The University of the Cumberlands is working with Kentucky Baptist Convention leaders to take steps to dissolve the Covenant Agreement between the two institutions.

The proposal, which is subject to the approval of the messengers to the 2018 KBC Annual Meeting, provides for the University to elect its own trustees.

This past summer, the University approached Dr. Paul Chitwood, Executive Director of the KBC, and the Administrative Committee of the Mission Board to request a modification to the 1986 Covenant Agreement between the Convention and University. One of the changes requested by University leaders was the opportunity to have the sole responsibility for appointing trustees. At present, all trustees for the University 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 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.”

The KBC’s Administrative Committee, meeting in August, 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, the University’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a request to dissolve the Covenant Agreement between the University 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,” said Cockrum. “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 the KBC to approve the termination of the old Covenant Agreement, the University’s Board expressed its hope that the University and Convention will find new ways to cooperate in future ministries. 

As a show of appreciation and goodwill toward the KBC, Cumberlands is making a $1,000,000 gift toward KBC church planting efforts. Cumberlands will also return nearly $350,000 in Cooperative Program funds received from Kentucky Baptist churches during the current fiscal year, dating back to June 1, 2018.

KBC’s Administrative Committee 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 said the Covenant Agreement is a voluntary agreement between the University and KBC.

“The actions being proposed simply create the potential for a faster end to the existing covenant agreement rather than a 4-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 agree to the amendment.”

Barry Fields, a member of the KBC Administrative Committee who also chairs the Agency & Institutions Committee of the Mission Board, has called a special meeting to discuss the University’s request. 

Chitwood said he anticipates the issue would be discussed at the next Mission Board meeting, set for November 12 in Pikeville.