One third of Kentucky Baptist Convention employees are opting to resign or retire early in anticipation of a reorganization of the Baptist Building staff in Louisville.
Officials said May 7 that 23 full-time and four part-time employees of the KBC Mission Board accepted incentive packages and will leave their jobs by June 30. With the latest round of cuts, the second in a year, 43 full-time staff will remain at the Kentucky Baptist Building and eight full-time Baptist campus ministers will serve university and college campuses across the state.
The cutbacks result from a decade-long decline in income received through the Cooperative Program unified budget and a vote at the 2010 state convention annual meeting to reduce the percentage of mission gifts from churches that stay in Kentucky from 62 percent to 50 percent within 10 years.
KBC Executive Director Paul Chitwood was scheduled to present a strategic reorganization plan to the state convention’s executive board May 7-8. While the departures were termed voluntary, some workers reportedly were told there were plans to eliminate their jobs.
"Our goal, in this rapidly changing 21st century, is to provide more targeted assistance to our churches in order for them to reach people in their communities with the gospel," Chitwood said in a press release. “I’m very excited about where we are going and I believe our pastors and churches, when they learn the details of our plans, will be as well."
The Western Recorder quoted Chitwood in a story dated May 1 saying enough workers took voluntary severance that he didn’t anticipate any further layoffs would be recommended to the executive board. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported May 7 that some of the vacancies created by the departures will be filled.
Staff members were offered retirement and severance packages in early March and given until late April to decide. Seventeen who are 60 or older as of Dec. 31 will receive full retirement benefits, regardless of years of service, and additional cash benefits based on years of service. Severance packages for employees younger than 60 include 90 days of wages and benefits. Some have already found other employment, while others are now looking for jobs.
Sources said severance agreements included a clause that those accepting the incentives would not disparage the convention. Longtime leaders departing include Assistant Executive Director Steve Thompson, who leaves after 13 years of service at age 63, and Robert Reeves, communications director since 1998.