Jack LattaStaff Writer
November 20, 2012
JACK’S CREEK — Several members of a local church have appealed to the Southern Baptist Convention, after they say their pastor has on three occasions used racially insensitive language.
Ozark Slone, Burman Newman, Freddy Johnson and Mary Hall say that the repeated use of of derogatory racial slurs by their pastor, Rev. Paul Grainger, has made members uncomfortable, and even driven some to leave the Jack’s Creek Baptist Church.
In a letter sent to the Southern Baptist Convention, the group contends that “the local Southern Baptist Association of Kentucky has told some of their members that they cannot offer any help, nor can they support the efforts of these members, in their attempt to remove a local Baptist minister from office, even after he has made racial slurs not once, not twice, but at least three times this year, including using the N-word, while preaching in Sunday school class, and while preaching from the pulpit.”
In the letter it states that Grainger qualified his use of racially insensitive language by saying, “Well, they call us worse names.”
The aggrieved parties say in the letter they have sought help and counseling from the Southern Baptist Association on how to proceed with the removal of Grainger.
According to the letter sent by Slone, Newman, Johnson and Hall, the members have asked Grainger to step down and he has refused.
“In a day and time when we finally have an African American as the United States president, and an African American as president of the Southern Baptist Association, these types of remarks should not be tolerated,” the letter states. “This has greatly upset several members of Jack’s Creek Baptist Church, some of whom have African American family members and biracial grandchildren, and feel as though these remarks were made to discourage their participation at Jack’s Creek Baptist Church.”
When Times staff spoke to Grainger about the claims made in the letter, he said he was unsure if he had made racially sensitive remarks. “I don’t know. I have no idea.”
Grainger did say that no one in his church had come to him about stepping down.
“I haven’t been requested to meet with anyone and I would never refuse to meet with any of my members,” Grainger said. “Anything of that nature would be handled by the church itself. To my knowledge there hasn’t been any.”
Grainger balked at the idea that any perceived racially insensitive language was used in an effort to drive out members of mixed races or people of color. “I would never target someone in that manner.”
Grainger said the people who signed the letter have not been to church in “some time.”
In a response from the Rev. Fred Luter, the president of the Southern Baptist Association, and the first African American to hold that position, he says that he is “amazed” by what is happening at Jack’s Creek Baptist church.
“I am blown away by the fact that a pastor continues to use derogatory language (including using the N-word) even after being confronted by members of his church,” Luter saod.
Luter adds, though, that Jack’s Creek Baptist Church needs to make any changes itself. “The licensing, ordination, hiring, and firing of ministers is a local church matter,” Luter said. “Because every church in the Southern Baptist Convention is an autonomous church, the SBC neither frocks nor defrocks ministers/pastors. That is and has always been the responsibility of the members of that local church.
“I would therefore suggest that a special-called meeting of the Jack’s Creek congregation be called to deal with this very unfortunate matter. I would also suggest that you call the DOM or someone from the local baptist association who is not a member of the church to chair the meeting.”
Luter is pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., and was elected SBC president this year.
Grainger echoed Luter’s remarks, saying that if someone in the church has issues, they should first “follow the scripture” by meeting with the person individually, or bring someone with them, and then lastly take it to the church. “That’s according to our Constitution and our by-laws.”