Beliefnet
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (RNS) -- The Florida church that was led by the Rev. Henry J. Lyons, the now-imprisoned former president of the National Baptist Convention,USA, has chosen a new pastor to take Lyons' place. But the choice comes with his own set of legal problems.

Members of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church in St. Petersburgvoted 200-49 Friday to oust Lyons and replace him with the Rev.Joaquin Marvin, 35, associate minister at Greater Union Baptist Churchin Pensacola, Fla.

However, the St. Petersburg Times reports Marvin was arrested several timesbetween 1986 and 1991 on charges including assault, shoplifting andpossession of crack and marijuana. In 1991, he was sentenced to twoyears of community control for forgery.

The newspaper reported Tuesdaythere are two outstanding warrants for his arrest for probationviolation which date to 1991, but sheriff's officials in the countywhere the warrants were issued do not intend to actively search for him.

One member who voted against Marvin said she hoped the deacon boardwould consider rescinding the vote.

"This is the lowest blow Bethel has had," said Maggie Davis, alongtime member. "We needed somebody with an unblemished record. If thiswas going to happen, we could have waited for Dr. Lyons."

On Monday, the Rev. Joseph Harvey, an assistant minister at BethelMetropolitan who has supported Marvin, continued to voice confidence inhis selection.

"Everybody at church yesterday was still in favor of him coming,"Harvey said. "It has been over 10 years. His criminal past has no effecton his preaching. I don't know one preacher that hasn't done somethingwrong."

In an interview published in Sunday's edition of the newspaper,Marvin would not discuss his past legal troubles.

"All of the things have been exonerated," he said.

Lyons remains imprisoned in Florida on charges of racketeering andgrand theft related to his leadership role in one of the country'slargest African-American denominations. Since he went to prison in 1999,members of his congregation have debated whether to keep the pulpit openfor Lyons or fill it with his successor.

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