ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Homosexual activists angered by the Southern Baptist Convention’s belief that the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin are planning to protest the SBC’s annual meeting scheduled for June 13-14 at the Orange County Convention Center.
Soulforce, a national network of homosexual activists, has announced its intention to converge a national protest against the SBC during the Orlando convention. The group’s Internet website encourages homosexuals to make preparations to be arrested during a planned civil disobedience on June 14.
However, as of May 26, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department had not received a demonstration or parade permit from the homosexual group.
Mel White, a former associate of Jerry Falwell’s organization until he announced he was a homosexual and one of the founders of Soulforce, told Baptist Press he hoped the demonstrations will be peaceful. “We will be there to win minds and hearts, not to cause anger and fear,” White said. “However, so many people are angry at the Southern Baptists and sometimes our training doesn’t help control that anger.”
Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the protestors 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. “Southern Baptists have long since proved that they are able to love the sinner even while they hate the sin.”
“These are precious people for whom Christ died,” Patterson added. “We will have to trust them to understand that it is our honest, heartfelt belief that their lifestyle is terribly destructive to both the family and to the nation.”
“By the same token,” he stressed, “It will be our joy to share the healing properties of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them as well as with all people.”
White said he expects hundreds of homosexuals from across the country to converge on Orlando for the protest. “We are saying that [gay people] are being condemned unfairly by the Southern Baptists and we are very serious about this concern,” White said.
He also added that the newly revised Baptist Faith and Message’s article on women and the pastorate would also be targeted for protest.
“It seems very regressive and going backward,” White said of the proposed BF&M.
White came into the public eye in October 1999 when 400 homosexuals met with Falwell to discuss ways to reduce violence against homosexuals.
White was a ghostwriter for Falwell on two books in the 1980s before he announced his homosexuality.
Southern Baptists belief that homosexuality is a sin is based on a number of passages in the Bible, including Romans 1:18-30, I Cor. 6: 9-10; and Leviticus 20:13-16.