In a decisive move by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a rural Oklahoma church has been expelled from its membership after resurfaced images and video footage revealed its white pastor impersonating the late singer Ray Charles in blackface during a talent show.
Church Failed to Rectify Past Issues
The executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, voted to declare Matoaka Baptist Church in Ochelata, Oklahoma, as “not in friendly cooperation” with the convention – a decision that effectively removes Matoaka Baptist Church from the convention.
The decision stemmed from the church’s failure to address and rectify past issues related to discriminatory behavior.
Pastor in Blackface
The controversy erupted when a video posted on Facebook in 2017 showed Matoaka Baptist’s pastor, Sherman Jaquess, impersonating Ray Charles. In the video, Jaquess dons blackface, including a wig and dark makeup covering his face, neck, and hands.
Local activist Marq Lewis brought the incident to the forefront in April when he shared screenshots of pictures from the 2017 talent show, which Matoaka Baptist uploaded to their very own Facebook page.
In response to the expulsion, Matoaka Baptist Church will lose its privileges to send voting delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention and contribute donations through the organization’s cooperative program.
“I’m The Least Racial Person That I Know”
In an interview with The Baptist Press, a prominent Southern Baptist news outlet, Pastor Jaquess vehemently denied any racism in his portrayal of Ray Charles.
“My whole life’s work, I’ve worked with multiple different types of racial people. I don’t have a racial bone in my body. I’m the least racial person that I know,” Jaquess asserted.
He further explained that the flash on the camera made his face appear black and clarified, “It was just brown.”
While Jaquess maintains that there was nothing “derogatory” about his performance, the Southern Baptist Convention and many others have taken a firm stance against such actions, viewing them as deeply insensitive and racially offensive.
Jaquess stressed, “Any defaming act is repugnant,” adding, “But I don’t get offended when Black people play a part in a movie or a comedy act, and they act like a different race. I know my heart. I didn’t have anything hateful or derogatory toward any race.”
Jaquess went on to state that he thought SBC’s “decision is repugnant” as “They made a decision and recommendation on something they don’t know anything about.”
Approval and Support
Marq Lewis, who initially brought attention to the incident, expressed his approval of the Southern Baptist Convention’s decision.
On X (Twitter), he posted, “Way to go @SouthernBapCon for kicking this racist out. Thank you, supporters, for keeping the pressure on.”
According to convention spokesperson Jon Wilke, Matoaka Baptist Church can appeal the expulsion decision.
This move by the Southern Baptist Convention reflects a growing commitment within the organization to address issues of racism and discrimination.
Church Ousted for Women Pastors
During its annual meeting in June, the convention voted to deny appeals from at least three other ousted churches, including Saddleback Church in Southern California, led by pastor and author Rick Warren.
Saddleback Church faced expulsion for allowing women to serve as pastors.
As the SBC takes this significant step toward fostering a more inclusive and respectful community, the expulsion of Matoaka Baptist Church highlights the denomination’s commitment to addressing incidents that run counter to its values.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Eric Glenn
Source: Edition CNN