The Rev. Kevin Smith has been elected as the first African-American to serve as president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Smith, who was elected president during the group’s annual meeting in Elizabethtown, was greeted with cheers when the decision was announced. Smith defeated Jerry Tooley, director of missions in the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Owensboro, by a vote of 578-233
Smith, 48, said his main concern is to assist and encourage Baptist pastors around the state, especially those in new churches who are trying to gain a foothold in a community.
“Certainly Kentucky has a lot of smaller towns in rural areas and sometimes our pastors can find themselves in lonely situations or discouraging situations, so I want to try to be as much as an encouragement to them as I can be,” Smith said in recent news reports.
In the 1990s, Smith served as a county jail pastor in Chattanooga. He said many of the inmates he met were from broken families. That experience convinced him strong marriages and strong families are important.
Smith is a pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville and an assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention, the state’s largest religious organization, has about 750,000 members. The president’s job during the one-year term is to preside over the annual meeting and other gatherings associated with church missions and ministry.
Smith, who was also the first African-American to hold the office of first vice president, in 2006, said at the time, he “dreamed of the day when Baptists of color would not only be members of our convention, but welcomed as leaders … I believe this day has come.”