Kentucky Baptist Fellowship Forging Partnership With Historically Black Simmons College

Simmons College

The Kentucky Baptist Fellowship is forging a partnership with both a historically black college and a large African-American congregation whose pastor does double duty as its president.

Bob Fox, moderator of the statewide affiliate of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, reported in an e-newsletter March 20 on recent conversations with Simmons College of Kentucky, formed after the Civil War as a training institute for former slaves and now undergoing a renaissance on its original campus in Louisville, Ky.

Fox, pastor at Faith Baptist in Georgetown, Ky., said for years he has been concerned about lack of diversity in the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship, but his attempts at outreach gained little success. Then out of the blue, he said, KBF Interim Coordinator received a call from leaders at Simmons, who wanted to meet with them.

“I had the pleasure of meeting with Frank Smith, their dean, and Kevin Cosby, their president along with Chris Sanders, [Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville Pastor] Chris Caldwell, and Matthew Johnson,” pastor of Ridgewood Baptist Church.

“We were received with warmth in their downtown Louisville administrative offices,” Fox reported. “A productive discussion began which left all of us encouraged. They told us that they were interested in partnering with KBF not for monetary reasons but for reasons of identity. They were pleased to find a group of Baptists that valued the same things they did.”

“The news only got better when Cosby took me by the hand at the meeting and said, ‘We need you,’” Fox said. “He told me that in addition to a partnership with Simmons, St. Stephen wanted to join KBF. ‘I’m ready to write a check,’ he told me. My heart leapt with joy at the prospect (not of the check) but of KBF growing and more specifically building a relationship with an African-American congregation.”

A week later, Fox said, he was invited to bring greetings on the Fellowship’s behalf at the February pastor’s conference of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, a grouping of churches from the four largest historically African-American Baptist denominations who work together primarily to support Simmons College and the American Baptist newspaper.

Simmons College opened in 1879 as the Kentucky Normal & Theological Institute, at the time the state’s only African-American liberal arts college and where all of the state’s black teachers received their training.

Renamed Simmons University in 1918, the school added a new building in 1924 but hit hard times in the Great Depression. The campus was sold to the University of Louisville, which operated it as the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes until 1951, when U of L integrated.

Simmons University, which had relocated to west Louisville in 1935, continued with a narrower focus of educating young men and women for Christian service. In 1982 the school was renamed Simmons Bible College to more accurately reflect its mission.

The original campus near Seventh and Kentucky streets was long owned by Jefferson County Public Schools, which declared it surplus in the 1990s. At the urging of his father, at the time chairman of the school board, Cosby and St. Stephen Baptist Church, where he is pastor, acquired the four-acre campus in 1997 for about $130,000.

Cosby was named 13th president of Simmons in 2005 and returned the college to its liberal arts roots in 2014.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Baptist News Global
Bob Allen

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