launched in February, 2015. The task force included: Bob Baker, chair, Tim Hobbs, Matt Johnson, Alix Davidson Keller, and Alice Mull. As a result of their nearly year-long process, the task force identified several reasons to consider rebranding. Among those reasons included the alleviation of confusion between KBF and other Baptist entities in Kentucky. The task force suggested that tying into the global brand strengthens our identity within the Commonwealth and beyond. The coordinating council approved their recommendation, sending it to the membership at Spring Gathering for final approval. The membership approved the motion. The official roll out of the new branding initiative is anticipated summer 2016. For a sneak peak of our new logo, click here.

Next year, we look forward to holding our annual Spring Gathering at Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington. 

Check out our photo album from Spring Gathering 2016, and see you next year in Lexington!

Simmons, BSK Announce Collaboration in West Louisville

By Bob Allen, Baptist News Global, February 17, 2016

A historically black college and a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-aligned seminary have announced a collaboration to boost higher education opportunities for African Americans in Louisville, Ky.

Simmons College of Kentucky and the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky will move together toward offering graduate Baptist theological education in the economically disadvantaged west end of Louisville, leaders of the two institutions announced in a press conference Feb. 16.

Simmons College President Kevin Cosby (left) and Greg Earwood of the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky announce a new partnership Feb. 16. (Photo via Facebook)

Simmons President Kevin Cosby said that prior to the school’s accreditation in 2014, students in west Louisville had to leave their community in order to attend college. Cosby, who also is pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church in west Louisville, said that is still the case for students who want a graduate degree.

“That’s not good for west Louisville,” said Cosby, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Cosby is credited with rescuing the liberal arts college established in 1879 from bankruptcy and making it the centerpiece of a plan for neighborhood renewal.

Greg Earwood, president of the predominantly white Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, said the two groups will engage in dialogue on racial issues and in the process shape graduate-level theological education opportunities in the west end of Louisville.

The talks will explore how the seminary — located 70 miles away on the campus of Georgetown College — can best offer graduate theological education in Louisville’s west end. Earwood said possibilities include adding office space on or near the Simmons campus, recruiting Simmons College graduates as theology students, joint appointment of a visiting professor, offering a seminary course at Simmons and jointly sponsoring a lectureship featuring black scholars.

“In light of Ferguson, Charleston and Baltimore, we stand together, and we will work together so that the Kingdom of God might exist more fully as the Lord’s Prayer says, 'on earth as it is in heaven,’” said Earwood, who has been president of the seminary since the year before the first classes opened in 2002.

Last fall Simmons College joined groups including the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship in a partnership to engage inner-city and suburban churches in working together to solve social problems that disproportionally affect African Americans.

For Black History Month, the Empower West Louisville coalition is asking all citizens of Louisville to read Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism in advance of a community dialogue Feb. 29 at Highland Baptist Church.

Dialogue sponsors include Broadway Baptist Church, Christ’s Church for Our Community, Crescent Hill Baptist Church, Highland Presbyterian Church, Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church, Ridgewood Baptist Church, Simmons College of Kentucky, St. Matthews Episcopal Church, St. Stephen Church and Westwood Presbyterian Church.

The Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, accredited last year by the Association of Theological Schools, is one of 15 theological education partners of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The Fellowship, based in Decatur, Ga., is active in the New Baptist Covenant, a movement aimed at building relationships between black and white Baptists in the United States initiated by former President Jimmy Carter.

- See more at:

FBC Ft. Thomas: Honoring the Past, Living in the Present

by Micah Spicer, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Ft. Thomas

In Northern Kentucky, folks associated with FBC Fort Thomas are excited about what God has done and what God is continuing to do in the life of the congregation.   One hundred years ago a group of Christians committed to worshiping God and serving others organized and established First Baptist Church.  To praise God for His abiding hand of leadership, as well as to commemorate the men and women who devoted their lives to the work of the church, First Baptist Church of Ft. Thomas invites you to its 100th Anniversary Celebration on September 20th, 2015.  Please share our activities which begin with morning worship at 10:45 a.m., followed by a catered meal at noon, and culminating with a special service at 2 p.m. honoring one hundred years of faithful service. 

