The Rev. Henry Lyons
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A Times Editorial
Questions Lyons didn't address
©St. Petersburg Times, published July 12, 1997
The Rev. Henry J. Lyons had a chance Friday to stand up in front of the world and try to answer the many troubling questions that have arisen since his wife was arrested on charges of setting fire to a house he co-owns with a convicted embezzler. Instead, Lyons indulged himself in a cynical tour de force of self-pity and blame-shifting. That tactic may confuse the issues in some people's minds for awhile, but it won't make his problems go away.
Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker and other disgraced men of the cloth also tried at first to blame the media for their problems. Unlike Lyons, they weren't able to cry racism, too. Lyons' attempt to turn his ethical problems into a racial issue was especially irresponsible. Those who have been harmed most by his apparent improprieties are the predominantly black parishioners of St. Petersburg's Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church and members of the National Baptist Convention USA. Lyons should be apologizing to them, not using them for cover. As pastor of the church and president of the convention, Lyons has been granted the great responsibility of providing moral and financial leadership to those organizations. From all the mounting evidence, he has failed that responsibility.
Lyons had a lot to say Friday, almost all of it irrelevant. As expected, he didn't dare take
questions from the journalists gathered at Bethel for his performance. He claimed he would later answer any and all questions from his deacons and parishioners. We hope he does.
In the meantime, here are just a few of the questions he still hasn't addressed in public: Why did he give a convicted embezzler -- a woman with multiple aliases and Social Security numbers -- an important job with the National Baptist Convention? Why did he lie on documents related to the purchase of the $700,000 Tierra Verde home he and that woman purchased together? Where are all the national guests at that supposed "national guest house"? Why do he and his associate have so much trouble paying the bills for her expensive jewelry, artwork and other luxuries? Why was Lyons investigated for bank fraud and placed in a pre-trial diversion program in 1991 that forced him to pay $85,000 in restitution?
Lyons' behavior has raised many more questions, but these will do for starters. Rather than address them honestly, Lyons so far has chosen to fall back on tired, old tactics that risk inflaming the entire community in an effort to save himself.
You are certainly free to blame the media for all your problems, Dr. Lyons, but remember: We didn't start the fire.
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