IMMANUEL BAPTIST CHURCH, Rev. Fox resigns, startling his flock

IMMANUEL BAPTIST CHURCH, Rev. Fox resigns, startling his flock
BY CHRISTINA M. WOODS - The Wichita Eagle - Mon, Aug. 07
The Rev. Terry Fox hugs Kenny Cole inside Immanuel Baptist Church on Sunday. Church officials didn't comment on what led Fox to resign.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.

The move surprised many congregation members.

Some refused to comment on Fox's resignation Sunday. Others offered Fox their support.

"It was news to me," said Jason Knudsen, who has attended the church, located at 1415 S. Topeka, for about four years. "I think he's been a wonderful pastor. I wish he wasn't resigning. I think he's done a wonderful job."

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.

Fox said he plans to continue working with the Rev. Joe Wright, the retired pastor of Central Christian Church, to address social issues.

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.

Wright and Fox spearheaded the campaign for a 2005 state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages.

Wright said Sunday that issues they could tackle may include evolution, abortion and Internet pornography.

Wright said he's known for months that Fox struggled with wanting to do more in the "cultural war."

Shawn McCloskey, a lay evangelist and church member, said he understands Fox's desire to serve more actively outside of Immanuel.

"Some people are really good at preaching, but they're not effective in the city or in the nation," McCloskey said. "Being effective, this is an extension of what brother Terry does."

Among Fox's critics is Thomas Witt of Equality Kansas, an organization that supports same-sex marriage and is working to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Witt said he had heard about Fox's resignation.

"Instead of focusing on anti-gay marriage, we wish Terry Fox would spend more time campaigning against the real threats to marriage, such as infidelity, abuse, poverty and divorce," Witt said.

Fox said during his resignation speech there were things he could have done better as a pastor.

"I wish I got to spend more quality time with my staff, deacons and the wider church family," he said.

Fox said he is unsure whether he will serve as a pastor again.

The Rev. John Click, pastor emeritus of Immanuel, offered the congregation words of encouragement for the coming days.

"We're a family, folks," Click said. "Families do not divorce. Families love each other. Families stay together. Families seek reconciliation... we're going to demonstrate that to this community."

Reach Christina M. Woods at 316-269-6791 or