Monday, August 07, 2006

Leading Kansas Conservative Pastor Resigns Suddenly

Christina Woods reported in Monday's Wichita Eagle on the surprising and sudden resignation of conservative pastor Terry Fox.

The Rev. Terry Fox, who helped lead the successful push last year for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, resigned Sunday as senior pastor of Wichita's Immanuel Baptist Church.
"I see a need for Christians to get involved in issues," Fox said during his resignation speech, which happened toward the end of the 10:30 a.m. service.
Fox, whose resignation took effect immediately, said he and church leaders agreed he should resign after 10 years as senior pastor. Neither Fox nor church officials would say what led Fox to resign.
This was a very sudden decision as reading between the lines of the Eagle story hints.
Deacons of the church met at length Sunday afternoon to discuss, among other issues, a possible interim replacement for Fox, who said he imagines a pastoral search committee will be created.
Maybe I'm reading too much into this but it looks to me very much like a crisis decision. Is Fox's resignation the result of a scandal? The other possibility which occurs to me is that there was an unresolvable clash of wills between Fox and the church lay leadership.

Fox is more than just a Wichita figure. He is a real national power among Southern Baptists. He was part of the trustees of a major Southern Baptist institution, the North American Mission Board which imposed "executive controls" over NAMB President Bob Record earlier this year. He made the nominating speech for one of the candidates for first VP of the SBC.

Alas, Kansas won't be free of Fox.
Fox said he plans to stay in Wichita and continue co-hosting a nationally syndicated radio show with Wright. The show, which airs from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday evenings on KNSS, is expanding its format.
Earlier this year, when a Paul Mireki was forced to resign as chair of Kansas University's Religion Department after sending emails disparaging fundamentalists, Fox's congregation reportedly cheered on hearing the news. I imagine there are lots of folks in Kansas cheering Fox's departure--and not just atheists, agnostics, and free thinkers.

UPDATE August 9
A follow-up article in today's Eagle has Fox saying that some members were complaining about his travelling for out-of-state political causes. Up to 35 weeks a year according to the Rev. Fox.

Columnist Mark McCormick asks whether there is more to it.
That brings us back to the community's need for an explanation.

To have the details of this separation come out in dribs and drabs certainly won't help the church move beyond the pain of the split. And because Fox is a public figure and influential newsmaker, not talking about what happened will only lead to more speculation. And speculation can be far more damaging than the truth.

Fox appearing so talkative, and the church seeming so reticent, reflects how far apart the two sides have grown.

No matter who is saying what, the rest of us aren't getting the whole story.

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