When conservative Pastor Terry Fox resigned suddenly in early August from his pulpit at Immanuel Baptist Church, I wrote that there was probably more to the story than had come out. Wichita Eagle columnist Mark McCormick shared my skepticism. Now we know that there indeed was something more to the story.Joe Rodriguez reported in the Wichita Eagle .
The Rev. Terry Fox's use of church funds to support his radio program was a factor in his resignation as senior pastor, according to a statement issued this week by Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita.
The statement, issued by Don James, chairman of the deacons, also said testimony from many witnesses "reflected negatively on the Scriptural qualifications expected of a pastor." It also said Fox threatened to sue "individuals who might say anything negatively" about him.
The statement was presented to the congregation Sunday and is the first official comment from the church about what it says led to Fox's resignation Aug. 6.
Fox, who now leads the new Summit Church in Park City, said Wednesday that he did not threaten to sue anyone when he met with church officials.
"What I said to them is as people are talking and rumors and allegations are made, anyone in America has a right to be protected," he said, "including Baptist preachers."
He also denied that he did anything wrong with church mission funds.
The Immanuel statement says that a "careful examination of the church's financial records revealed reallocation of cooperate [sic] program funds. A portion of the reallocation was used for a radio program -- not affiliated with the church."
Cooperative program funds typically are donations used to support missions and ministries in the congregation and elsewhere.
Fox and the Rev. Joe Wright are hosts of a weekly radio show, "Answering the Call," which airs from 7 to 9 p.m. Sundays on KNSS, 1330-AM, and on Sirius satellite radio.
The statement did not say how much money was reallocated, nor whether the church would pursue legal action.
In response to a request Wednesday by The Wichita Eagle for additional comment, the church faxed a three-sentence statement saying it wanted to keep such matters private and would not comment further.
Fox acknowledged he did use mission funds for the "Answering the Call" radio show but said he had the authority to do so as senior pastor. He did not know how much he spent, but said it was not "a sizable amount."
He also said other church leaders knew of his use of the money and did not question him about it or indicate that it was a problem. Fox said he considered the radio program to be mission work for the church.
"I absolutely saw 'Answering the Call' as a tremendous way to give a biblical view and to share the Gospel," he said.
Rodriguez doesn't dig very deep. He's a self-proclaimed Christian conservative who sees nothing wrong with Attorney General Phill Kline's church-based politics. Rodriguez should have pointed out that the radio program is heavily political and openly endorsed candidates. He should ask what whether Fox's expenditure of church funds for his political radio show has endangered the Immanuel's tax-exempt status. He should also take a look at whether Fox lied to his radio station and his radio audience. He should ask Fox's co-host Rev. Joe Wright whether Wright was aware that Fox was spending church money for their radio show. I've listened to parts of the Fox-Wright show and I am pretty sure that I recall statements that no church funds were spent on the program.