The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) expels Matoaka Baptist Church in Oklahoma after videos surface of Pastor Sherman Jaquess defending his decision to wear blackface and impersonate Native Americans.
In a recent turn of events that has sent shockwaves through religious communities nationwide, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has taken the decisive step of expelling the Matoaka Baptist Church in Oklahoma. The reason? Videos have surfaced showcasing Pastor Sherman Jaquess defending his controversial decision to wear blackface and impersonate Native Americans.
The video, which have now become the epicenter of this controversy, depict Pastor Sherman Jaquess adorned in dark face paint, eerily mirroring the legendary soul singer Ray Charles. Another video showcases him impersonating an indigenous woman. These portrayals, which many have deemed racially insensitive, have led to widespread criticism and debate. When confronted about these actions, Jaquess was quick to defend himself. He stated, “How can you portray Ray Charles if you're not a Black man?” He further explained that his impersonation of a Native American woman was part of a “cowboys and Indian night” theme, emphasizing that it wasn't a drag queen performance.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, has been unequivocal in its response. The SBC's Executive Committee announced that the Matoaka Baptist Church was “not in friendly cooperation with the Convention based on a lack of intent to cooperate in resolving concerns regarding discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.” This decision was not taken lightly, especially considering the church's long-standing association with the SBC since 1880.
Pastor Jaquess, in response to the expulsion, expressed his dismay and called the decision “repugnant.” He highlighted the historical ties between his church and the SBC, pointing out that many Baptist leaders still defended slavery back in 1880. The church, however, is not without recourse. They retain the right to appeal the decision, a process that requires submitting a written appeal to the chair of the Credentials Committee at least 30 days prior to the Convention's annual meeting.
The controversy doesn't end with the videos. Photos from 2017 depict Jaquess in blackface during a church Valentine's Day event. Another image from 2014 shows him dressed as Pocahontas. These images have further fueled the public's outrage. Jaquess claims that the backlash was so severe that he received death threats, necessitating the hiring of security guards for a period.
In an interview, the pastor was adamant that he had done nothing wrong. He mentioned that the paint he wore “was more brown than black.” He vehemently denied any racist inclinations, stating that he had “several diverse racial people living in my home.”
However, Rev. Mike Keahbone, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lawton and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, provided a different perspective. He mentioned that a review of the church's online posts revealed other troubling images. One such image superimposed former President Barack Obama's face on that of a baby monkey. Another depicted a Muslim woman and her three children with the words, “These people don't eat pork, but we do.” Keahbone stated, “Oklahoma Baptists, they sent letters, they contacted him, they had phone conversations with him, and he was not at all remorseful. He didn't think it was a big deal, did not take it seriously, and so every attempt that they made amounted to nothing.“
The Southern Baptist Convention's decision to expel Matoaka Baptist Church in Oklahoma has ignited significant debate within religious and social circles. This action was prompted by videos and images of Pastor Sherman Jaquess defending his choice to wear blackface and impersonate Native Americans. The controversy intensified with photos from past events, including Jaquess dressed as a Native American woman for a themed night at Falls Creek church camp. The incident underscores the broader discussions on racial sensitivity and the responsibilities of religious leaders in such contexts.