TAMPA, Fla. (BP)–The Tampa police department has advised two Southern Baptist churches to increase their security after the churches were vandalized by homosexual activists who also threatened to disrupt worship services, according to the pastor of one of the targeted churches.
A group calling itself the “Coalition to Convert Baptists” claimed responsibility for the vandalism at Seminole Heights Baptist Church and Idlewild Baptist Church. The vandals used pink spray paint to mark the buildings with slogans and triangles. The same group also claimed to have planted a bomb in the Seminole Heights building on Sunday, Feb. 13.
“It could have been very bad,” said Greg Floyd, Seminole Heights’ pastor. “The police came and did a sweep of the building. Fortunately, they didn’t find anything and we were able to have morning worship services.”
Floyd said he has had several anonymous calls from homosexuals threatening to disrupt the church’s worship services, and those calls have prompted the Tampa police department to caution the congregations.
“The police have asked us to step up our security. Tonight [Feb. 16] we’ve got a man coming to train our ushers on how to react if something happens during the service,” Floyd said. “I guess you could say that we’ve become a focal point in this issue.”
The “issue” surrounds a Feb. 26 conference scheduled at neighboring Bell Shoals Baptist Church and sponsored by Focus on the Family. The conference focuses on homosexual issues facing youth and a recent advertising campaign featured the slogan, “Tired of being Gay?” The graffiti that appeared at the two churches featured a similar slogan, “Are you tired of being Baptist?”
John Paulk, homosexuality and gender analyst at Focus on the Family, said the damage is a sign of intolerance. “In recent weeks, we have seen intolerance rear its ugly head simply because we assert that homosexuality can be treated and even prevented,” he said.
Ironically, neither Seminole Heights nor Idlewild is the site of the conference. “We certainly support the conference but we really don’t have anything to do with the hosting of it,” Floyd said. Bell Shoals was not targeted.
Floyd said he believes that his church was targeted because of its visible location downtown. “You can see the graffiti from the interstate,” he said. “One caller said that we were chosen because we have recently revamped our church.”
Seminole Heights is located in a section of town populated by many homosexuals. “They’ve made strides to improve the community and we have too. Our church is truly focused on reaching out to the community, single moms, addicts. And I think that since we’ve revamped our church that it is a slap in their face,” Floyd said.
“Our attendance has increased after being in decline for so many years. We let people know that we deplore the sin, but we love the sinner,” he added.
Tampa police were tipped off to the vandalism after the anonymous group telephoned WTVT, Fox 13, a local television station. Assignment editor Bill Sharon said he quickly realized it was not a prank call. “They called to tell us they had just hit a church and they wanted to convert all Baptists to gay,” Sharon said. “At that point, I kept them on the line and called the police on another phone.”
Sharon said he didn’t think twice about notifying authorities. “Hey, when you threaten a church, that isn’t right,” he said.
Despite the vandalism damage, which was cleaned away by church members, Floyd said he was proud of how his congregation responded. “Our people are trying to take the high road. We want to help homosexuals and that is the message that came out in the local media,” he said. “That’s just part of what happens when you start reaching out to people.”
Police are still searching for suspects in the incidents.