ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Homosexual activists planning acts of civil disobedience during the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 13-14 annual meeting will receive gifts of water compliments of the SBC’s North American Mission Board.
Shortly thereafter, the homosexual protesters will be placed under arrest and taken to jail for protesting without a permit, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. told the Orlando Sentinel June 1.
“We intend to give them time to make a brief statement, inform them the assembly is unlawful and effect the arrest,” Capt. David Black told the newspaper.
Martin King, a spokesman for NAMB, told Baptist Press the protesters would be given bottled water by NAMB staff members working with the Greater Orlando Baptist Association.
“These trained volunteers are called a ‘kindness force’ and they will share a bottle of cold water and the love of Christ with any pickets or demonstrators they encounter during the convention,” King said.
Soulforce, a national network of homosexual activists, announced May 25 its intention to stage a national protest against the SBC during the Orlando convention. The group’s Internet site encourages homosexuals to make preparations to be arrested during a planned civil disobedience at the Orange County Convention Center on Wednesday, June 14.
Chris Alexander-Manley, a homosexual activist based in Orlando, told the Orlando Sentinel that homosexuals want to respond to a proposed revision in the SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement that the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin.
“Orlando is ready for something like this, the gay community as well as the straight,” Alexander-Manley said. “We are part of the central Florida community.”
Activists and local law enforcement met May 31 to discuss the planned civil disobedience. Black said demonstrators would be transported to jail where they are expected to plead guilty or no contest and post a cash bond.
“They reassured us they were going to be civil in their civil disobedience,” Black said. “They are going to make a statement and await arrest.”
Mel White, a founder of Soulforce, said the organization would not attempt to enter the convention hall. “We have not come to swarm the platform or interrupt or disrupt, or cause anger or fear or consternation,” White told the newspaper. “We’re here to win minds and hearts. It’s so easy to want to give up on the Southern Baptists.”
Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the protesters will not be met with harsh words from Southern Baptists.
“It is my profound belief that if these homosexual and lesbian people come to the convention, they will be treated with the greatest kindness and the most profound love that they’ve experienced,” Patterson told Baptist Press on May 26. “Southern Baptists have long since proved that they are able to love the sinner even while they hate the sin.”
Meanwhile, a group of former homosexuals announced plans June 1 to stage a counterdemonstration to the Soulforce action.
Tim Wilkins, director of Cross Ministry, said his organization would be in Orlando to peacefully demonstrate. “We are going to be down there in force,” Wilkins said.
Cross Ministry, based in Raleigh, N.C., is a member of Exodus International North America. The ministry’s mission is to equip churches to evangelize and disciple homosexuals and lesbians. “It is a speaking, teaching and writing ministry to give visibility to the reality of change from the homosexual lifestyle through Jesus Christ,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins said the counterdemonstration will show support for the SBC’s position on homosexuality.
“We want to encourage the Southern Baptist Convention regarding their stand on homosexuality … especially because of the heat that it has generated,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins also said his group is planning a news conference on June 14 that would introduce men and women who have been delivered from a homosexual lifestyle. “We want to answer questions and share in a loving way our understanding of the biblical view of homosexuality,” he said.