Baptist Leader Feels Heat Over Burnt-Churches Funds

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TAMPA, Fla.: Fresh charges that the recently reinstated president of the National Baptist Convention misappropriated thousands of dollars in donations to black churches will probably not cause his ouster, says TIME Atlanta Bureau Chief Sylvester Monroe. But now there's the possibility that the law will be his downfall. For now, Henry Lyons isn't talking about a Tampa Tribune report alleging he failed to distribute some of the $225,000 received from the Anti-Defamation and National Urban leagues to rebuild black churches destroyed in arson attacks. But six of the seven churches say they were short-changed or stiffed.

With Lyons just reinstated as president, despite charges of infidelity and misuse of church funds, Monroe reports this latest scandal is likely to spark fresh ouster efforts, seeking help from authorities. "Since Lyons was reinstated, the Convention can't do much to remove him internally," says Monroe. "So the next step will involve criminal charges, which could lead to his downfall."