A Florida-based church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention said “racial prejudice” likely influenced a vote result that failed to confirm an African American pastor as the congregation’s new senior pastor.
First Baptist Church Naples’ pastoral staff sent out a letter to the congregation posted on Twitter by The Baptist Blogger on Wednesday regarding the vote to determine whether Pastor Marcus Hayes would become the church’s new pastor.
The vote was held on Oct. 26-27. While Hayes received a super-majority 81% of the vote, according to FBC Naples’ constitution and bylaws, he required 85% to be approved as the new senior pastor. The final vote was 1,552 in favor, 365 opposed.
The pastoral staff expressed regret over the results of the vote, stating that it caused “disappointment and heartache” among the majority of the congregation.
They also wrote that a “minority group” within the church used “unscrupulous, divisive, and false accusations” to derail Hayes’ confirmation.
“If that were not bad enough, part of the minority ‘no’ vote did something that, quite honestly, should never ever have its place in society, much less the Lord’s Church,” they explained.
“Last week, through social media, texting, phone, and emails, racial prejudice was introduced into our voting process.”
The staff called upon all those who took part in the prejudicial actions to “confess and repent” immediately, noting that they “will not stand for these kinds of attitudes and actions.”
Two groups specifically named in the letter as being responsible for the wrong actions were the “Voices of FBCN” and “Group of Concerned FBCN Members.”
The letter concluded by noting that the church’s senior pastor search team will meet soon to discuss “options moving forward with our senior pastor search.”
In March, FBCN Senior Pastor Hayes Wicker announced that he was stepping down from his position, having served the large Florida congregation since 1992.
An eight-member senior pastor search team was then created with the members being selected through a vote taken by the congregation on March 30-31.
For months, the search team looked at hundreds of potential applicants. By late September, they reported having narrowed down their search to an unnamed individual, which was Pastor Marcus Hayes.
In an update posted on Oct. 13, the team announced that they would hold the vote the last weekend in October. Hayes also preached that weekend.
“On the weekend of October 19 and 20, biographical information about the candidate will be distributed to the Church,” noted the update. “The week of October 21, you will be provided opportunities of dialogue and means to get to know him and his family as well as hearing him preach in the main worship services the weekend of October 26 and 27.”
The Baptist Blogger, the source that posted the staff letter, also posted a document online showing the Hayes' biographical information.
According to the information, in addition to being a pastor, Hayes works as an SBC executive committee member and is part of the North American Mission Board African American Leadership team.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute and a master’s degree in theological studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He serves on the alumni board of Moody Bible Institute, was recognized as a top young leader in the SBC for 2017–2018, and is married with three children.