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Group pledges support to Lyons

By MIKE WILSON

©St. Petersburg Times, published January 22, 2006


LOS ANGELES -- The board of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. passed a resolution Wednesday saying it "does not consider itself a victim" in the state and federal criminal investigations of the Rev. Henry J. Lyons, Lyons' attorney said.

The board, meeting in a closed session at the Biltmore Hotel, also voted to support Lyons until the investigations -- and possible prosecutions -- are completed, lawyer Grady Irvin said.

The resolution was passed near the end of a day in which Lyons' supporters rallied to his side and critics headed for the exits in frustration.

"Dr. Lyons is leading us in a great way," said Stephen Nash, editor of the National Baptist Voice, the denominations's newspaper.

But at least one critic of Lyons, the Rev. Cleveland McFarland of Alabama, said he was leaving town because the board was unwilling to deal with what he considers a leadership vacuum.

"I don't have any good report to take back to my congregation," he said.

Lyons' critics have not raised a serious challenge to his presidency all week, a striking contrast to the September annual meeting when Lyons withstood a concerted effort to unseat him.

Also Wednesday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson returned to the board meeting, again urging the convention to focus on its work and avoid becoming consumed with the controversy over Lyons.

The board spent the morning haggling over proposed changes to the convention's constitution, including a controversial proposal that would allow churches to send more delegates based on how much money they contribute.

The meeting is scheduled to end at noon today.


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