Lexington pastor apologizes for blackface skit at church

kward1@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2014 

Joseph Pickens, personal assistant to Clays Mill Road Baptist Church pastor Jeff Fugate, posted this picture on his Twitter account.

A Lexington pastor apologized Saturday to people who were offended by a white man performing in blackface as part of a skit at the church.

Pastor Jeff Fugate of Clays Mill Road Baptist Church said he'd gotten at least a dozen messages from people upset by the performance.

The skits were part of the National Young Fundamentalists Conference held at the church Wednesday through Friday.

The conference, for teens in 7th through 12th grades, had about 1,000 attendees from a dozen states. It is held in cooperation with Commonwealth Baptist College, of which Fugate is president.

Fugate said he did not know in advance that his personal assistant, Joseph Pickens, would perform in blackface. He said Pickens appeared in blackface on two separate occasions as part of a skit involving a boxing match pitting him as Mr. T against someone portraying Curly of the Three Stooges.

Fugate apologized to anyone offended by that.

"I wouldn't offend a black person for the world," he said. "I sure am sorry."

"Somebody's trying to say I'm a racist, but that's the last thing I am."

Fugate said the church's bus ministry picks up about 800 children for church each week, and he estimated that half of them are black. He said the Three Stooges bit is a tradition with the conference.

[VIDEO: Boxing match starts at about 13:30]

"It's always silly," he said.

He said Clays Mill streamed the event online for people who weren't able to attend in person.

"That's why the whole world saw it," Fugate said.

A YouTube video showing the skit appeared Friday on StuffFundiesLike.com, which bills itself as a humor site aimed at "Independent Fundamental Baptists."

In addition to being shared on social media, the story was picked up and linked to on Fark.com and Dailymail.co.uk.

Fugate said several black people were in attendance for the skit, and at least one of them participated in it. He said none of them complained, nor did anyone else in the audience.

He said the blackface part of the skit was put on "innocently or in ignorance," and "I'd never do it again."

Fugate said Pickens has been "hurt" by the ordeal.

"He's not racist," Fugate said. "He said, 'Preacher, I'm so sorry. ... I just didn't think about it.'"

Fugate said the name for the conference was "Contend," which is taken from Jude 1:3 in the Bible, which urges Christians to "earnestly contend for the faith."

The boxing theme was intended to convey the message that "there's a fight every day, we have to fight" to avoid temptations such as drugs, alcohol, sexting and the like, Fugate said.

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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