Don’t Sell Your Souls Kentucky Baptists

Don't sell your souls Ky Baptists

Sunrise Children’s Services is asking Ky Baptists to sell their souls for the sake of “the greater good.” In a letter written to pastors across the state, President of Sunrise William Smithwick argues,

The issue for the Sunrise Children’s Services Board has not been and is not about homosexuality. The core question is not about separation of church and state or government money. The question is “What is the greater good?” Do we walk away from the pain, suffering, loneliness, and brokenness of the kids we serve over our hiring practice or continue ministering to young children who desperately need someone to show them God’s love? (Source at the bottom of this page)

What is Smithwick and the Board requesting? They’re wanting to change their hiring practices that currently forbid the hiring of homosexuals. Smithwick justifies his request in the name of the “greater good” by pointing to Christ as our example. Concerning Christ healing on the Sabbath and the condemnation of the Pharisees, Smithwick writes,

What did Jesus do that was so sinful? He helped and healed those who could not help themselves on the Sabbath much to the chagrin of the righteous Pharisees. He put people over dogma, grace over law, and healing over doctrinal purity. Such is the principle we face at Sunrise–which is the greater good–save the kids or keep our hiring practices and close. Shall we keep the law or heal on the Sabbath day? (Source at the bottom of this page)

I’m amazed that Smithwick is comparing Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath Day to Sunrise Children’s Services hiring of homosexuals. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (God) (Matt. 12:8); Smithwick is not Lord of sexuality. How can Sunrise Children’s Services possibly minister the gospel that demands repentance of sin and faith in Christ while justifying homosexuality? Will unrepentant homosexuals minister the gospel to children there? If there is no repentance of sin, there is no faith in Christ, and there is no gospel. The gospel (good news) is that Christ died for our sins (including the sin of homosexuality), rose from the dead to declare us righteous, and all those who repent of their sins (including homosexuality) and trust in Christ will be reconciled to God. Smithwick is asking Ky Baptists to sell their souls for sake of “the greater good.”

But, why the request? Smithwick and Sunrise love the children and families they minister to. Sunrise needs money to continue the current depth and breadth of their ministries. Smithwick writes,

The day is soon coming when sexual preference will become protected status attached to Federal monies and will likely be added to State monies, forcing anyone who accepts either to comply or close. (Source at the bottom of this page)

Smithwick continues,

Of our $27M budget, Baptists, including CP gifts and church giving, account for only a little over $1M. The only way we can continue this ministry without taking state and federal monies is to open a small group home for six children (serving a total of maybe twenty kids each year). Otherwise, we must be licensed, which requires meeting state mandated regulations. (Source at the bottom of this page)

Thus, for the sake of $26M, Smithwick wants KY Baptists to permit Sunrise Children’s Services to hire homosexuals. What he fails to realize is that he’s asking us to sell our souls. Smithwick is asking Ky Baptists to justify the sin of homosexuality in the name of ministry. He’s asking us to forsake repentance of sin in the name of “the greater good.” Consider these words by Herschel York,

I do not question Mr. Smithwick’s love for children, but it would be immeasurably better to do what only we Baptists can afford without the government than to capitulate our convictions in order to get Caesar’s money. Separated from the gospel call to repentance and faith in Jesus, we only make the world a better place to go to hell from. When we assure the state that we will not “proselytize,” we promise a Christless social ministry that feeds the body and starves the soul. When we bend our beliefs to remain palatable to the culture or acceptable to the state, we cease to follow a crucified Savior who counseled us that the world would do to us what it did to Him.

James wrote that pure and undefiled religion is to care for orphans and widows in their affliction, but also “to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). By suggesting that we should compromise on the latter in order to do the former, Mr. Smithwick has edited the inspired Word of God and is attempting to make faithful Kentucky Baptists complicit in his revision. We must not sell our birthright of God’s favor for a bowl of government contract pottage.

When the board of Sunrise Children’s Services meets on November 8, their first order of business should be to refuse to compromise the clear teaching of God’s Word as suggested by Mr. Smithwick. Their second action should be to remove him as director for even suggesting it.

I agree with York. Don’t sell your souls Ky Baptists. Let us make sure all of our ministries that we fund preach repentance of sin and trust in the finished work of Christ for salvation (the gospel). And let us make sure that those who preach repentance of sin and trust in Christ, are repenting and trusting in Christ. We cannot justify hiring unrepentant homosexuals or any other person in open unrepentant sin in our ministries. To compromise here is to undermine the gospel that we preach.

*All the quotes from Smithwick in this article came from this letter he sent to KY Baptists across the sate (page 1 & Page 2).

