Excommunicated Baptists Say Megachurch Smeared Them as Racists—and so did SBC Leaders

By Julie Roys and Josh Shepherd

Last fall, First Baptist Church (FBC) Naples—a prominent Southern Baptist megachurch in southwest Florida—made national headlines for rejecting an African American pastoral candidate because of some alleged racist members.

“Racial prejudice a factor in rejection of black pastor,” read the headline of a piece published in the Baptist Standard. Similarly, an article in The Grio asked, “Did a Florida church not hire a pastor because he was Black?” And Christianity Today stated, “Black Pastor Candidate Withdraws After Controversial Vote at SBC Megachurch.”

Marcus Hayes

However, according to a group of 30 to 40 “Concerned Members of FBCN,” which includes several former deacons, racism had nothing to do with why pastoral candidate Marcus Hayes was rejected as pastor. Instead, the group alleges that the racism charge was a ruse by men who had recently seized control of the church, expelled and maligned a beloved pastor of 27 years, and then fabricated a basis for excommunicating those who had objected.

The group adds that national leaders within FBC Naples’s denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), supported the church’s leadership and furthered the racism charge.

Bob Caudill, a former deacon and spokesman for Concerned Members of FBCN, said that a month before the vote on Marcus Hayes, the group had circulated a petition requesting a special business meeting to discuss serious concerns at FBC Naples. These included a lack of transparency at the church, absence of vetted elders, and the public maligning of former longtime pastor, Hayes Wicker.

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Concerned Members of FBCN says the petition received 800 signatures. Yet Caudill said that instead of calling a special meeting in accordance with church bylaws, the leadership at FBC Naples excommunicated 18 of the Concerned Members, including Caudill. This happened just three days after the church vote concerning Marcus Hayes.

Neil Dorrill

Sylee Gibson, an excommunicated member who works in law enforcement, added that the man chairing the FBC Naples senior pastor search team is a Florida businessman with a checkered past—Neil Dorrill.

In 2001, Dorrill pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges in connection with the Stadium Naples corruption scandal. The judge in the case withheld a conviction but gave Dorrill a $10,000 fine and three years’ probation. Dorrill also serves on FBC Naples’ finance committee.

Despite these red flags, leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have supported leaders at FBC Naples.

The day after excommunicating the 18 members, FBC Naples lay leadership and pastoral staff sent an open letter to the SBC, accusing some who didn’t vote for Hayes, who’s a member of the SBC Executive Committee, of racism. The FBC Naples leaders vowed to deal with “this sinful cancer” and added that “church discipline” had already started.

“Grateful that FBCN is moving toward amputating the racists,” tweeted Rev. Dwight McKissic, a prominent African American SBC pastor in Arlington, Texas.

Similarly, SBC president J.D. Greear, who had written a letter of recommendation for Marcus Hayes, called the open letter by FBC Naples leadership a “bold, Gospel-faithful response of the leadership of FBC Naples.” Greear added, “Let us be united in lament that any vestige of this kind of sinful prejudice remains in our churches.”

Also, Danny Akin, president of SBC-affiliated Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), described the open letter as a “strong and redemptive word from FBC Naples.”

Akin’s son, Jonathan Akin, is currently serving as interim pastor at FBC Naples. Jonathan Akin is also national director of young leaders for SBC’s North American Mission Board.

We reached out to leaders at FBC Naples about a dozen times, seeking evidence for the racism charge, as well as comment on other issues at the church, but no one responded.

We likewise contacted SBC President J.D. Greear, SEBTS President Danny Akin, and Rev. Dwight McKissic for comment, but none responded.

FBC Naples, recently listed as the 64th largest SBC church in the country, appears to be withering in the wake of the scandal. Hundreds of members have left the church. And as of March 1, the church’s $14 million budget had a shortfall of $1.2 million.

In addition, those who have been excommunicated, as well as former Pastor Hayes Wicker, say they feel like their reputations have been sullied.

Chuck Colson’s Pastor Pushed Out After Easter Services

The turmoil at FBC Naples began about a year ago, when longtime Senior Pastor Hayes Wicker announced to the church that he was stepping down to make way for “younger fresher leadership.” 

