GREENSBORO, N.C. (ABP) – A prominent North Carolina Baptist pastor surprised his congregation recently by announcing he is stepping down for medical reasons due to voice injury.
Ken Massey, pastor of First Baptist Church of Greensboro, N.C., said at the close of the July 31 worship service he would immediately begin 58 days of medical leave according to personnel policies. After that he plans to file for permanent disability and transition out of the pastorate.
“Back in January 2010 I sustained an injury to my vocal chords during a standard hernia surgery,” Massey said. “That nerve injury is called bilateral vocal chord paresis, which means partial paralysis.”
Massey, 57, said the damage, which is permanent and will not improve, “has translated into a significant loss of capacity in my primary responsibility, which is not just preaching on Sunday morning, but also teaching and training in multiple roles.”
Massey said the condition -– which begins with his voice breaking, followed by hoarseness and finally reduced to a whisper -– begins to kick in after about 15 minutes of speech. He said he has curtailed his speaking time by about 80 percent, leaving too little for him to be effective in his role as senior minister.
“Let me be clear, this is not a medical leave to go get my voice fixed,” Massey said. “It’s a medical leave that recognizes my voice has been injured and it seeks to work out the details of my transition out of pastoral ministry.”
Deacon chair Matt Messick said Massey has been meeting with a pastoral discernment council since April exploring medical options. After running out of medical options, Messick said Massey broke the news of his decision to deacons the day before he announced it to the congregation.
Massey said he sought out some of the best medical care available, and none could give him any reasonable hope of recovery. He said two doctors advised him, because of his injury and symptoms, not to let anyone attempt surgery.
“I’m deeply sorry that this is so abrupt for you,” Massey said. “It has been a slow, painful process for me, for our staff and for the pastor’s council.”
A pastor for 32 years, Massey has led First Baptist Church of Greensboro since 1997. Founded in 1859, the church voted to leave the Southern Baptist Convention in 2004 and is now aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.