2016-06-30
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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. Petersburg voted 200-49 Friday to oust Lyons and replace him with the Rev. Joaquin Marvin, 35, associate minister at Greater Union Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.

However, the St. Petersburg Times reports Marvin was arrested several times between 1986 and 1991 on charges including assault, shoplifting and possession of crack and marijuana. In 1991, he was sentenced to two years of community control for forgery.

The newspaper reported Tuesday there are two outstanding warrants for his arrest for probation violation which date to 1991, but sheriff's officials in the county where the warrants were issued do not intend to actively search for him.

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

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

On Monday, the Rev. Joseph Harvey, an assistant minister at Bethel Metropolitan who has supported Marvin, continued to voice confidence in his 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 effect on his preaching. I don't know one preacher that hasn't done something wrong."

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 and grand theft related to his leadership role in one of the country's largest African-American denominations. Since he went to prison in 1999, members of his congregation have debated whether to keep the pulpit open for Lyons or fill it with his successor.

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