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Page 2



  1. Bennett Willis says

    I suppose if I were from KY, I would know what this group does in the state–but I’m not. Could someone put in a comment clarifying this?

    It is clear that Baptists contribute about 3% of the service’s budget. Where does the rest come from?

  2. says

    Seems that the Children’s Services rep. is seeking to throw the needy helpless children under the bus. Behold, the pedophiles lined up to be so helpful, employable, and seeking an endless supply of their objects of desire. Just make a study of any children who have been subjected to sexual seduction and how it affects them as the become adults and try to live lives that make positive contributions to the communities of which they are a part. The results are in, and have been for years, promiscuity, alcoholism, drug addictions, inability to stay with jobs or make or earn a living, and, in today’s unemployable environment, they need more than ever to have sound and healthy lives that are well-trained, disciplined, and capable of sustaining meangful relationships with others in order to make a living. That the director of a Baptist Children’s Service should advocate such course of action for a few government handouts that will carry with them ever more bizarre requirements is a folly beyond words.

    • SJ says

      Dr. Willingham,
      So glad to see here that you understand the potentially devastating consequences of the actions of pedophiles on child victims. I hope that you have offered your support and encouragement to Christa Brown and/or Amy Smith, both of whom seem to be working diligently to bring attention to this issue within the SBC.

      I’m concerned about your comment, however, because the original post (and also the two-page letter sent by the president of Sunrise Children’s Services, William Smithwick) is discussing homosexuality, not pedophilia. Very strange that you equate the two. While they are both sexual sins, they are not at all the same.

      • says


        Do you also find it “very strange” that in all the cases of child molestation in the Catholic Church, it was nearly universally male offenders and male victims—homosexual molestation?

        • SJ says

          The cases of child molestation by priests in the Catholic Church are indeed horrible. But closer to home here in the SBC, the cases I’ve heard about regarding child molestation by employees of SBC churches or entities, the perpetrators were married men with children.

          My point is that whether a person self-identifies (publicly) as homosexual or heterosexual, is not a good indicator of a child molester. But this point is a tangential issue to the focus of the original post, so I’ll leave it there.

      • says

        Here’s an interesting statistic from the Catholic League:

        The major distinguishing feature of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is that the majority of alleged victims are male (81%), while in the general population females are more likely to be sexually abused (Pereda et al., 2009). This fact also suggest that part of the problem is a hebephilic homosexual orientation on the part of priests—adolescent boys are the most vulnerable population to be victimized—which becomes a political hot potato, given the secular agenda to normalize homosexuality.

        • Debbie Kaufman says

          Southern Baptists have a policy of not hiring homosexuals and still are close to the Catholic church in number of child molestation cases. It wasn’t much of a concern when it was discovered as many of us for the last 6 almost 7 years have been calling for action and receiving nothing but excuses.

          I understand not hiring homosexuals because the Bible calls it sin, I’m not comfortable with equating homosexuals to pedophilia as a reason.

          • Dave Miller says

            That is simply not true, Debbie. Within the SBC, there have been great strides taken in churches to change the culture of abuse. Yes, it still goes on, but simply because your particular solutions have not been accepted does not mean that the subject has received, “nothing but excuses.”

            Simply is NOT true.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            Dave: Until we get even more serious, cases are still being discovered. It is true. The strides taken are not enough. Not near enough.

        • says

          When it comes to childcare workers, is it safe for us to assume that crossing one boundary of sexual deviance does not in the least mean that the such a person might be more prone to crossing other boundaries of sexual deviance as well (such as molesting children)?

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            Ken: Yes. I think it is. Can you put those who have affairs in that category as well? This is something the SBC is full of too. Adultery is a sin isn’t it? Would you also say they could be pedophiles?

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            I think honesty and facts are to be utmost in the argument for not hiring homosexuals. The facts are homosexuality and pedophiles are not related. I think SJ has laid out the facts pretty nicely.

  3. Roger Simpson says


    You are 100% right in taking Sunrise’s current management to task.

    I’m in Oklahoma. If one of the facilities associated with the BGCO [Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma] — such as our children’s home in Owasso — was to try something like this, I’d be asking the president and/or exec-treasurer of the BGCO if it wasn’t time to be looking for new leadership at that home.

    Is Sunrise a branch of the Kentucky state convention. If it is:

    (a) What does Dr. Chitwood say about what Smithwick is proposing?

    (b) I just don’t see how the rank and file will ever support this.

    (c) Dr. York is right.

    (d) Smithwick better change his tune or he needs to polish his resume.