At the time, Wicker seemed to be well-respected by his church and denomination.

During Wicker’s 27-year tenure, FBC Naples grew from 400 weekly attendance to over 3,000. The church also launched a school—First Baptist Academy. And in 2006, Wicker served as head of the SBC Pastors Conference.

Wicker also was pastor for 20 years to evangelical author and founder of Prison Fellowship, Chuck Colson. Colson thought so highly of an oath of integrity that Wicker had written that Colson included the oath in his landmark book, The Body

Despite this track record, Wicker said he was shut out of the new pastor selection process. Wicker said Dorrill banned him from pastoral search team meetings, and the chairmen of the personnel and finance committees told Wicker his oversight was not needed.

Hayes Wicker

Caudill added that Dorrill advised Caudill that any pastoral candidates suggested by Wicker would be “dead on arrival.”

In the months leading up to Wicker’s resignation, the church hired Auxano, a church consulting company, to advise the church on the pastoral transition process. (Auxano’s founder, Will Mancini, also serves as director of consulting for Lifeway, the publishing division of the SBC.)

Mancini said it’s standard to recommend that an outgoing senior pastor not be involved in a pastoral succession process. However, Mancini added that the situation at FBC Naples was not typical but did not want to comment on the unique circumstances at the church.

On Easter weekend, Wicker said he received a text message that several chairmen wanted to meet with him about “church unrest.” Wicker said he tried to ignore it. “I was preparing to speak before the largest crowd we would ever have,” he said. “I saw that simply as a distraction from the devil.”

Yet Easter services would be the last time Wicker would preach at FBC Naples.

The following Tuesday, April 23, Wicker met with FBC Naples leaders including Dorrill, Chairman of the Personnel Committee Troy Boone, Chairman of the Finance Committee Don Collier, and Chairman of Deacons Terry Cole. Wicker said that during the meeting, the men confronted him with an anonymous letter that accused Wicker of financial impropriety, such as not tracking his miles on a church-leased vehicle.

Wicker said he was shocked by the accusations, but instead of fighting, he tendered his resignation.

Former deacon, Blake Crawford, said Wicker was later exonerated of the charges in the anonymous letter by church accounting firm, Phillips Harvey Group. We reached out to Phillips Harvey Group and FBC Naples to confirm, but they did not respond.

Two days after the meeting with Pastor Edie and Chairmen Boone and Collier, Wicker said he was told to vacate church premises immediately.

“I was shocked that they would make this immediate,” Wicker said. “If I had known that, there would have been no resignation whatsoever.”

“I was shocked that they would make this immediate. If I had known that, there would have been no resignation whatsoever.”

Despite his disagreement with the process, Wicker said he submitted to an exit agreement offered by the church, which included a non-disclosure clause. Wicker and his wife then returned a Chrysler minivan they had been given years before by a church member, and his church-leased vehicle was repossessed.

The church did not hold a reception to honor Wicker’s decades of ministry, nor was Wicker permitted to address the congregation. However, in May, Wicker said he agreed to videotape a short farewell message to members from a script both he and the personnel committee had approved.

Yet Wicker said that without his approval or prior knowledge, a statement read by Boone was inserted at the beginning of the video, saying that Wicker had confessed to “misuses of power” and “actions unbecoming of a Senior Pastor.” This statement was also emailed to church members on May 23. 

Wicker called the allegations “appalling.”

We reached out to Boone, specifically asking about the allegations mentioned in the video, but he did not respond. (The video is now private and requires a password to view.)

Wicker said in late October, when FBC Naples excommunicated the 18 members, it also stopped paying him his severance. Wicker said several weeks later, the church emailed him, stating that Wicker had “facilitated and cooperated with a rival faction in the church,” which voided his exit agreement.

Wicker responded with a 16-page letter refuting the charges against him. Wicker said the church never responded to his letter. And on December 31, Wicker said the health insurance provided by the church was cut off for him and his wife, who has a serious heart condition.

