Pictured Above: Thomas A. and Ruth Ann Kinchen greet well-wishers at a reception in their honor during the 2022 Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting in Pensacola. Kinchen is retiring Dec. 31, 2022, after serving for 32-plus years as president of The Baptist College of Florida.
GRACEVILLE–After more than 32 years serving as president of The Baptist College of Florida, where he “influenced multiple generations of pastors and church leaders,” Thomas A. Kinchen is retiring Dec. 31, 2022.
For Thomas A. Kinchen, retiring president of The Baptist College of Florida, the highlight of his three-decade stint at the school’s helm ‘has been seeing our graduates render stellar service to our Lord and His church literally around the world.’
Kinchen, whose tenure is the longest of any person serving as president of the same Southern Baptist institution of higher education, said that the highlight of his three-decade stint at the helm “has been seeing our graduates render stellar service to our Lord and His church literally around the world.”
Reflecting on Kinchen’s leadership, Tommy Green, Florida Baptist Convention executive director-treasurer, said, “I am grateful for the substantive ministry of Dr. Kinchen at The Baptist College of Florida. He has led with integrity and skill over these past 32-plus years. He has balanced the role of pastor and president in serving our students and Florida Baptists. On behalf of Florida Baptists, I extend heartfelt gratitude to Tom and his wife Ruth Ann for their faithful service.”
Founded in 1943, the college trains and develops Christian leaders for the church and marketplace through offering 19 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The college is a cooperating ministry of the Florida Baptist State Convention, and it operates campuses in Graceville and Central Florida, with plans to establish a third campus in Miami.
In 1990 when Kinchen was called to lead the college, “he inherited an organization experiencing declining enrollment and with the mandate that if things did not change, the college would likely close within 18 months,” according to a resolution adopted by messengers to the 2022 Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting in Pensacola.
“When I arrived, I thought that the first two words in the name of the school were ‘Poor Old,’ Kinchen recalled.
“When I bragged about what was going on, I was cautioned not to brag on a poor little school in a tiny town in rural Florida. What folks did not recognize was that I was bragging on a mighty God in heaven who had initiated and supported this unique school.
“I have sought to face the challenges by never letting the school be defined by what we are not but by what we are.”
The school did not close; instead, it has grown tremendously over the decades of Kinchen’s leadership.
‘I do not think anyone could’ve imagined the growth of the school and the impact made through the college these past three decades.’
Describing Kinchen’s leadership as “visionary … Christ-centered … and courageous,” Mike Orr, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Chipley, said, “I do not think anyone could’ve imagined the growth of the school and the impact made through the college these past three decades.”
Kinchen “worked tirelessly to expand access to the college through multiple locations, distance learning, high school dual enrollment opportunities and has expanded the scope of degree offerings, including the addition of master’s level degrees,” the 2022 messengers’ resolution stated.
Tim Maynard, senior pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church in St. Johns, recalled first meeting Kinchen in 2010, when Maynard was serving on Florida Baptists’ State Board of Missions. “I knew immediately that he was a man with credibility and influence,” he said. Later, Maynard would serve on BCF’s board of trustees, saying, “The closer I was allowed to get to Dr. Kinchen, the more I appreciated his genuine love for the students, the school, the work of the convention and the expansion of the kingdom of God.”
Orr echoed Maynard’s sentiments regarding Kinchen’s “genuine love,” saying, “He is compassionate. He has loved students, faculty and staff for years. He loved us like family; like a father to his children.”
As he contemplates his days in retirement, Kinchen and his wife Ruth Ann plan to live on a small farm in Graceville, where he will fish, hunt, carpenter and farm. He vows that although his “heart will be tied to the school,” his “eyes, ears, mouth and hands will remain off of it.
‘My prayer for BCF and for Dr. Clayton Cloer, BCF president-elect, is that God will pour out His blessings in such a great way that the things that seemed miraculous during my tenure will pale in comparison to what lies ahead for this beloved school.’
“My prayer for BCF and for Dr. Clayton Cloer, BCF president-elect, is that God will pour out His blessings in such a great way that the things that seemed miraculous during my tenure will pale in comparison to what lies ahead for this beloved school.”
Stepping into his role as seventh BCF president on Jan. 1, 2023, Cloer is grateful for the legacy created by his predecessor.
“Tom Kinchen has sown more into the harvest across Florida in the past 32 years than anyone. His influence on multiple generations of pastors and church leaders through The Baptist College of Florida will continue long after his retirement.”