The congregation considers it an honor to follow in the footsteps of dedicated saints.  Moreover, we are grateful for the traditions and values that have been handed down to us.  While we honor the past, we know that we do not live in the past.  As Mordecai challenged Queen Esther:  “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this,” we are challenged today with the same question.  Has God called us to be his servants here and now?  Does He have a plan and a purpose for our congregation moving past 2015?   Because we know the answer to both these questions is yes, we will spend September 20th honoring our past, while realizing that on Monday morning, September 21, we will emulate their work by planning for the future!

Is your church having a big anniversary? We want to know! Email us at

Moderator Musings: Big Thanks!

by Iraline Craig,
KBF Moderator & Member, Midway Baptist Church

Last weekend in Elizabethtown, the annual fall retreat for the coordinating council of KBF took place at Living Faith Baptist Fellowship. Big thanks to Roger Jasper, pastor of Living Faith and Alice Mull for hosting the council. Big thanks to all those who came from near and far to attend, more than 30 council members and staff joined together to pray, dream and plan for the future of our fellowship.

Big thanks to Rhonda Blevins, our new coordinator, who challenged us to be the hope that the wheat represents in the fields of Baptist life in Kentucky and around the world. Rhonda was able to meet and talk with members of the council during our time together. Big thanks to Jan Causey for being willing to chair the missions work group. Also big thanks to the entire missions work group for having the discussions of where and how and when for the next EXTREME Build. We continue to pray for Morocco and the partnerships as we learned of new needs for the refugees. Big thanks to Don McFadden for facilitating the administrative work group and their discussion of the future of staffing for KBF and other financial matters. Big thanks to those members of the admin work group as we learned there are many issues to be addressed dealing with contributions, expenses and staff functions. Big thanks to Sara Turpin and all the members of the ministries work group for their efforts to involve more people in workings of KBF life via social media and other new and exciting ideas.

Big thanks to Chris Sanders and all his efforts as interim coordinator during the past year, including new partnerships and efforts to change laws concerning the payday lending industry. Big thanks to Laura Barclay who has served us well with her involvement in Extreme Build and communications. Big thanks to Bob Fox for his willingness to do whatever needs to be done and big thanks to Kimbrough Simmons as he prepares for the spring gathering in 2016. A really Big Thanks to YOU, for allowing me to serve as your moderator during this year. It is such a privilege and blessing to be part of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship.

New Clergy Coaching Project

Clergy Coaching: What Is It?
A Clergy Coach partners with ministers in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires the minister to maximize personal and professional potential. The Coach honors the minister as the expert in his or her life and ministry, recognizing every minister as creative, resourceful, and whole. Standing on this foundation, the Coach's responsibility is to:

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
  • Encourage client self-discovery
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable

This process helps ministers dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.*

Dr. Rhonda Abbott Blevins, KBF Coordinator, received coach training in 2012 from the Pastoral Institute in Columbus, Georgia. She has practiced coaching through Pinnacle Leadership Associates since 2013. She looks forward to bringing the life-giving practice of coaching to the clergy of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship.

How it Works: Two Tracks - Click here to learn more!

BAM! Free Resources for KBF Churches

by Keith Stillwell,
Associate Pastor, Lexington Avenue Baptist, Danville

Many churches are not large enough to support a large staff with full-time music, education, youth, children, senior adult, and mission ministers, but lead with capable lay and part-time ministers. Through the BAM! Website and facebook group, we seek to provide a network to assist churches in the areas of music, worship, education, age group ministry, missions, and justice advocacy. This website is a place to ask questions and share ideas.
The Bluegrass Associate Ministers' Peer Group hosts the website and facebook group and is willing to connect and consult with churches at no cost. Members of the peer group are ministers of music, missions, counseling, youth, children, education, and others. Our goal is to help churches connect and share ministry resources. The more people connected to the network, the more help we can be to each other.
You can find out more about it here:
and here:
 BAM! Free Resources for KBF Churches
Many churches are not large enough to support a large staff with full-time music, education, youth, children, senior adult, and mission ministers, but lead with capable lay and part-time ministers. Through the BAM! Website and facebook group, we seek to provide a network to assist churches in the areas of music, worship, education, age group ministry, missions, and justice advocacy. This website is a place to ask questions and share ideas.
The Bluegrass Associate Ministers' Peer Group hosts the website and facebook group and is willing to connect and consult with churches at no cost. Members of the peer group are ministers of music, missions, counseling, youth, children, education, and others. Our goal is to help churches connect and share ministry resources. The more people connected to the network, the more help we can be to each other.
You can find out more about it here:
and here:

Baptist Seminary of KY Celebrates Commencement & Accreditation

Surrounded by professors, ministers, family, friends and future colleagues, six men and women spent Saturday morning becoming a part of history.

