JACK’S CREEK — Church members who spoke out against their preacher for alleged racist remarks recently learned by mail that their membership at the church had been terminated.
In December, several members of the Jack’s Creek Baptist Church appealed to the Southern Baptist Convention after they said their pastor used racially insensitive language from both behind the pulpit and in a Sunday School class. Appealing to forces outside of the church has earned each of the protesters a loss of membership.
Ozark Slone, Burman Newman, Freddy Johnson and Mary Hall, the members who challenged Rev. Paul Grainger’s alleged use of “the N-word” in church, each received letters this last week notifying them that their membership in the church has been terminated.
In a letter from Jack’s Creek Baptist Church dated March 7, 2013, Burman Newman was told, “This letter is written to inform you of the Jack’s Creek Baptist Church’s decision regarding disciplinary action that was taken on your behalf at the last Church’s Business Meeting, as you have caused and continue to cause disruption and affliction to the Church.”
According the Newman, the other members who opposed Grainger’s use of racial epithets in church also received similar letters. Newman says he wasn’t told of the meeting, and his first knowledge of the disciplinary action came from the letter he received by certified mail.
“The only thing I’ve done is tell the truth,” Newman told The Times Wednesday.
Tom Biddle, leader of the local Southern Baptist Association, said he received a letter of apology March 4 from Rev. Grainger concerning his racially insensitive comments, three days before the letters were drafted depriving the protesting churchgoers of their membership. Biddle said the church is autonomous, and that no one at the local, state or national level can force any changes upon them.
“It’s a church matter and they’re going to have to figure it out on their own,” Biddle said.
Newman says that after Grainger wrote the letter to the association, he considered the matter done and settled. “It was over. We couldn’t have done anything. We was dead in the water until he came back to get revenge. Revenge is belonged to the Lord.”
When asked how going to the press yet again would be received, Newman said, “We’ll see. As of this point, I’m not a member.
“He wrongly done every one of us, wrongfully done every one of us only because he couldn’t get by with what he wanted to.”
Newman says the meeting to dismiss him and the others from the church was held in secret with only a few members and Grainger in attendance. Time staff attempted to contact those who attended the meeting. One, Barb Foster, declined to comment.
Elvis Isaac said the move to oust Newman, Slone, Johnson and Hall was, “Church discipline, and we did it within the church body.”
Rev. Grainger also could not be reached for comment.
In January the now-ousted members sent a letter sent to the Southern Baptist Convention, saying, “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. 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 in December about the claims made in the letter, he said he was unsure if he had made racially sensitive remarks and that no one in his church had come to him about stepping down.
Given the controversy that continues to surround the church, The Times asked Newman why he and his fellow objectors didn’t simply leave the church and find a new place to worship.
“It was the first church I’ve ever been in. I helped build the church. We got a new church. I’ve got a lot of money in it, and time and effort, and all I did was tell the truth,” Newman said. “There’s not a soul there that helped build the church any more. He’s (Grainger) run them all off, and that’s not right.”