HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (BP)–A coalition of churches in Hot Springs, Ark., saw two “God-given victories,” as one Baptist minister put it, reported in the local newspaper in one day.
The coalition, which included several Southern Baptist congregations, had taken stances against a gay pride “festival” held in the town and a liquor license application for the local Magic Springs theme park.
On Tuesday, June 6, the Hot Springs Sentinel Record included a front-page story on Magic Springs dropping its request for a liquor license as well as an advertisement apologizing to the town for the gay pride event.
“To those who have taken offense, please accept our sincerest regrets,” stated the ad from Davis Tillman, organizer of the Freedom 2000 Mid-South Gay Pride Festival held May 26-29.
This apology came in response to 20 local churches, including five Baptist churches, organizing a boycott of businesses that supported the homosexual event as well as placing two full-page advertisements in the Sentinel Record.
Only days after the boycott began, Tillman asked to meet with church leaders to bring to an end the boycott. His ad was a result of that meeting. Beyond apologizing, Tillman agreed to not organize another gay pride event. He also alluded to working with churches to find means of raising funds for AIDS research.
“We felt like [the advertisement] was from the heart and meaningful, and something that should reconcile us,” explained Terry Thompson, executive pastor of Second Baptist Church. “As a group of churches, we encouraged our people to accept that as a statement of repentance and a request for forgiveness.”
With the same unity displayed in standing against the homosexual event, churches and the community worked to bar Magic Springs from receiving a liquor license.
The park, which opened on Memorial Day weekend, applied to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for a license that would allow the sale of beer in three areas of the park. The community and churches responded by petitioning against the license. Central Baptist Association, other churches and organizations pledged to boycott if the license was granted.
However, after seeing the response of the community and after meeting with Gov. Mike Huckabee, the park opted to “postpone” applying for the liquor license.
Thompson again said that the churches and community were excited to see God move and change the minds of park officials. Despite the park stating they had only “postponed” the license, Thompson said he did not expect this to be an issue again.
“I don’t get the impression they are going to reapply in the near future or ever,” Thompson said. “The mood of the community is loud and clear, and they understand the people of Hot Springs did not want this.”
These victories energized the Christian community, Thompson said. This excitement could be seen on June 10, when the annual March for Jesus, which typically draws a few hundred people, attracted a crowd of nearly 2,000.
Thompson said he hoped these victories would set a “trend” for the churches to work together on other social issues.”
“We are now looking, as we have in the past, at the probability that the gambling issue is going to raise its head in the general election again this year,” Thompson said, “and maybe what the churches have been able to accomplish together for these two issues will even further solidify us for that battle.”