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Lyons' replacement has outstanding warrants

Church members say they didn't know their new pastor had problems with the law when they elected him 200-49.


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 5, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- Joaquin Marvin, the man elected to replace the Rev. Henry J. Lyons as head of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church, has two outstanding warrants for his arrest, the Department of Corrections says.

The warrants, both for probation violation, date back to 1991 and were never entered into the statewide computer system, said Debbie Buchanan, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Corrections.

"A judge in Escambia County signed the warrants. We took them to the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, but somehow, there was a mix-up at the sheriff's office and those warrants were never entered into the system. That confusion has been taken care of," Buchanan said.

A spokesman for the Escambia County Sheriff's Office said the charges are not serious.

"This is not like a violent crime," Sgt. Tony Bain said.

"I think that the warrants, being as old as they are, there's not going to be an active search for him. Pretty much, at this point, somebody is just going to have to run across him."

In that event, Marvin could be arrested and taken to jail, Bain said.

Marvin, an associate minister at Greater Union Baptist Church in Pensacola, could not be reached Monday.

Marvin, 35, was sentenced to two years of community control in 1991 for forgery. Records from the Department of Law Enforcement indicate that he also was arrested several times between 1986 and 1991 on charges that included shoplifting, assault and possession of crack and marijuana.

He was elected pastor of Bethel Metropolitan during a regular meeting late Friday. He replaces Lyons, former president of the National Baptist Convention USA, who is in prison for racketeering and grand theft.

The vote to hire Marvin was 200-49. One dissenter said she planned to ask the board of deacons to rescind the decision.

"I was one of the 49," said Maggie Davis, a member of the church for almost two decades.

"This is the lowest blow Bethel has had.

We needed somebody with an unblemished record. If this was going to happen, we could have waited for Dr. Lyons," she said.

"I don't want to lower myself to this. I taught my children not to do these things. What kind of an example is this setting for the young people?"

Former City Council member Frank Shorter, who had praised the election of the new pastor, said he was shocked to learn of Marvin's criminal past.

"I think they're going to have to rethink that," he said of Marvin's hiring. "Nothing like this was mentioned at the meeting. Someone mentioned to me that he had a traffic violation, a speeding ticket or something. The assault charge, I'd like to know more about it."

One of Marvin's strongest supporters is the Rev. Joseph Harvey, an assistant minister at Bethel Metropolitan. He denied that the new pastor's past had been hidden from the congregation.

"They had a special committee to select the minister. They do not usually expose what they discover if there is a criminal history," he said.

Harvey said the church has sent Marvin a letter confirming his appointment, but does not know when the new pastor will begin his job.

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

- Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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