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: