Reformation Charlotte has been covering the controversy that has been going on at First Baptist Church in Naples, Florida after Marcus Hayes, a black candidate for the senior pastor position at the Church failed to secure enough votes to confirm the job. After the failed vote, the Church launched an attack against the people who voted against him labeling them “racists” and “white supremacists” without offering any evidence to back up their case.
Reformation Charlotte proceeded to opine that the dissenters really had no racial motivation at all and that the church and the SBC leaders who were publicly accusing these church members were making baseless allegations to further their social justice narrative.
Not much to my surprise, it turned out that we were right and dozens of members of this church reached out to explain their reason for voting against him which boiled down to concerns over his apparent progressive bent as well as a lack of experience pastoring a church that size.
Reformation Charlotte then began to discover quite a number of concerning details about the church’s pastoral search committee as well as other internal corruption that would lead anyone who is paying attention to believing that the motivation for placing Hayes on the ballot, to begin with, was nothing less than sinister.
After Reformation Charlotte reported, and other conservative news outlets followed suit, it became clear that the racism narrative was nothing more than a lie. The church leaders making the accusations against these church members began to purge the dissenting voters from the church roles while announcing that they would hold another vote after the members who voted no were all gone. Bottom line, Marcus Hayes was a man who was being used by the church as a token to signal their virtue — and some members weren’t on board.
Caught up in the midst of this drama has been the former pastor of FBC Naples, Pastor Hayes Wicker, who has been charged by current leadership with such actions as financial mismanagement, nepotism, and interfering with the current selection process of a new pastor. In an email that Reformation Charlotte has seen, former Pastor Hayes Wicker denies the charges against him and rebukes the current leadership for their unbiblical disciplinary action against current and former members of the church.
One section of his letter to the current leadership is below — Reformation Charlotte will release more at a later date.
You stated in your letter that “the Bylaws vest in the Senior Pastor Search Team the obligation to fill the position of senior pastor when vacant.” I’m sure you realize that it is their job to prayerfully search for and then present a potential candidate to the church, which through a congregational vote, would be called by the entire Church for the position. But, let me also state without equivocation, that I neverpromised the position of Senior Pastor to any one person and was not “grooming him” to do so. That lie has been constantly stated by you without ever asking me of its truthfulness and you even go on to state that three Southern Baptist leaders give testimony to it, though you refuse to give their names. In fact, this lie is the foundation upon which all the other accusations stand.
There was one man I wished to recommend to the Senior Pastor Search Team, and of course, a couple of other candidates were on my mind as well, if the committee desired my input. But, that is all I wished to do–to make a recommendation of several names, as encouraged by the representative from Auxauno who led our Transition Team. I only asked this very fine pastor to pray about being open to my recommendation and his possible consideration by the Senior Pastor Search Team. I never asked for special consideration to be given to him either. The godly young man I wished to recommend to FBCN has been aggressively contacted and courted by several very large Baptist churches and is in the last stages of being called by a larger church than FBCN.
It is also important for you to note that Dr. Ronnie Floyd, the President and CEO of the SBC who spoke at FBCN this past summer, was succeeded by his own son, a very capable and godly young man who had been serving at Cross Church in Arkansas. Dr. Johnny Hunt of Georgia stood in his pulpit after having a young man preach and then told the congregation this was their new pastor. Dr. Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas has already selected his successor who is serving in another role at his church and will become the next pastor when he retires. These longtime pastors have figured prominently in the selection of the next pastor of the churches they served faithfully for many years. In fact, both Don Collier and Neil Dorrill asked me privately and specifically if I knew of someone to recommend to the Senior Pastor Search Team. Trusting their motives, I did mention this one individual. Later, it was stated that I had initiated this conversation and expected that he would be given preferential treatment. That is not true. I never met with the Senior Pastor Search Team nor did I lobby the members privately to consider “my candidate.” By the way, it is also untrue that I asked Neil Dorrill three separate times to be the Chairman of the Senior Pastor Search team. That choice, as provided by the Church Constitution and By-Laws,
was made by vote of the Personnel Committee.
When we revised the Church Constitution in 2016, I made sure that the process which you are following was clarified so that the retiring or leaving pastor would not be in control of the selection. (Also, please note that the 85% vote requirement for the Senior Pastor contained in that revised constitution was seen by the pastoral staff, the lay leaders, deacons and the church for input and revision and was approved by the vote of the church. Only now are some crying “foul,” and even finding room to accuse me of somehow knowing in 2016 that this would figure prominently in your recent election.) Yet, you have been untruthful about me having a plot to install my successor; and you also have resisted others who have given you proof that it was not true. Here I am speaking particularly of Bob Caudill, who called the candidate in question and several possible SBC leaders to ask if this was true, and all stated that it was not. In fact, one man stated he was surprised that I was so uninvolved in the process.
Yet, you would not listen to Bob Caudill and instead punished him for telling the truth as he was disgracefully and illegitimately removed as a deacon and also from his duly elected position as a member of the Senior Pastor Search Team. Then, you have the absolute indecency to disfellowship this godly man and his wife. I do hope that every time you step foot on the property known as FBCN that the Holy Spirit will remind you of the decree that Bob and his wife (and the other 16 people) cannot step foot on the property of the church lest they be found guilty of trespassing. This is outrageous!
Do you not know or appreciate that Bob and his wife Katy figured prominently in securing that very land? Bob and Katy ministered to a couple who were attending our church at the time we were seeking to relocate our campus and ministry from Pine Ridge Road. Their personal lives and marriage were in trouble and the Caudills helped them through the crisis by spending hours of their time counseling, biblically instructing, and praying with them. Their marriage survived and they became active members of the church. At the same time, Bob was a member of the leadership to relocate our ministry to Orange Blossom Drive. The wife was so very grateful for what God had done in her life that she approached the Caudills to ask what they could do for the church. At the very same time, they were closing a multi-million dollar sale of their business. The Caudills encouraged them to pray about contributing to the land purchase. They did pray, and then provided most of the money required for FBCN to purchase the 100 acres off Orange Blossom Drive, calling it the most significant gift of their lives for the Kingdom of God. It is a travesty that you would treat the Caudills so shamefully and with such a disregard for the truth and a lack of gracious thankfulness for their significant ministries and contribution to FBCN, FBA, and the cause of Kingdom Missions over many years. To those of you who have been their friends through the years, I find it personally disheartening and grievous that you would now turn your backs on them. They do not deserve this, and neither do any of the others who were removed.
I could tell similar stories about every one of the 16 others recently removed from the membership rolls of FBCN by the deacons and pastoral staff. These Bible teachers, former employees, godly FBA parents, humble servants, loving volunteers and faithful believers have been treated with the utmost disrespect, ungodly and unbiblical chastisement, and without a hint of Christian love. One couple, a young deacon and his wife, had opened the door of their business for a “chaplaincy ministry,” and the Pastor of the FBCN Spanish Church spoke to his employees regularly. This staff member was told by the leadership he could no longer participate, though immigrants were being saved and discipled. Not one of the 18, before being dismissed, were approached privately as biblically and constitutionally required. None received the opportunity to defend or refute charges read against them in their absence. It is also egregious to imply that these members are racists and a “cancer that needed to be cut out of the Body.” Husbands and wives alike were summarily dismissed though many times no charges were found against the spouse. It should shake every member of FBCN to the core that such behavior exists at this beloved church.
Also, the “church discipline” of a couple who had already resigned their membership at FBCN is completely out of order and unconstitutional. Each one of the deacons who voted to approve the removal of these members should immediately examine the charges presented as to their credibility. Your affirmative vote to discipline these people and remove them from membership makes you complicit with this action. This action was hastily taken without prayerful consideration and constitutes spiritual abuse and quite probably left the church and individual deacons and leaders vulnerable to legal recourse. A simple desire to “just move on” is not justification to overlook such unbiblical activity as this. The removal of these people does not bring you any sort of peace. “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:11) The leaders of FBCN should ask forgiveness of all 18 of these who have been removed and reinstate them to their membership immediately.
I also vehemently deny any “facilitating” or “cooperating” with any group to “undermine the Senior Pastor Search Team.” We have prayed for you even when you have treated us disrespectfully and unjustly, and we prayed fervently for Rev. Marcus Hayes, a gifted man who loves the Lord, as he and his dear family came to you in view of a call as your next pastor. We hoped and prayed in advance that he would be God’s chosen Senior Pastor for FBCN, if it was His will. We prayed that all, including the candidate, would have the Lord’s discernment and wisdom and for unity in the Body. I am deeply saddened by the turn of events, by the very public false accusation of 2 members of the Counting Committee and a faithful Bible teacher of hundreds, by the disgraceful removal of 18 honorable, integral, and righteous people from the church’s membership rolls, and by the defaming of the testimony of Jesus through FBCN in social and print media.
Those two members of the Counting Committee who have been publicly attacked by the leadership for supposedly tainting the election process also represent the best of FBCN. One is a godly widow who has devotedly served Jesus through FBCN for the 24 years she (and her dear deceased husband who was a deacon) has been a member. She has served as the Chairperson of the Counting Committee in faithfulness and with the utmost integrity. The other is an older godly deacon who has prepared the Lord’s Supper to serve you, who is a humble man, and one with whom I could entrust my life. Have you no shame to publicly and falsely accuse such godly people of tainting the voting process? Again, you must publicly apologize to them and confess this egregious sin of bearing false witness against them.