WICHITA, Kan. (BP)–Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., issued a statement Sept. 18 citing financial issues as one of the reasons for the departure of its pastor, Terry Fox, who currently serves as chairman of the North American Mission Board’s presidential search committee.
The statement also noted that Fox had threatened to sue.
“A threat in front of 50 deacons and ministerial staff was made by Rev. Terry Fox of individuals who might say anything reflecting negatively on him,” the statement recounted, referencing an Aug. 6 deacons’ meeting after Fox had announced his resignation that morning to the congregation.
Thus, the church’s two-paragraph statement noted that the deacons would “shield innocent parties and families the embarrassment due to their testimonies.”
“Multiple discoveries from testimonies involving many witnesses, both written and verbal, reflected negatively on the scriptural qualifications expected of a pastor,” the statement reported from the Aug. 6 deacons’ meeting.
“Careful examination of the church’s financial records revealed reallocation of Cooperative Program funds. A portion of the reallocation was used for a radio program — not affiliated with the church. This led to our agreement that it was wise for him to resign,” the statement concluded. (Cooperative Program funds are gifts sent by churches to support area-wide, state, national and international Baptist missions and ministries.)
Well-known for leading the campaign for a constitutional amendment banning “same-sex marriage” in Kansas, Fox and another Wichita-area pastor, Joe Wright of Central Christian Church, co-host a Sirius satellite radio program, “Answering the Call,” which examines social and political issues from a biblical perspective.
Fox rejected any notion of financial mismanagement on his part. In a statement to Baptist Press, Fox said allegations “have been made, but never proven.”
“I never did any spending of church finances without proper authority and accountability,” Fox said in his statement. “Even though my wife and I had requested an opportunity to answer any of their concerns, with the deacon body or the church body, this was never allowed. Because of the desire of some of the leadership for pastoral change we agreed to resign so that the Immanuel family could move on in their ministry. We are praying for Immanuel. My hope is that they would pray for me, my family, and Summit Church.”
Summit Church is the name of Fox’s new church plant in the Johnny Western Theatre at the new Wild West World theme park in Park City, 10 miles from Immanuel Baptist Church.
Pat Bullock, director of missions for the Wichita-area Heart of Kansas Southern Baptist Association, told Baptist Press, “I know for sure that Terry has not done anything that would cause me in any way to separate myself from him or done anything that would be illegal or immoral.” Bullock also said that Fox “has not been given an opportunity to respond to any of the allegations or charges against him.”
However, Dr. Don James, chairman of Immanuel’s deacons and the author of the church’s Sept. 18 statement, said Fox “was approached by several church members in the past years, both in writing and verbally, and did not respond, at least in our minds.” James stated that church leaders sought to follow Scripture in their dealings with Fox, utilizing such Bible passages as Matthew 18:15-17 and Galatians 2:11, 14.
James also noted that Fox acknowledged such contacts in a Sept. 2 article in The Wichita Eagle daily newspaper. “In an interview this week,” the paper stated, “Fox acknowledged that some deacons had approached him in the past few months privately about congregational complaints unrelated to his travels….” Fox told the paper, “It would sadden me to think that anybody would want to believe any of those rumors, and I’ll just call them rumors, that’s what they are.”
Bill Curtis, chairman of NAMB’s trustee board who was asked for a response to the church’s Sept. 18 disclosure, said in a statement to Baptist Press that Fox “has provided faithful service to the North American Mission Board for seven years as both a committee chairman and board chairman.” Fox served as NAMB chairman from 2003-04.
“We have always found him to be a man of integrity in dealing with the trustees and staff, and we appreciate his good service,” said Curtis, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, S.C.
James said the Immanuel statement followed what he referred to as a “church family meeting” Sunday night, Sept. 17. “It was not run like a business meeting,” James said. “Our statement summarizes what was revealed.”
Following his resignation, Fox cited his desire to spend more time traveling across the country in an effort to promote a Christian worldview. “I’m anxious to share the story of Kansas — how we organized and mobilized to make [the marriage amendment] happen,” Fox told Baptist Press in August. “I just had to go with where the passion of my heart was.”
The pastor of the Wichita church for 10 years, Fox often traveled away from the church to speak on political issues and lobby for social change. He estimated recently that he spent 25-30 weeks a year away from the church but insisted that he always returned to the pulpit for Sunday services.
Fox’s resignation had stunned some churchgoers, according to the Wichita Eagle. In the Sept. 2 article, two deacons anonymously reported that the resignation was the result of anger over Fox’s frequent trips away from the church, arrogance toward church members, “the appearance of integrity failures” and his consistent commentary on social ills, such as abortion.
Fox, however, told the paper that his resignation was only the result of the church’s desire for someone who would “give more attention to the flock.” Any other reasons given for his departure were rumors, he told the paper.