Pillars of the Church Excommunicated

FBC Naples’s accusations and treatment of Pastor Wicker upset dozens of church members.

“This sequence of events raised many questions for me and my wife,” Caudill said. “It was all being done vindictively and not in a righteous, godly manner.”

Concerned families gravitated to the Caudills, who had served in SBC churches for over 50 years. Yet Caudill said that when he spoke up in meetings, the 79-year-old deacon was deemed “divisive.”

Bob Caudill

On May 28, Caudill said the church placed him on “disciplinary suspension” from the deacon board and the senior pastor search team. Blake Crawford and former deacon, Mike Dolan, said they were also suspended around that time.

In June, “Voices of FBCN” sent an email to many in the church, criticizing the actions of church leadership.

Church leadership responded in an email to members, calling the Voices of FBCN’s email “inaccurate and slanderous” and claiming that a “security breach” of the church’s email list had occurred. (The church publishes an annual directory with member email addresses.)

FBC Naples also sent several “cease and desist” letters from prominent law firm, Holland & Knight, to several church members suspected of having involvement with the Voices of FBCN email. 

A representative from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office also confirmed that FBC Naples contacted them on July 3 regarding a “suspicious incident.”

Wicker’s daughter, Allyson Stephens, said that on September 13, two detectives visited her home and questioned her about the “Voices of FBCN” email. Stephens said neither she nor any member of her family wrote the e-mail, adding that “none of the church staff ever reached out or spoke to me.” She also said the detectives told her that “no criminal actions had taken place.”

The experience with the church was so unnerving for the Wickers that in September, the extended family—including two adult children, their spouses, and six grandchildren—pulled up stakes from Naples and moved several states away.

In November, just weeks after the church excommunicated 18 members, John Garippa, a longtime FBC Naples member who led two popular Bible Studies at FBC Naples, left the church. Two weeks later, Garippa started another church called The Naples Gathering.  Garippa said The Naples Gathering has 350 to 400 people attending, 85-percent of whom are former FBC Naples members.

Garippa, who was never part of Concerned Members of FBCN, declined to comment on why he left FBC Naples. However, he stated, “In the 22 years I was there (FBC Naples), I never heard a racist comment—ever. And that’s shepherding many hundreds of people over many years.”

Did Racism Play a Role in Marcus Hayes Vote?

In its open letter to the SBC, FBC Naples lay leaders and staff wrote that they know “racial prejudice” contributed to Marcus Hayes’s failed vote because of “the campaign that started just days before by a few disgruntled people in our church.”

Presumably, the “campaign” to which the letter is referring is an email that was sent from the Concerned Members to those who had signed the petition shortly before the Hayes’ vote, requesting a special business meeting. In the email, the group warned that Hayes had endorsed “Woke Church,” a book that the email claimed was promoting “cultural Marxism.”

The email also objected to Hayes reportedly saying that “he rejects the concept that a person can look at a person of color and see no color.” The authors wrote, “Paul is clear to us in Philippians 3:2-10 that we are to have no confidence in the flesh of our ethnicity.”

However, the email also expressed concerns about Hayes’ ability to reconcile the deeply divided church. It noted that Hayes had unfriended or blocked several people who had signed the petition on his social media accounts.

It also noted that Hayes didn’t meet the criteria members had stated for the next senior pastor—that he have five years of experience as a senior pastor. (Hayes this month took his first senior pastor position at a church in Texas.)

Also concerning to the group was the fact that Marcus Hayes didn’t respond to a letter Concerned Members of FBCN had sent him a week earlier, outlining their issues at the church.

Christianity Today (CT) reported in November that Neil Dorrill had claimed at a Q&A session that “inappropriate emails” had been sent to Hayes’s church in North Carolina, Biltmore Church. However, CT said it was not able to confirm whether Biltmore Church received such communications.

We reached out to Dorrill, but he refused to answer any questions.

We also contacted Marcus Hayes and Biltmore Church about the alleged emails but they declined to comment.

