“I was shocked,” said Terry Fox, pastor of the 6,000-member Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, when a newspaper reporter interviewed him Aug. 16 about the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ policy, which was instituted in July.
Fox had heard that the national organization was considering such a policy but was shocked “that it had become reality.”
In the interview, Fox took a stand, telling The Wichita Eagle he would launch a telephone and letter-writing campaign in opposition to the new BBBS policy.
“When you work with children, in my opinion, it gives an opportunity for pedophilia to take place,” Fox told the newspaper. “Any organization that works with children must be held to a higher standard.”
The newspaper put his comments on the front page Saturday, Aug. 17.
Fox, who already had prepared a sermon on holiness, carried his concern to the pulpit on Sunday — with a crew from the local NBC affiliate in attendance.
The pastor urged his listeners, including a regular TV and radio audience, to do three things:
— “realize their responsibility as Christian citizens to take a stand.”
— “write and call the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization” to express opposition to the policy.
— “write and call the [BBBS] funding organizations, such as United Way and area businesses, to reconsider their funding.” The Wichita Eagle had cited three major grants from local sources this year: Koch Industries for $500,000; Boeing Wichita, $400,000; and Southwestern Bell, $350,000. United Way support, meanwhile, totaled more than $490,000.
Fox’s stance was telecast on the local news that night. On Monday, came a wave of interview requests — along with abusive calls to the church.
Before the new policy, Fox said he had publicly voiced support for Big Brothers Big Sisters and “was absolutely surprised how many of our members have participated in this program,” with 15 or more members telling him they had been either mentors or contributors.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press Aug. 19, “I praise God for the courageous and prophetic leadership Terry Fox exhibited in sounding the alarm to his community on this issue.
“Dr. Fox is doing what the good shepherd is supposed to do — warn the flock about the dangerous wolves that are prowling about the community and that are threatening the young. While this organization is renowned for its valuable work on behalf of children in the past and has positively impacted many young lives, this is a wrong-headed decision that promises tragic results in the future,” Land said.
“I applaud the support given to Dr. Fox by his church members,” Land added, “as he seeks to fulfill his biblically mandated role to speak the truth in love.
“Society does not always welcome such truth-telling and often targets the messenger who bears the unpopular message, but that did not dissuade the apostles and it should not dissuade us. We are called to be salt and light,” Land said.
“That means we will be controversial. Salty salt stings, burns and irritates as it purifies an open wound. The Bible tells us men love the darkness more than the light. When we shine the gospel light into dark places, many of those in the dark will strike out in an attempt to extinguish the light and keep their deeds in the dark.
“Clearly the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s corporate sponsors are going to have to hear Americans who disagree with the policy,” Land said, voicing appreciation for online efforts by the American Family Association at www.afa.net to facilitate contact with the organization and its corporate sponsors.
Fox, who delivered a theme interpretation during the SBC annual meeting in June in St. Louis, noted in his message that a vibrant church doesn’t have to have a big membership or large buildings; rather, it is “impacting its community for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
That includes soul-winning as “the number one agenda,” Fox said at the SBC. “I believe as you study the Scriptures, the local church was alive with the power of God,” he added. “It is inexcusable for people to come to church on Sunday morning and find a church spiritually dead. We serve a resurrected Christ and we need to portray that in our preaching.”
Dwayne Hastings contributed to this article. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TERRY FOX.