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United Way chapter accommodates stance on Big Brothers Big Sisters

WICHITA, Kan. (BP)–A Kansas pastor has achieved a key goal in opposition to the new policy of Big Brothers Big Sisters for homosexual mentors to children and youth: The local United Way chapter will permit donors to exclude BBBS from their contributions.

The Wichita-area United Way of the Plains board of directors voted Sept. 4 to create a “donor accommodation policy” in response to concerns voiced by local pastor Terry Fox in sermons Aug. 18 and 25 and in the local newspaper, The Wichita Eagle.

Fox, pastor of Wichita’s Immanuel Baptist Church, said he hopes the local United Way decision will “reverberate across the country, as other local chapters of United Way will be forced to deal with these controversial issues.”

Under the donor accommodation policy, Fox told Baptist Press, funds withheld from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sedgwick County “will not be redistributed and will actually be shown as a true deficit.”

The Wichita Eagle quoted Fox as saying that the United Way decision gives “someone like us, who have religious convictions against homosexuality, a way to still give to United Way.”

The national implications of the Wichita United Way decision were noted by both Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association.

Land said, “We should all commend the United Way’s Wichita office for being responsive to what was a massive outpouring of protests against the Big Brothers Big Sisters’ dangerous and reprehensible policy of allowing homosexuals to be mentors to children. …

“This shows once again that people taking a stand and speaking the truth can and do make a difference in their community,” Land said. “I applaud all the champions for faith in Wichita, those men and women who refused to sit quietly in the face of this threat to innocent children.”

Wildmon, who is leading a challenge to corporate donors to call Big Brothers Big Sisters to abandon the policy it mandated nationally July 1, told Baptist Press, “What happened in Wichita shows what one person can do.”

Urging other ministers “to follow that example and take a stand,” Wildmon said, “I don’t think that our country is going to begin to be turned around until pastors assume their leadership responsibility. Instead of being fearful, they need to say a prayer and ask the Lord to go with them and take their stand for righteousness. Then we’ll see some more changes.

“I thank God for one preacher [Fox] who took a stand,” Wildmon said. “He’s done a great deal of good not only for Wichita but for the country.”

United Way’s national director of public relations, Philip Jones, did not return Baptist Press’ requests for comment Sept. 5 and 6. But Jones told The Wichita Eagle the local United Way policy isn’t the first in the country. He told the newspaper he did not have a count of how many United Way chapters have donor accommodation-type policies.

Fox, who met several times with local United Way officials, voiced appreciation to the agency “for hearing our concerns and working with the religious community.”

With the local BBBS chapter holding to the national policy, Fox said, “We knew that if we were going to be successful in getting Big Brothers Big Sisters to listen to our concerns, we would have to affect their financing.”

The pastor said he hopes the local BBBS chapter – described by The Wichita Eagle as the largest in the nation, with more than 6,400 children enrolled in its services — “will see that the majority of people in Middle America are not for gay and lesbians mentoring our children, and will do the right thing and separate from the national organization and its hellish policy.” According to various reports, BBBS national policies allow for local chapters to take such action.

Fox said he also hopes that “every Christian in America will call their local Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and work to change this policy as well as contact the national office in Philadelphia expressing opposition to the mandate allowing homosexuals access to our kids. …

“It has been amazing to see Christians working together to help make a difference in our community,” Fox said. “The body of Christ is strong when we unite.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sedgwick County was anticipating $458,525 in United Way funding before the local controversy arose.

Pat Hanrahan, president of the United Way of the Plains, confirmed to The Wichita Eagle that contributions excluded from an agency will not be covered by other donors’ gifts. Instead, the money will be pooled for redistribution to other United Way agencies.

Hanrahan told the newspaper United Way adopted the policy to retain as many contributors as possible. “If we hadn’t taken this action, yes, the campaign would have suffered in a year where we are already hurting,” he told the newspaper.

The executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sedgwick County, Karl Monger, told The Eagle he believes any shortfall can be offset by grants or private donors.

Monger described the United Way policy, despite its impact on the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter he leads, as “the right and proper thing to do,” telling The Eagle that United Way’s “concern is, first and foremost, for the community as a whole.”

The newspaper quoted another local minister, Gary Cox of University Congregational Church, as being frustrated with “the evangelical community sounding so judgmental on this issue.”

“It’s still our call as Christians to love everybody and to leave judgment to God,” Cox said.

A minister in First Metropolitan Community Church, a Wichita congregation affiliated with the predominantly homosexual Metropolitan Community Churches denomination, told The Eagle he will discontinue his giving to United Way.

“We have a double standard,” Graylan Hawkins-Pyles told the newspaper, contending that homosexuals ought to be able to be BBBS mentors if they can be United Way contributors.

Fox, in his Aug. 25 sermon, said the local boards of United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters are “made up of good people, people who love kids.”

“But sometimes, guys, sometimes, ladies, … you’ve got to take a stand, and sometimes leadership requires tough decisions.”

Fox took note of criticisms leveled against his stance in a Wichita Eagle editorial and by one of the newspaper’s columnists — that children would be harmed by Christians abandoning the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

“Don’t you blame the Christians for this, don’t you blame Southern Baptists for this … you blame the homosexuals,” Fox said.

“They’re the ones who stepped into this and caused all the problems,” he said, referencing the national policy BBBS permitting homosexual and lesbian mentors to youth and children.

While U.S. culture has become accustomed to debates about homosexuality, Fox said what makes the Big Brothers Big Sister different “is here we’re talking about homosexuality and children. … That makes a huge difference.

“I do not believe it is ever in the best interests of a child to allow someone who has a perverse lifestyle according to the Word of God to work with children,” Fox said. “[E]ven if you took the Scriptures out of the debate, you would think common sense would tell you this is about the most foolish thing anybody could allow to happen.”

Not all homosexuals are pedophiles, Fox said, but the BBBS policy is tragic because it “gives the opportunity for pedophilia to take place.”