Racism Charges Remain as Search for Pastor Continues

In November, Caudill sent a letter to several prominent SBC leaders, including President Greear and SEBTS President Danny Akin, urging them to retract their statements supporting the racism narrative offered by FBC Naples.

“(I)t seems from social media posts that, with no investigation, some convention leaders have chosen to believe this narrative,” Caudill wrote. “First Baptist Naples is, ethnically, a predominantly white church but we are not a racist church.”

Caudill said no one replied to his letter.

Pastor John David Edie, who wrote the open letter to the SBC on behalf of leaders at FBC Naples, alleging racism, resigned in early December. Following worship services on December 7 and 8, receptions were held to honor Edie’s six years at the church.

The search for a senior pastor continues, with Dorrill leading the search committee.

Wicker said the future for him and his wife is uncertain. Yet despite all that’s happened, Wicker said, “I pray people would not use this to come against megachurches or seeing all committees as bad.”

Similarly, Caudill stated, “First Baptist Naples still has potential to be used greatly by God. But I don’t see how the spirit of God can move among those people, unless they are willing to understand what has happened and admit that what they have done is absolutely atrocious, ungodly, unjust, and even in violation of their own bylaws.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect accurate information regarding the participants at a meeting of FBC Naples leaders on April 23.

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their son.




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32 thoughts on “Excommunicated Baptists Say Megachurch Smeared Them as Racists—and so did SBC Leaders”

  1. Boy oh boy. Bunch of old white guys with too much time on their hands and too many books in their personal theology libraries. Haven’t hurt enough yet.

  2. I’m too far away to comment on the specific allegations, but whatever the truth of each, it’s pretty clear that you’ve got at least two strong factions in church leadership, and possibly also the church as a whole, which need to have a “come to Jesus moment” in terms of “this is how you do, and this is how you do not do, ministry.”

  3. The utter disrespect shown previous Pastor Wicker is atrocious and unchristian to say the least. Power plays, power trips and finances will have repercussions on Judgment Day….or did certain people forget about that?!😳

  4. Regardless of who is at fault for what, this is NOT what Church should be. Doesn’t matter what denomination or race you are, all of this drama is toxic on a nuclear level for the body and spirit and surely the work of Satan himself. This is why I don’t attend a church and work on my relationship with God on a daily basis. I’ll never bother with a “Church” again, because this is always going to be an issue.

  5. There is no room in our Gospel for racism, none whatsoever. But while we cannot know the heart of another, this doesn’t sound like a case of hearts poisoned intolerance, of minds clouded by prejudice. It stinks to me of Greed. If this were a Calvary Chapel organization, or any other offshoot of Chuck Smith’s piracy, no one would be surprised. From the reporting in this article, it seems clear that more light needs to be shed on events. But the uniform refusal to comment from the church leadership is suspicious. To be blunt, it stinks and the whiff of corruption I detect is an autocratic sense of entitlement, with a touch of greed, perhaps, as well. It also appears that the SBC concluded too soon who was in the right. But, then again, with such an unmistakable history of racism behind it, predicting which way the SBC would jump in response to a charge of “racism” would be too easy. It is time for the SBC to do what they should have done first, before concluding who was right: Shine the light, Brothers, shine the light in here.

  6. Have attended a lot of Southern Baptist Churches. Nothing new in this article. Experienced first hand Church Bullying, Over blown egos, inability and refusal to be biblically teachabe. One Denomination that claims to hold the Christian faith to avoid is the Southern Baptist Churces and their affiliations. They make me want to Puke profusely second only to Calvary Chapel.

  7. misterjesperson

    “Yet despite all that’s happened, Wicker said, ‘I pray people would not use this to come against megachurches or seeing all committees as bad.’”

    When I look at Jesus and his disciples I do not see anything that looks as atrocious as this mess. Jesus said that He wants us to all be in unity and that He is building a church. This is a clear case of men doing what they can to build their own kingdoms, not Jesus’ and to manipulate things into their own will being done, again not Jesus’. Now with COVID-19 churches this size are facing a very quick death. I think this one would have died even if none of this soap opera garbage had taken place. Now it certainly will as the debt load is unsustainable.