Baptist Seminary of Kentucky traditionally holds Commencement in May but moved it toAugust 8 for a very special reason: the school timed it to coincide with a special celebration after having earned accreditation earlier this summer.

“Every day is one of God’s gifts,” said Dr. Bob Browning, BSK trustee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Frankfort. “This day, August 8, 2015, is one of God’s greatest gifts.”

For Seminary leaders, the idea of achieving accreditation has been in place since the school opened for classes in August 2002. The past four years have been spent in focused work on the process, including the submission of a 100-plus-page Self-Study to the Association of Theological Schools and a subsequent site visit by an evaluation committee from the accrediting body.

“Today Baptist Seminary of Kentucky is celebrating accreditation,” BSK President Dr. Greg Earwood said, “as verification that we are fulfilling our purpose of preparing students for life and ministry in faithful witness to Christ in the church and the world.

“For 13 years we have been successful at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in doing what we imagined. We imagined a place where students and faculty would be learning together to cultivate habits and practices of faithful Christian living, to ask questions, to nurture spiritual gifts, to develop a theological imagination and to pursue God’s calling on their lives.”

Six more of those students now have their Master of Divinity degrees:

  • Derek Anthony Cain of Somerset;
  • Mark Anthony Dunn of Lexington;
  • Laura Elizabeth Edgar of Deatsville, Ala.;
  • Sherry Lee Gardner of Yonkers, N.Y.;
  • Jeremy Keith Shannon of Lexington; and
  • Adam Standiford of Lexington.

The six graduates received a standing ovation at a special post-Commencement celebration to honor the graduates and celebrate the accreditation status. “Stand there and soak it up,” Browning told them. “You won’t get this every Sunday in church.”

Earlier, Dr. Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship based in Atlanta, offered a few words of advice to the parting students during her commencement address.

“You graduate to be aware and to act,” Paynter said. “What a joy to know our churches and communities will be led by leaders like you.  Class of 2015, go – serve and share the gospel.”

BSK also recognized those who helped guide the school through the accreditation process, presenting a beautifully framed resolution to Earwood and a hand-crafted chair to Dr. Dalen Jackson, academic dean and professor of Biblical Studies, who chaired the self-study steering committee.

The school also presented gifts to members of self-study steering committee and other BSK staff for their dedicated service to the Seminary in pursuit of accredited status.

The day’s activities left Earwood – and the 220 people in attendance – with a great feeling about the coming years.

“Let’s imagine together a wonderful future for Baptist Seminary of Kentucky,” he said.

Baptist Seminary of Kentucky is located on the campus of Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky. Find more information about BSK at

Changing Roles: Endings & Beginnings

by Laura Barclay,
KBF Communications, Networking, and Interim Missions Associate

It is with a reluctant heart that I submit my resignation as Communications, Networking & Interim Missions Associate. For over a year and a half, I have been proud to work with the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship on Extreme Builds nine and ten, a Partnership Celebration Tour and fundraiser for Morocco, two Spring Gatherings, Suzii Paynter's tour of our state, the promotion of a new Worship Curriculum, continuing communications for our Fellowship, and the completion of a successful interim time that expanded our partnerships. 

I leave KBF effective August 28 for Highland Baptist Church in Louisville to become their Interim Young Adult Minister. I look forward to serving Highland in this way, as this church is so integral to my ministerial identity. I left the church after a very conservative Southern Baptist experience that excluded women from ministry. I found Highland Baptist in college, which opened the door to divinity school at Wake Forest University, and my time spent with both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina and the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship. I will also continue my studies at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in obtaining a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy.

As Highland is a KBF church, I do not think of this as an end with our Fellowship. Rather, my role is shifting to focus on serving one of the member churches. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:12: "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ." That is how I think of our fellowship--many parts of the Body of Christ doing work for God's kingdom. I am excited to continue our work together, albeit in a different capacity.

I am so very excited for the next chapter in KBF life. Though I have only had the pleasure of working with Rhonda Abbott Blevins for a short time, I know her infectious energy, innovative ideas, and broad experience will be a blessing for our Fellowship. I would not have been comfortable leaving KBF if I was not so impressed with her leadership and passion for growing our network. 

I want to thank the staff, council, churches, and volunteers I have worked with for the last few years. It says a lot about our Fellowship that our ministry expanded during the interim phase, and that is completely because of your hard work and dedication. Thank you for letting me serve alongside you and I look forward to continuing our journey together in Kentucky Baptist life. 


