Clause Scott/The Daily Advertiser via AP
The Southern Baptist Convention has ousted an Oklahoma church whose pastor defended his blackface performance at one church event and his impersonation of a Native American woman at another.
The executive committee of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination voted Tuesday that Matoaka Baptist Church in Ochelata “be deemed not to be in friendly cooperation with the convention” — the official terminology for expulsion.
The church’s pastor, Sherman Jaquess, dressed in black for a Valentine’s Day event at the church in 2017, during which he pretended to impersonate the late soul singer Ray Charles. Jaquess wore dark facial makeup, a large afro wig and dark glasses and smiled widely as he sang a duet. Some in the crowd can be heard laughing during video of the show.
The video was brought to light earlier this year by Tulsa community activist Marq Lewis.
Another Facebook photo, posted by the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, also surfaced, showing Jaquess dressed as a Native American woman at a “Cowboys and Indians” party at a church camp. The photo shows a man dressed as a cowboy jokingly holding a fake gun to Jaquess while a boy dressed as a cowboy stands with his fists raised next to him.
In a Facebook post earlier this year, Lewis wrote: “He not only imitated Ray Charles, he distorted the characteristics and culture of African Americans and also Native Americans with his offensive caricature of Pocahontas.” Native Americans are not only different, but inferior. »
Jaquess did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Lewis praised the action of the Executive Committee.
“For him (Jaquess) to not apologize and double down on his efforts, I thought this was a pastor who needed to be exposed,” Lewis said in an interview. “I’m grateful that the Southern Baptist organization has said, ‘We don’t want anything to do with this.'”
Blackface performances date back to the minstrel shows of the 1800s, in which performers darkened their faces to create bigoted caricatures of black people.
Jaquess defended his actions when they came to light, saying he was paying homage to Ray Charles and didn’t have “a racist bone in my body,” according to the Examiner-Enterprise.
Jaquess, who campaigned against public drag shows, said in a sermon posted on Facebook that “dressing like Pocahontas” was not a drag show because it was not sexual. Drag performers are generally described as performers who dress and act like a different gender.
In the sermon, Jaquess said he had “some Cherokee blood in me but I put on brown makeup…I was trying to look like a Native American woman.” He acknowledged in the sermon that several people were leaving the church amid the controversy.
Since Southern Baptist churches are independent, the convention cannot tell a church what to do or who to pastor, but it can oust a church of its members.
The conservative denomination has expelled churches in recent years for a variety of reasons, including Saddleback Church, the California megachurch ousted earlier this year because it had female pastors. The SBC constitution states that a church can only be considered amicably cooperating if, among other things, it “does not act to affirm, endorse, or condone discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.”
Any church has the right to appeal its removal at the SBC’s annual full meeting. At this year’s annual meeting, delegates overwhelmingly ratified the committee’s ouster of Saddleback and two other churches.
In 2018 and 2022, the Executive Committee ousted a Georgia church and a New Jersey congregation over concerns about alleged discriminatory behavior.
Other reasons for exclusion include failure to address sexual abuse and take action to “endorse homosexual behavior.”
Separately, the committee suffered its third leadership setback in a matter of months when the planned appointment of an interim chair fell through.
Retired Kentucky pastor Dan Summerlin, who was recommended by committee leaders, withdrew his nomination, saying Tuesday he wouldn’t have time for the job if he was caring for his wife for his cancer treatment.
The committee was meeting for the first time since its interim chairman, Tennessee pastor Willie McLaurin, resigned in August after it was revealed that he had falsified his educational credentials on his resume. McLaurin was the leading candidate for permanent chairman after the committee failed to approve the nomination of its former chairman, Jared Wellman, for chairman in May.
The committee said in a statement Tuesday that, based on an internal investigation, it concluded that “McLaurin engaged in both academic and professional fraud.” But it said no evidence had been found of “wrongdoing or direct financial harm to the executive committee.” It was not specified.
“While the Executive Committee recognizes the collateral, reputational damage and indirect financial impact resulting from McLaurin’s misrepresentations, the Executive Committee does not consider taking legal action against McLaurin at this time,” it said. -he declares.
Jonathan Howe, who served as interim vice president, will continue in this role, according to the committee.
The executive director’s job is to direct the day-to-day affairs of the committee, which acts on behalf of the convention when its annual meeting is not in session. Former permanent chairman Ronnie Floyd resigned amid unrest over the executive committee’s handling of an independent investigation into the committee’s handling of reports of sexual abuse.
Amid financial constraints, the committee recently eliminated five full-time positions and two contractor positions.
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