    What Bible verse says that it is a good idea to borrow money to make your church building bigger and more fancy? I guess I missed this one. How about Luke 16:11 “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” Men who run a church into so much debt that it is soon bankrupt with one plague of pestilence, why do we believe Jesus gave such man any true riches or wisdom at all? Is not the sheer stupidity of this self-evident? Even Jesus said so much when he talked a man who started building a tower without counting the cost. When that man runs out of money before completion what is everyone going to say? What a great and wise man of God he is?

  8. @Bernie Lutchman – you are so correct. It may not be sorted out down here – but everyone has to give an account, and especially those in leadership positions of the Lord’s Church for whom He died.

  9. This is nothing new. The power plays, ego trippin (yes, I did say trippin), greed, pride, etc., has been going on throughout church history.
    The whole clergy-laity distinction, senior pastor, associate pastor, the “professional”, or “called into the ministry” Christians is not found ANYWHERE in the New Testament….NO WHERE! Where in the N.T. is a pastoral search committee? We have read so many of our traditions back into the New Testament, and tried to make them fit. The leadership structure for the past 500 years in pretty much all of our churches is just refurbished Roman Catholicism.
    It’s no wonder why real born again, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are walking away from churches, not the body of our Lord Jesus, the “Ekklesia”, but from this mess we call church.

  10. I believe Hayes was rejected because of racism. The dissenters, and their surrogates, have done a good job (whether they realize it or not) of explaining why Hayes was rejected and much of it is deeply racially tinged, including: Hayes’ rejection of the notion of racial colorblindness, Hayes’ support of Eric Mason’s book “Woke Church” and intersectionality, Hayes’ support of slavery reparations for descendants of African American slaves, and Hayes’ alleged statements in support of more black leadership in SBC member organizations. Allegedly he said he was happy to see some people in SBC membership moved to the bottom as others move to the top. Just because no one blatantly used a racial slur or expressed overtly racist statements does not mean that racism was not expressed or used during the selection process. I also find it interesting that Dorrill’s past financial misdeeds didn’t seem to be a problem for the dissenters until the Hayes vetting process. Why not make an issue of Dorrill’s past before Hayes’ confirmation vote? Why abide with a corrupt individual being in a leadership position at the church? Curious timing of raising those concerns. I think there were people in the church who were afraid of having a black pastor, especially one who does not subscribe to the ridiculous and ungodly notion of colorblindness and one who holds the racial views that Hayes does.

    1. Carla,

      You obviously didn’t pay attention to everything in that article, only the points you chose to focus on on. The so-called ‘dissenters’ had issues with what the church was doing WELL BEFORE Marcus Hayes arrived. The removal of the original pastor and his ENTIRE family, the threats to members from a law firm, and the mere fact that they were not abiding by their own by-laws are just a few of the issues going on. (Let’s not even get into the bullying by church staff) Let’s just focus on the by-laws for one second. The petition for a special business meeting was never even ACKNOWLEDGED by the leadership is a Violation of the bylaws. The refusal to release specific documents to any donating member, also a violation of not only the by-laws (which was the same verbiage as the state law) but also the state of Florida Not-for-profit Compliance Act and the IRS which governs their 501(c)(3) status. These were ALL issues that these so-called dissenters were trying to have addressed PRIOR to the arrival of Marcus. And as for Neil Dorrill, that was also brought up well before the arrival of Marcus.

      Did people voice concerns and questions about Marcus? Of course they did. He also didn’t meet the qualifications for the job. He didn’t have the experience. The biggest reason most did not vote yes, had to do with the fact that people didn’t think it was fair to ask Marcus to uproot his family and relocate to a church that was in COMPLETE turmoil and had a leadership that was REFUSING to acknowledge it.

      The Marcus Hayes vote was used to cry wolf. The church decided to use the racism card instead ACTUALLY deal with the real issues going on. That’s what REALLY happened. I would know. I lived it. And before you go tagging me as a racist, I am in a biracial marriage myself. I have no hate here. Only love. Love for Jesus, for my fellow brother/sister and love for the truth.

