KBC members: no confidence in Sunrise president

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photographer - Justin Jones

LONE OAK, KY -- A shakeup within Sunrise Children's Services. The Chief Executive's stance on a controversial issue could mean the end of his presidency.

At the Kentucky Baptist's Convention's annual meeting; held at the Lone Oak First Baptist Church; members voted 'no confidence' for the president of Sunrise Children's Services.

They also eleven new trustees to the board.

It's in response to Sunrise President and C.E.O. Bill Smithwick's earlier recommendation to lift the ban on hiring homosexuals because the group gets taxpayer funding to the tune of 26 million dollars.

After an outcry from affiliated churches; the Sunrise board of trustees voted to keep the ban, but the president and C.E.O. is taking an unpopular stand.

He spoke to the K.B.C. and Local 6 about it.

He said he fears gay rights legislation, like the Employment Nondiscrimination Act or ENDA approved by the Senate will eventually force sunrise to hire gay Americans or lose their taxpayer funding.

While ENDA likely wont pass the house, Smithwick fears similar legislation will in the near future.

Tuesday, many Kentucky Baptists made it clear, they disagree on changing the policy.

In front of representatives from Baptist Churches across Kentucky---Sunrise Children's Services President Bill Smithwick said his views on homosexuality have not changed, but he's afraid Sunrise will.

He said he fears the ban on hiring homosexuals could eventually lead to the end of taxpayer funding. But Baptists seemed more worried about compromising their convictions. After Smithwick's speech, there were lots of questions including one asking Smithwick if he would promise not to bring the issue back up.

There were more questions than time allowed.

Smithwick spoke to Local 6 after his speech and says he's not sure he'll stay with Sunrise.

He might not have a choice later in the day, members passed an overwhelming vote of no confidence in Smithwick.

K.B.C. Executive Director, Paul Chitwood said it's simple--Smithwick's recommendation goes against Baptist beliefs.

"I don't think Kentucky Baptists would be willing to embrace it and that would require a significant pairing down of the ministry," Chitwood said.

It's important to note the vote of 'no confidence' does not mean Smithwick is fired. Only the unrise board of directors can fire an employee.

But the K.B.C. delegates have made it pretty clear how they feel about Smithwick.

Smithwick said if sunrise lost funding it would still exist but in a much smaller capacity and would serve fewer children.

The agency receives 26 million a year in taxpayer funding and 1 million from the KBC.

Sunrise Children cares for about two thousand kids a year by offering homes for abused children across Kentucky.

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