Court Rejects Disgraced Baptist Leader's Bid to Stop Election

The former president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., was unable to convince a court to stop his denomination's next election, scheduled for Thursday.

On Wednesday, Judge Jeanette Clark denied the Rev. Henry J. Lyons' motion for a temporary restraining order, saying that Lyons sat and waited until the last minute to file a lawsuit rather than going to the denomination and complaining about the contested new procedures when he first came to know of them in September 2006.

The judge "basically said that Rev. Lyons did not follow the convention's procedures and did not suffer irreparable harm," the Rev. Wendell Griffen, parliamentarian for the Baptist church body and a member of the board of directors, told the St. Petersburg Times.

Under the new bylaws, the number of representative members eligible to vote is limited and additional votes can be given to those designated as representative members by more than one church, association or state convention.

Lyons' suit, which had baffled members of the convention, claimed that such changes constitute a breach of contract.

With Lyons having lost his bid, election for president of the convention will be held on Thursday in Memphis as planned.

Lyons is running against the Rev. Julius R. Scruggs of Alabama, the current vice president at large.

The winner of the election will serve as the head of one of the largest religious organizations among African Americans and the second largest Baptist denomination in the world, after the Southern Baptist Convention.

Lyons had served as the convention's president more than a decade ago until he resigned in March of 1999 – the month he was handed a 5 1/2-year prison sentence for racketeering and grand theft. Lyons had been accused of spending church money on expensive jewelry, a Mercedes-Benz and a $700,000 home bought with a woman who is not his wife.

The highly publicized scandal dealt a devastating blow to the denomination and eventually led Lyons into rock-bottom position where he says God saved him.

According to Lyons, his quest for re-election is spiritual and far beyond personal ambition.

"My re-election to the Presidency will witness to the world just what a mighty and loving God we serve. It will be the foundation of understanding true forgiveness from Christ Jesus who is faithful to forgive all of our sins," Lyons said.

Lyons is hoping to take the helm again to help the denomination seize "the opportunity to operate in a great way by witnessing to the world through its actions."

The convention reportedly comprises over 41,000 churches and over 8.3 million members.

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