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York elected as KBC president
November 22, 2004
By David Roach

Hershael York (right) narrowly defeated the Rev. Rusty Ellison in the vote for president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. York is the first Southern Seminary professor to hold this office since 1899. York also pastors Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky. Photo courtesy of The Courier Journal

Messengers to the 167th annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention elected Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Hershael York as state convention president Nov. 16 at St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville.

York, who serves as Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern, won the presidency by a vote of 686-627 over Louisville pastor Rusty Ellison. York is the first Southern Seminary professor to be elected to the post since F.H. Kerfoot in 1899.

"I understand that it's my job to relate to all Kentucky Baptists, to serve them all, to represent them well and to lead them this one year that I have for the glory of the Lord Jesus," York said.

York, who pastors Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, said one of his top priorities as KBC president is to strengthen the relationship between the state convention and Southern Seminary a relationship that has been strained since the seminary began to take a more conservative direction under the leadership of R. Albert Mohler Jr. in 1993.

"I would like to see a greater and healthier relationship between Southern Seminary and the institutions of the KBC," he said. " The fact is that so many people in the state and the state convention have been trained at Southern Seminary prior to that shift. Many of them felt hurt and anger and some bitterness over that change. But that's 11 years ago. Southern Seminary has become a tremendous force not only in the state, but in the Southern Baptist Convention and the world.

"Southern Seminary is there to stay, and it's time for those old wounds to heal and for us to realize we have the same purposes in serving the Lord Jesus."

One problem in Kentucky Baptist life during the last decade has been the reluctance of state convention entities to utilize Southern Seminary professors to lead Bible studies and other events, York said.

"We've got a faculty that is world-renowned," he said. "It is a shame for the state not to take advantage of those resources, and it's a shame for those faculty members to not be involved in their Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. I would hope that my involvement with the state [convention] would get other faculty members involved."

In the next year York plans to visit each KBC-affiliated institution to develop strategies by which Southern Seminary faculty and students can play a more significant role in Kentucky Baptist life, he said.

"I'd like to see a greater camaraderie," York said. "I would love to reach out. I plan to visit each one of those institutions and meet with their presidents. If possible, I'd love to meet with faculty members and students. I really want them to see that we're not the enemy. We're their friend. We're serving the Lord Jesus."

Another way in which Southern should partner with the KBC is in evangelistic efforts involving students, he said. Southern students can be "an incredible force for evangelism," York said. "We've got over 3,000 students. Let's mobilize. I want Southern Seminary students to not simply be academically trained at Southern but get hands-on, face-to-face witnessing opportunities all across this state and see people come to faith in Christ as a result."

As president York also hopes to encourage and edify pastors of small churches and bivocational pastors, he said.

"I have a real burden for small church pastors and bivocational pastors," York said. "My dad was a small church pastor. "

One of the most exciting parts of serving as KBC president will be promoting Kentucky Baptists Connect, an initiative calling Kentucky Baptists to renewed commitments in evangelism, missions, leadership training and networking, York said.

"I'm really excited about Kentucky Baptists Connect," he said. "We've set reasonable goals, and certainly the goals that we have set are not too big for God. Reaching 125,000 people is doable. My heart is for evangelism."

Ultimately, York's greatest joy comes from being a follower of Christ, but serving Kentucky Baptists enhances that joy, he said.

"My great joy is not just that I've been elected president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention but that my name is recorded in heaven," he said. "And I would have that joy whether I was elected president or not."

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