A Case of Racial Exclusion? : The “Concerned Members of FBCN” and Pastor Marcus Hayes

Marcus Hayes 2

Nearly one week ago, the pastoral staff of First Baptist Church Naples released a statement announcing that pastor Marcus Hayes had failed to reach the threshold of 85% in the congregation’s vote for senior pastor, retaining only 81% of the total vote. On its own, this is not entirely remarkable as many churches have an even higher vote threshold required for installation. But what set the internet ablaze was the staff’s statement that, “through social media, texting, phone calls, and emails, racial prejudice was introduced into our voting process.” The usual suspects aligned on each side of the ensuing debate, some seeking immediate disciplinary action, some seeking more information, and others assuming it was a lie, given that over 360 members—those who voted “no” and/or actively campaigned against him—would have to have been white supremacists; a near impossibility, in their minds, in modern America.

Within a couple days, emails began to be released which, to many, painted a very different picture. None of the emails produced mentioned anything about Hayes’ race nor included any specific racialized language. Reformation Charlotte, the blog which has been publishing the emails, summarized the nature of the “group of concerned FBCN members’” critical campaign against Hayes:

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Appealing to Dr. King to Oppose Antiracism is Ignorant, at Best

MLK Pic

Many who claim to “oppose racism in all its forms,” yet condemn the work of Antiracists in modern America, truly believe they are simply hearkening back to a purer, more Christian, anti-racism of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For example, in an article decrying the “identity politics” of modern Antiracism, we read:

The Civil Rights Movement, second-wave liberal feminism, and Gay Pride functioned explicitly on these values of universal human rights and did so to forward the worth of the individual regardless of status of race, gender, sex, sexuality, or other markers of identity. They proceeded by appealing directly to universal human rights applying universally. They demanded that people of color, women, and sexual minorities no longer be discriminated against and treated as second class citizens. They insisted that within a liberal society that makes good on its promises to its citizens, everyone should be given the full range of rights, freedoms, and opportunities.

Martin Luther King, Jr., articulated this ethos of individuality and shared humanity explicitly when he said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” (James Lindsay, “Identity Politics Does Not Continue the Work of the Civil Rights Movement”)

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