      1. @Michelle – I believe you make valid points. I just want to point out that when you say things like “I am in a biracial marriage”, it sounds a LOT like “I have a black friend.” Trust me, that gets you little more than eye-rolling. Considering slave owners slept with slaves (even in my own ancestry), whites befriended their black “help” –all while denying their equal rights — it is possible to have friends and even spouses of other races and still have issues with bias and prejudice. I don’t think you mean ill will, but just want to make you aware of how poorly comments like that tend to land.

        1. Here is a prime example of CRT. So very sorry, but not everything is about race and not everyone is a racist. If you promote that, take a LONG look in the mirror. So sick of this hate and evil which is exactly what this all is. Stop making everything about race. Stop reading things into what a person says or writes (I’m sure you will do this to me) as being racist. JUST STOP THE HATE. You would call Martin Luther King an Uncle Tom I’m sure.

    2. Doo Wop Coke Fan

      Hi, Carla. Just a couple of points for you to consider. First, there are blacks who strenuously object to books like “Woke Church,” as well as intersectionality, and reparations for slavery. Some of these blacks are church leaders. {I realize, I’m using the word “black” rather than “African American.” I personally do not care for the term “African American,” and there are black people who dislike it more than I do.} Second, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged color blindness. You may recall this line from his “I have a dream” speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I believe Dr. King was right. We need to see people as fellow human beings made in the image of God. I’m not sure why you would describe Dr. King’s sentiments as “ridiculous” and “ungodly.” There’s only one human race. Does my agreement with Dr. King and my deep concerns about intersectionality, et al, make me a racist? DWCF

      1. @DooWopCokeFan Please try to understand something: NOT ALL BLACK PEOPLE THINK ALIKE. I know that can seem like a simple concept, but it seems to be forgotten when the “well a black person disagrees with it!” argument is used. (Hey, and I know white people who love “Woke Church”!) Just like there are women who are pro-Gloria Steinem feminists, and there are women who are not fans of Gloria, black people are capable of holding differing opinions too. It does not suddenly make a point valid or invalid.
        Also, the concept of colorblindness is nice in theory but is biologically impossible (unless you are colorblind). When you see me, you will see I am a black woman. And guess what? THAT IS OK! It only becomes a problem if you think my worth is different because of it. I actually want you to see me as a black woman, because that has shaped my experiences in life – how people have reacted to me, treated me, etc. It also shapes my needs, which tend to go forgotten or overlooked if you refuse to see I am a black woman. I am saying that, as I have countless experiences of “colorblind” people saying or doing insensitive, offensive things because they “forgot” I’m black. Like when my “colorblind” friends didn’t understand my discomfort when we chose to stop on a road trip in a small town with confederate flags waiving everywhere. I am not lesser or better, but different. And that’s ok. God created me too. And if He wanted us all to be the same, He would’ve made us the same. MLK’s dream was about us all being seen as equal in VALUE and treated accordingly, regardless of our differences.

  11. I read about this over at The Wartburg Watch. Wade Burleson is also part of the smear campaign, too. It may interest you to go over to TWW and read their article, as well as the comments from members of that church who state they were unfairly misrepresented in their vote against this new pastor.

    I’m inclined to believe it wasn’t racially motivated.

  12. It was appalling and heartbreaking to witness. Ungodly treatment of a Godly man and his entire family, not to mention those whose leadership and dedication to the Lord was well-known and long-standing.

  13. I can tell you unequivocally racist did NOT play any part in the actions of decision of the excommunicated members of FBC. The decision to excommunicate us 48 hours after a failed vote, without ANY confrontation, was nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to make people pay and to establish a scapegoat. The actions described in this article, which by the way are just the tip of the iceberg, were unloving, ungodly, and unbecoming of pastors charged with shepherding God’s flock. I just wish so many from my former church would open their eyes and see what’s going on. Would you believe that not a single member of the church has reached out to me in love and asked to hear my side of the events. Sadly, too many people are more committed to idols than to truth and righteousness. Sad state of affairs.