Back2School Returns to

d365’s 6-week Back2School series begins on August 3, 2015. Back2School aims to journey with students as they make a significant transition from summer into a new school year, a new season of life. That’s the theme this year for Back2School — Seasons. In the lives of students, faith is something that is dynamic and changing. And as we grow in faith, we experience different seasons.

The weekly themes for Back2School highlight some of the seasons relevant to the faith lives of students: Seasons of Faith, Season to Change, Season to Learn, Season to Share, Season to Act, and Season to Commit. Whether the season is exciting and rewarding or difficult and challenging, Back2School meets students in their current season and provides encouragement. The theme verse, Psalm 1:3, reads: They are like a tree replanted by streams of water, which bear fruit at just the right time and whose leaves don’t fade. Whatever they do succeeds.

The writers for this special series are ministers from d365’s partner denominations: Gina Yeager-Buckley and Jason Santos from the Presbyterian Church (USA), Randall Curtis and Gail Jackins from The Episcopal Church, and Ann Carter and Joshua Hays from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Original instrumental arrangements by Carter Harrell accompany the daily devotionals. This album, “Making Space” is available on iTunes®.

Passport has released a 6-week Bible study for large or small groups that follows the weekly themes of the devotionals written by Jennifer Peterson Singh. Students participate through interactive discussion as well as individual devotional time and journaling. Back2School is available for purchase at, a production of Passport, Inc., is made possible by ongoing support from Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, The Episcopal Church, and Presbyterian Mission Agency.

@revblev: Never Better

by Rhonda Abbott Blevins, KBF Coordinator

It’s great to be back in the Commonwealth! I am loving seeing old friends and making new ones. As I learn about the work you’ve accomplished while I’ve been away, I must tell you, I stand amazed. You completed your tenth Extreme Build. You strengthened your partnership with the Protestant Church of Morocco. You collaborated and produced an outstanding worship resource. You discovered and welcomed new clergy, churches, and colleges. You lobbied in Frankfort on behalf of the least of these. The list could go on. I stand amazed.
One of our outstanding pastors told me this week, “There’s never been a better time to be a part of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship.” I’m convinced he’s right. I am honored to join you on this train that’s headed some exciting places . . . places I wouldn’t have imagined eight years ago.
As I get started in my new role as coordinator, my first priority is to connect and reconnect with our people. I have set a personal goal to be in all 60+ churches within one year as a worshipper, speaker, or preacher. I want to hear what’s happening in our churches. I want to understand how KBF can support the good work our churches are doing across the state. I want to strengthen ongoing efforts and discern new directions together. 
I am delighted to be back among you, especially since there’s never been a better time to be a part of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship.

Follow Rhonda on Twitter @revblev


Passport Reflections: Part 3

by Brittani Bair, Minister to Youth, Crescent Hill Baptist Church 

Crescent Hill Baptist Church participated in Passport Choices at Greensboro College in North Carolina the week of June 21-26. We were excited to join youth from other Louisville area and KBF and CBF churches there! We brought 37 excited teenagers, 7 optimistic adults, and one very brave volleyball.

The theme was "Revolution", and the week turned out to be truly amazing. One of our youth actually used the phrase "life-changing" on Facebook when describing her experience. 

While the youth may have been most excited about the way they were able to come together to beat the staff in the volleyball tournament, the most revolutionary thing I observed was the way our youth cared for each other during the week. Our group is a multicultural one with youth from different parts of the globe constantly having to learn how to be church to each other. Sometimes this happens and other times it is a struggle. Our week at Passport-Revolution was one of the times it worked. Our youth interacted like fellow-travelers on the same journey, like kids who come from the same place after all, someplace like the Kingdom.

I was particularly pleased with the way they supported one of our youth group members who uses a wheelchair. On two different occasions in worship, our youth chose to remain seated during worship experiences where everyone else was standing. They showed solidarity with their friend, "taking a stand" by taking a seat. This was just one example of the ways they impressed me during the week. Another was how brave they were to cry about the plight of the refugees shown in the mission offering video and how unashamed they were to talk with each other about how they felt watching it.

We truly lived out a revolutionary message at camp, that no matter what makes us different, we can include everyone. No one has to be a stranger or an outsider at church, everyone can belong. No matter what each of us has been through, we are home now, in the Family of God.