    Since when do we auction off core Biblical beliefs to the highest bidder?

    Roger Simpson Oklahoma City OK

  4. says

    “How can Sunrise Children’s Services possibly minister the gospel that demands repentance of sin and faith in Christ while justifying homosexuality?”

    Double-mindedness undermines the Gospel.

    Better to do what Catholic Charities did in Massachusetts. Close down adoption services rather than provide children to homosexuals.

    Great post Jared. Shame on Smithwick and the Board for even considering to write this proposal.

    • SJ says

      Uh oh, truthunites. You too?

      “provide children to homosexuals” – Really?!

      As I said in a comment above, even though homosexuality and pedophilia are both sexual sins, they are not the same.

  5. Roger Simpson says

    I just went over to the website of the Kentucky Baptist convention.

    Readers to SBC Voices will note that, Dr. Chitwood, the Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, has put up a post regarding the Children’s Home.

    Dr Chitwood’s post includes the names (and in most cases the E-mails) of the trustees of the Kentucky Children’s Home (aka Sunrise).

    Roger Simpson Oklahoma City OK

  6. Irwin Fletcher says

    Baptists can work with Catholics to protest abortion.
    Baptists can work with Mormons to oppose gay marriage.
    Baptists can work with feminists to lobby against pornography.
    Baptists can work with homosexuals to help orphans find homes.

    I don’t think the orphans care about the sexual orientation of the person helping them find a home.

    • says

      Irwin, this is supposed to be a gospel-based ministry of the KBC. If we justify open unrepentant sin (in this case, homosexuality), we undermine the gospel that we preach.

      • Irwin Fletcher says

        Gospel based, yes. Based upon the Gospel, you’re caring for orphans and trying to get them into homes. I’m confused as to why you cannot partner with anyone (gay/Mormon/divorced/etc) in matters of common grace? Feeding the starving or fighting sex trafficking are done based on the Gospel, but are not themselves the Gospel. I think homosexuality is absolutely a sin, but I could work alongside a homosexual physician on a medical missions trip. Just like the orphan, I don’t think the person getting the surgery will mind the sexual orientation of the person performing the operation.

        • says

          Irwin, by “gospel-based” ministry, I mean a ministry based on the gospel, a ministry that shares the love of Christ and His gospel. An unrepentant homosexual, adulterer, drunk, etc. would undermine the gospel message that Christians shared. Thus, Sunrise can’t be a gospel based ministry that preaches the gospel (repentance of sin and trust in Christ) if open unrepentant sin is tolerated in the workers.

          • Irwin Fletcher says

            I see your point. I would argue for a broader area of cooperation for Christian entities that are doing common grace work. I see this as being fundamentally different than local church work, where there is a mechanism for purity (church discipline). On another note, not to be overly pessimistic, but I suspect many Gospel based ministries contain multitude examples of tolerated unrepentant sin….just not homosexuality: Somehow they keep rolling along. Perhaps the Gospel message is powerful enough to compensate for the many ways we fall short of it. At any rate, I go back to a point made earlier, which is that orphans probably don’t care so much about the sexual orientation of the adoption paper pusher as they do having a warm bed, an adult who loves them, and a realistic shot at happiness.

  7. Karen says

    This post indicates Smithwick is trusting in money rather than God. He obviously doesn’t know how George Muller ran his orphanage.

  8. cb scott says

    Thank you for putting up this post, Jared Moore.

    However, the sad state of affairs it reveals about the Kentucky Baptist sponsored children’s home is truly gut wrenching. The thinking of Mr. Smithwick represents the end result of the direction of some of the poor leadership that has occurred in Baptist sponsored childcare in recent years.

    Some hires I know of in Baptist sponsored childcare have been poor. (Actually, more than poor, just simply pathetic in some cases.)

    The priority in the hires of some has not been to enlist a person of a biblical worldview faith, true Christian ethics, and a right moral compass. Some hires have been based on the candidate having the right state sanctioned social worker degrees. A lot of Baptist trustees need to wake up and realize their accountability is more than saying thank you after being fed a honey and almond glazed, rubber chicken at the the trustee dinner.

    • says

      The same could be said for many of those who have been hired to work in Baptist-related colleges and universities, and even in Christian day schools. More stock is placed in secular accreditation and certification than on the Biblical faith and ethics of the individual who is hired to serve and teach. Those schools should be training teachers who will serve and follow a Biblical worldview in their classroom, but instead, they are prepared to teach in the public school system, by the secular humanist certification standards required by the state. The excuse is that if they don’t teach that way, they won’t get any placements.