  14. Carla, thanks to my excommunicated status, I guess you could call me one of the dissenters and racists. But with all due respect, be careful commenting on things you don’t understand or have first hand knowledge of. Trust me, I have been guilty of that very same thing myself and I’ve learned the hard way being on the other side. I can tell you I am not a racist. I can tell you not a single thing mentioned above played a role in my vote. I voted “no” to Mr. Hayes for two reasons. First, I didn’t think it was fair to put a new pastor in the midst of such corruption and confusion. And second, Mr. Hayes did nothing to convince me that he would embrace me as a disgraced member of the church. He friended, then de-friended and blocked my wife on social media. He didn’t return multiple phone calls and e-mails. He didn’t mentioned anything in the question and answer sessions or his sermon that gave me any indication reconciling and unifying our church was even on his radar. Now, everything I just said is my opinion. But am I not allowed to vote based on my opinion without being called a racist? Am I not allowed as a deacon and 15+ year member of the church to ask questions about leaders who in my opinion have lied and deceived the church for political gain? The message at FBCN is clear: get along or get out. In closing, I don’t desire to argue with anyone; i have nothing to gain. I’ve already been excommunicated and humiliated. I am responding simply to share that there’s another side the story and I wish I/we had an opportunity to share such a story without fear of legal action (that’s right, the church has threatened legal action against me as well as threatened that if I say anything at all negative about the church they will trespass me prevent me from dropping off and picking up my kids at First Baptist Academy. Such a loving bunch, aren’t they?!)

  15. Melisa do you attend First Baptist ? If not please hold your comments. I’ve attended for 14 yrs and not once did see race.

  16. What would Jesus make of Wokeness intersectionality, and indeed, the movement for resegregation by some of those who are of the Prominent Woke, in light of Galatians 3:28? It’s devastating to the proclamation of the Gospel. ( I wonder what the Aramaic is for ‘fad’.)

    As a side note, is the implication that if a ‘white*’ person disagrees with a person of ‘colour’ on the legitimacy of Woke political philosophy/identity-building/self-definition in the church, that person must necessarily be a racist? It seems rather patronizing to ‘minorities’ to assert that every minority person’s ideas must be legitimate because the propounder is of a certain colour. Doesn’t the Holy Spirit operate in us as individuals? Isn’t that how we should judge any one person’s claims, by how it squares with Scripture on a case-by-case basis?

    *I use scare quotes because the Woke phenom is only relevant in a certain context: it is very Americentric (talking like all ‘white’ people are the same, for example), and not culturally or ethnically ‘sensitive’ at all when on looks at the ethnic makeup of the church IN OTHER COUNTRIES. That’s why it’s so harmful to the church; it’s born of and encourages the myopic tendencies of American evangelicalism.

  17. As managing editor of the former Florida Baptist Witness (state paper) I was witness to many of Hayes Wicker’s years of fruitful ministry. He and his wife and his children love God and God’s people. I am sickened by the way he was treated and am grateful for this exposure. This sort of trashing of fine people is becoming commonplace is an SBC I was once very happy to be a part of. Our leadership has gone astray, I fear, and those who find the courage to stand up to them have targets on their backs.

  18. As a seasonal member of FBCN during the events you cover here I can share how troubling this is.

    All of the events need to be understood in the context of the overriding event and the church governance that permitted this to happen. For 27 years Hayes Wicker and his family faithfully devoted their lives to God’s calling in ministry at FBCN. God used their faithfulness and devotion to create a mighty ministry through FBCN. Hayes did not suddenly abandon his faith in the few months between his announcement that he was stepping aside, as he was being felt led to do, to make room for younger leadership and his sudden dismissal by the FBCN leadership. He didn’t rob a liquor store, assault some young person in his office, or do anything wrong that could be cited. Instead he was charged with this “amorphous set of wrongdoings” that were later largely or totally shown to be untrue. For these crimes, he was wrongly treated, humiliated, and denied even basic due process, and most certainly treated anything but “Christ like”. This man and his family cannot set foot onto church property, he will never again be able to address a congregation where so many hold him in the highest of esteem. This remains an “elephant” in the room at every worship service at that church. God has to be deeply saddened by this, knowing that so much more could be done. Those involved either need to find a way to recover from this, not just cover it up, or decide to step aside for the greater good. The congregation must find a way to publicly be able to bring Hayes Wicker and his family back into this fellowship as loved and former members. Until this happens FBCN will be a “former great ministry”.

