W.Va. Baptists back state marriage amend.

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (BP)--West Virginia Southern Baptists adopted a resolution during their annual meeting Nov. 7-8 urging the passage of a state constitutional marriage amendment, saying the matter is of "grave importance to the well-being of the human family."

Although 30 states have adopted marriage amendments, West Virginia has not. It, along with North Carolina and Indiana, are three of the more conservative states that have yet to put language in their constitutions prohibiting state courts from legalizing "gay marriage."

The resolution, adopted at the 38th meeting of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, passed unanimously.

"As citizens of West Virginia, we avail ourselves of the opportunity to affirm the historic, legal, and reasonable definition of marriage by supporting and promoting a marriage amendment to the state constitution," the resolution states. "... [W]e will strongly encourage Christians throughout West Virginia to engage in the civic process in defense of marriage and in support of the government's leadership in defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman (Romans 13)."

Unlike states like California and Florida, West Virginia does not have a petition process allowing citizens to gather signatures and place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Any amendment must first pass the state House and Senate, both controlled by Democrats.

The resolution commits to praying regularly for the governor, legislators and judges. It also makes it clear that West Virginia Southern Baptists believe "same-sex unions are not the same as opposite-sex couples."

"[T]o believe otherwise is to ignore the uniqueness of each gender's design and undermines marriage (Genesis 2:18)," the resolution reads. "The break down or weakening of the institution of marriage has devastating moral, spiritual, economic, and social effects on the whole of society. Marriage protects children by giving them an opportunity to grow up in the ideal environment: with a married mom and dad. Knowingly depriving children of that opportunity exposes our children to a great social experiment that is in no one's best interest."

Addressing critics, the resolution reads, "[O]ur stand for marriage in no way disparages others -- even if they disagree with us. As recipients of God's grace, we are committed to demonstrating the love of Christ to those living the homosexual lifestyle."

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, has said a marriage amendment is not needed because the state already has a statute prohibiting "gay marriage." But amendment supporters counter by pointing to California, which had a similar statute that was struck down by the California Supreme Court. High courts in Connecticut and Massachusetts also struck down their respective state marriage laws.

A poll commissioned by the Family Policy Council of West Virginia and conducted by Advantage, Inc., found that 73 percent of registered voters -- including 69 percent of Democrats -- said they likely would support a ballot initiative defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The poll of 500 registered voters was conducted July 29-31.

In other matters, messengers:

-- adopted a budget of $2,864,428, an increase over the current budget of $2,755,683. Messengers maintained the budget’s designation of 38 percent given to the Cooperative Program.

-- re-elected Tim Kearney to convention president for a second term. He was unopposed. Seth Polk was elected vice president and Todd Hill second vice president.

-- rejoiced in six new churches being added to the convention: Big Spring Missionary Baptist Church, Mallory; Lighthouse Baptist Church, Hurricane; Neibert Missionary Baptist Church, Stollings; Real Life Church, Weston; First Baptist Church, Chelyan; and Zoar Baptist Church, St. Mary's.

-- welcomed Tom and Nancy Jones, who served as missionaries for 30 years in Africa and are from the Parkersburg area. They had a role in helping to form the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists.

-- passed resolutions warning against the danger of alcohol abuse; expressing appreciation to U.S. troops; and urging member "to pray earnestly for" revival in America. The resolution on alcohol says the convention goes on record "encouraging our churches" to educate its members on the "dangers of alcohol consumption." The resolution includes stats about binge drinking and alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

Next year's meeting will take place Nov. 6-7 at Westmoreland Baptist Church in Huntington.

Compiled by Michael Foust. Based on reporting by Greg Wrigley, editor of the West Virginia Southern Baptist.

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