  9. says

    When I began reading that letter, I started jotting down some notes for a possible comment, but there’s so much unbelievable error that I didn’t want to end up posting a comment longer than the original article, (which I believe I have done on at least one occasion here).

    I’ll simply say this: This is a deeply disturbing letter, especially coming from the head of a Baptist-affiliated organization. To be perfectly frank, the colossal level of error here strikes me as having only two possible interpretations: Either (a) Smithwick is astonishingly ignorant of the substance and the importance of the issues involved, or (b) he is fully aware and is being purposefully subversive. Either way, the fact that he would sign his name to this letter should send up a red flag to Kentucky Baptists. This is not an instance of an otherwise good letter containing a few small, nuanced foibles; rather, it’s hard to find a single redeeming quality in what he’s written.

    Dr. York recommendation is harsh but correct. Smithwick should be immediately removed for even suggesting this.

  10. says

    This is a problem that a lot of Baptist-related entities are going to have when it comes to their operations. There are always strings attached when government money is involved, and our children’s homes are dependent on the state for the payments needed to care for the kids. Likewise, our colleges and universities are dependent on federal grants and guaranteed loans in order to pay tuition and fees for students. If the children’s home doesn’t submit to the non-discrimination laws, the state will not place children there. If they have no children, and no funds, they close. While I would say that closing is better than being disobedient to the word of God, there are some alternatives. First of all, I’d say, “Trust God.” Here’s a few.
    1. I don’t know about Kentucky, but if it is anything like my state, the need for beds and homes for residential and institutional foster care for children far exceeds the availability. It would create a huge bind in the system if the homes here in Pennsylvania operated by conservative Christian groups could not get placements or funding, and I’ll bet there are individuals in the child welfare department who would be willing to move the earth to prevent a home from closing. Having lived in Kentucky, I suspect that’s the case there.
    2. There are a number of Christian operated children’s homes who pay their bills and care for kids without accepting a dime of state or federal tax money, and few of them are associated with, or supported by a denomination as large as a Baptist state convention, or the SBC. It would probably require shifting money from entertaining ourselves, and building capacious edifices in which to spend an hour or two a week at what we call worship these days, but I bet that, with God’s help, we could do it.
    3. No help will be forthcoming from the political arena. Both major parties are committed to legislation that enforces what they call “non-discrimination,” and there are few politicians willing to risk their position and be accused of promoting employment discrimination. But, if your employment policy requires your employees to attend the daily devotional, the weekly chapel, and come with a recommendation from their local, Bible believing church, you can avoid hiring those who are not desirable. Be courageous. Do what’s right and see what God will do.

    Funding Baptist-related institutions will be a challenge. It will require getting our priorities straight in ministry. We’re spending way too much on construction of facilities that largely sit empty except for a few hours a week, or are very heavy on the recreational usage, and light on practical use. And we’re spending small fortunes on scads of professional musicians to entertain us on Sunday morning, and appeal to our musical taste, among other things. If we really care about the kind of ministry that a children’s home provides, we’ll trust God and find a way to do it. Compromising our convictions to keep it open is admitting to failure.

  11. says

    Eventually, ENDA will be passed (by the Senate this week?) and it wont be much of a choice. Hire homosexuals or get sued. Wont be many questions about gub’ment money then…

      • says

        Jared, the exemptions for religious institutions in the bill are pretty weak. There’s no real protection against institutions who use the exemption from losing their tax exempt status, licenses, accreditations, etc., it contains no language which states that congress will both prohibit job discrimination, and protect the legitimate employment rights of religious institutions (such as ideological and doctrinal compliance), and there are some other statements which religious institutions feel need to be included to clarify exactly what determines the connection between the institution and its religious constituency. Those are things which need to be included for religious institutions to be fully exempt from the provisions of ENDA.

  12. Tina Foley says

    The long and short of it I am hearing here is the Baptist organizations only provide about 3% of the funding to Sunrise currently a MUCH larger portion comes from the State of Kentucky who requires non-discriminatory hiring practices.

    However I know many Baptist Churches individually support Sunrise in other ways, My Grandmother’s Church for example brings the kids to their gym for open gym and other special events. As a home founded by Baptists in KY I would hope that its administration would NEVER waiver on the Biblical beliefs of the founders, that said I understand the position of Smithwick in not wanting to lose funding because of what is viewed as discriminatory hiring practices. The Solution KY Baptists STEP UP YOUR FINANCIAL GAME don’t let the state by majority stakeholder in an organization our denomination started.

    We have many Church’s with adoption ministries also, and they help fund overseas adoptions but lets not forget there are also kids here in KY who need loving Christian Homes as well!