    1. Joyce Mullally Jacobs

      I certainly agree with you wholeheartedly, Grant. What they did to Rev Wicker and his Godly family is nothing but sinful. They have been in my heart and prayers since this happened. I’m not sure where they are located now, nor what they are doing, but I feel confident God is using them in His way.

    2. But we are not merely ambassadors. We are simultaneously soldiers, commissioned to wage war for the defense and dissemination of the truth in the face of countless onslaughts against it. We are ambassadors—with a message of good news for people who walk in a land of darkness and dwell in the land of the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2). And we are soldiers—charged with pulling down ideological strongholds and casting down the lies and deception spawned by the forces of evil (2 Corinthians 10:3–5; 2 Timothy 2:3–4).

      Notice carefully: Our task as ambassadors is to bring good news to people. Our mission as soldiers is to overthrow false ideas.

      We must keep those objectives straight; we are not entitled to wage warfare against people or to enter into diplomatic relations with anti-Christian ideas. Our warfare is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12); and our duty as ambassadors does not permit us to compromise or align ourselves with any kind of human philosophies, religious deceit, or any other kind of falsehood (Colossians 2:8).

      If those sound like difficult assignments to keep in balance and maintain in proper perspective, it is because they are.

      Jude certainly understood this. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write his short epistle to people who were struggling with some of these very same issues. He nevertheless urged them to contend earnestly for the faith against all falsehood, while doing everything possible to deliver souls from destruction: “snatching them out of the fire . . . hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 23).

      So we are ambassador-soldiers, reaching out to sinners with the truth even as we make every effort to destroy the lies and other forms of evil that hold them in deadly bondage. That is a perfect summary of every Christian’s duty in the war for the truth

  19. Almost unbelievable “saga of incompetence”. We have known Hayes & his family as good Christian people etc.for over 25 years. We recall the old Church too. We live in UK now as did Naples Baptist 1st Associate Minisiter – but come to Naples Baptist every Dec/Jan. We are frankly disappointed that no resolution is making it impossible as at now for all the lovely folks within Naples to move forward. So for now we will go to Tampa & enjoy Church there, as no wish to be seen to support incompetence.

    1. First Baptist Church has had problems for years. Namely Hayes Wicker. Honestly, the system that ousted him is the machine he created. When HE transitioned the church from Elders to committees the ground work was laid for unbiblical polity. Soon, one way or another there will be a woke pastor in the pulpit of FBCN.

    2. to be clear. I don’t think that it was right how they treated him. However, no one even begins to acknowledge that this system is the product of Hayes’ ministry.

  20. I attended the Saturday evening service with Dr.Marcus Hayes. I am Caucasian from Eastern Europe. So is my wife. The pastor was amazing, the atmosphere electrifying, we had fallen in love with the pastor. At the end of the service we found the pastor in The Commons area. We asked him to allow us to hug him. We met his wife and daughters. We were on cloud nine. Enough racists voted against the pastor. I left the church.

  21. Church leaders often seem to operate like smoke filled back room big city politicians. I guess the good news is that we are all free to move to a different church whenever we like. I know that for those with kids this can be tough but if you think things will get better just remember, you can’t fight city hall.

  22. If there is any racism it’s from Pastor Hayes and his endorsement of Woke Movement. A racist, leftist marxist movement and which claims blacks were muzzled for 150 years now it’s white’s turn to be face the same treatment. And this statement was made by an African American pastor on Moody Radio.

    1. Exactly right. It isn’t white people who have turned on the evil and hate. Need to read the book by Shelby Steele “White Guilt” where he lays out perfectly the Marist agenda going on.

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