October 4, 2007 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 124 Number 235

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Florida Baptists call for state marriage amendment

Gov. Bush weighs in


JACKSONVILLE (FBW)- Voting unanimously to support a statewide constitutional marriage amendment, messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting Nov. 9 urged legislators and citizens to press the issue defining marriage as a "God-ordained union between a man and a woman."

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Florida Gov. Jeb Bush reacted to vote the same day, telling reporters he might support a state constitutional amendment banning "gay marriage" if the judiciary challenges the state's 1997 Defense of Marriage Act already in place.

"If there was a threat that gay marriage would be accepted in our state, then I might be supportive of [a state constitutional amendment]" Bush said, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel. "I'm not sure it's necessary to do this in a pre-emptive fashion."

In Jacksonville at the Prime Osborn Convention Center to celebrate the convention's 150th anniversary, Jay Dennis, pastor of 6,500-member First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, offered the motion regarding the marriage amendment, telling messengers he believes the time is right to go on the record to support such a move with "passion and conviction."

"I think that if we vote on this today as Florida Baptists, we will be sending a very strong signal to our state that says we believe in the biblical definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman."

Just before the vote Dennis told Florida Baptist Witness he believes the process he took in presenting the motion to fellow messengers during a miscellaneous session of the meeting represents the "grassroots" spirit he hopes to engender by his move.

"I think that Southern Baptists are grassroots people," Dennis said, in explaining his process for initiating the motion. At the same time, however, Dennis said the annual meeting presented him with the opportunity to prompt churches to "step up to the plate" and begin to focus on the importance of moral issues.

"I think that this is a good venue to be able to make a clear statement in that we go on the record that this is who we are," said Dennis. "This is something I think a lot of people have been thinking about and … wanting to do something about."

Messengers also affirmed a motion calling for the Florida Baptist State Convention to continue to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools.

The education motion was put to messengers after a resolution concerning public school education was submitted in the morning session. That resolution asked messengers to "help parents provide their children with Christian alternatives to government school education, either through home schooling or thoroughly Christian schools."

Jimmy Deas, pastor of Westwood Baptist Church in Live Oak, submitted the motion encouraging continued support of SBACS.

In clarifying his motion, Deas said he affirmed Christians employed in the public school system and who "love the Lord and are trying to advance His Kingdom."

In the motion itself, Deas did not mention public schools, but his motion asked the State Board of Missions and the Florida Baptist State Convention to "find ways to strengthen and support Christian schools and home schooling among the churches" of the convention.

Upon affirmation of Deas' motion, Stan Lewis, chairman of the committee on the order of business for the FBSC, told messengers that because both a motion and a resolution had been received on "the same subject of Christian education"-and because the motion had already passed, there would be no need to consider the resolution.

"The motion supersedes the resolution," said Lewis, who is also associate pastor at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola. "The committee noted that the spirit and essence of the proposed resolution only encouraged Florida Baptists to do certain actions which the just passed motion has authorized."

Robert Dreyfus, a member of First Baptist Church in Leesburg, and a messenger to the FBSC submitted the education resolution characterizing public schools as "explicitly and legally godless."

Following the business session, Dreyfus told Florida Baptist Witness he was disappointed that that resolution was not brought before the body for a vote.

"I cannot tell you the distress I feel," Dreyfus said. "I feel like the leadership of the Florida Baptist Convention has done a great disservice to our Christian children and I think it will be a shameful page in our history that this has occurred."

[With reporting by James A. Smith Sr.]