Megachurch flock loses shepherd

2011-02-06T00:00:00Z 2011-02-07T00:29:52Z Megachurch flock loses shepherdBy Christine Kraly and Molly Woulfe Times Staff Writers

MUNSTER | Bishop Frank Munsey, the spiritual cornerstone of the region's fastest-growing megachurch, died Saturday at Community Hospital in Munster. He was 80.

Munsey, founder of the Family Christian Center in Munster, had battled a collapsed lung and series of respiratory-related illnesses, church officials said.

He died at 7:38 a.m. with his family and pastoral team at his bedside. The group included his wife, Ruth, a noted writer of hymns, and televangelist son Steve Munsey.

Weekend services will proceed as scheduled at the nondenominational church, which attracts 15,000 worshipers and boasts a congregation of more than 30,000.

The bishop "did not want us to cancel. Church was what it was all about," Pastor David Jordan Allen said Saturday.

"He wanted us to carry on with his ministry. He wanted his passing to be a time of joy, not a time of sorrow," Allen said.

The Oklahoma-born Munsey founded his church in 1953 as the Evangelistic Temple, at 7141 Kennedy Ave., in Hammond's Hessville neighborhood. The renamed Family Christian Center relocated in 1971 to 1300 N. Broad St. in Griffith.

Attendance flourished, and the church moved in 1999 to its present site on 45th Avenue, near the Illinois border. The FCC is known for sermons that fuse the Gospels with high-tech theatrics, diverse outreach programs and the Starbucks coffee shop in the lobby.

Munsey's ministry became a family spiritual business. His son, the Rev. Steve Munsey, assumed charge of the FCC in 1985 when his parents became traveling missionaries in Latin America. Steve Munsey's son, Kent, runs City Church in Chicago.

After seven years of missionary work, Bishop Munsey and his wife, Ruth, founded a Christian school in Bulgaria. The American English Academy opened in 1992 in Sofia, the nation's capital. According to the school's website, the 175 students hail from 31 countries.

Youth and innovation have been a key focus of Munsey's growing church throughout the years.

Prayers and wishes of support for the ailing bishop flooded the church's Facebook page last week.

Loved ones called Munsey "incredible," and "an amazing man of God."

Munsey is survived by his wife, four children, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Doors at the Family Christian Center, 340 W. 45th Ave., will open at 3 p.m. Friday for the public to pay respects to Munsey with a celebration service to begin at 6 p.m. Interment on Saturday will be private.

The family has requested donations be made to the Frank Munsey Memorial Fund in lieu of flowers.

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