Racial slurs disrupt worship. 1 man arrested. Now 2 York County churches stand united.
YORK COUNTY, S.C. (Rock Hill Herald) - The York County Sheriff has charged a man in a case where a rural church’s Sunday worship was disrupted by someone who shouted racial slurs and mooned black parishioners.
However, the incident has forged a bond where Black and white churchgoers from separate houses of worship will pray together this weekend.
Joshua Glenn Scronce, 38, of Sharon, was charged late Thursday with disturbing a worship service, said York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson.
The charge carries a sentence of 30 days to a year in jail for a conviction, South Carolina law shows.
Disturbing a worship service is defined under state law as “any person who willfully and maliciously disturbs or interrupts any meeting, society, assembly or congregation convened for the purpose of religious worship.”
Scronce remained in the York County jail Friday morning, records show.
Scronce was arrested after an investigation that began Wednesday. Worshipers at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Sharon were targeted, deputies said.
Tolson said he ordered the investigation after learning late Tuesday of the incident. Parishioners were holding outdoor services because of coronavirus.
“The York County Sheriff’s Office is committed to doing the right thing at the right time, every time,” Tolson said Thursday after the arrest. “Mr. Scronce is afforded the same Constitutional guarantees afforded to every citizen regardless of race, religion or beliefs.”
Sharon is a town of about 500 people between York and Gaffney. The predominantly African-American church sits across the road from where the epithets were shouted, parishioners said.
Tolson said he heard about the incident late Tuesday and immediately called church officials. Church officials told Tolson that no one from the church accosted or confronted the person, Tolson said.
“The leaders of the church were extremely gracious with me and my office, and the people there at the church that day handled the incident extremely well,” Tolson said.
Tolson said he told church officials his office would start an investigation after church leaders filed an official report. The incident report was filed Wednesday.
The susbject “was outside being loud and boisterous in order to disrupt their service,” church officials told police in the report. “The subject also yelled out racial slurs at the congregation and began to get louder and louder...the subject also turned his music up loud and pulled his pants down, showing his buttocks to them.”
Apostle John Brown, senior pastor at the church, said Thursday the racial epithets started about halfway through his sermon. Parishioners, including children, were called awful racial names as the person also shouted for “white power,” he said.
Some of the words can be heard in the background during a video of the service that was broadcast on Facebook Live, Brown said.
Several parishioners turned toward the man speaking the epithets but Brown said he encouraged all to not react to the hateful words.
“I spoke during the sermon to our people and told them that we have been called that before, but God created us this color and that as black people we are just as important, and as much a part of God’s world, as anyone,” Brown said.
Brown said racism cannot and will not be tolerated, but he and others at the church continue to pray for the person involved.
“No one of any color, be they black or white, or any color on this earth, should be targeted because of the color of their skin,” Brown said. " We are not going to let anyone, or anything ruin or interrupt our love for each other as human beings.”
Members and the pastor of nearby Hillcrest Baptist Church, whose congregation is predominantly white, heard about the incident and decided to move their Sunday worship to St, John Missionary Baptist this weekend.
The churches have called the joint event “United for Christ” and have posted a flyer on Facebook stating the service is open to the public.
Both congregations will gather outdoors in cars, Brown said.
“We as two churches will come together as brothers and sisters and share the common joy of humanity,” Brown said.
Pastor Brad Vassey of Hillcrest Baptist posted this message on the church’s Facebook page:
“This past Sunday, St. John’s received shouts of racial slurs during their worship time as they were gathered outside for their services. If a sister church in our community is to receive persecution for simply being who they were created to be, Hillcrest will be standing beside them.”