It appears that Henry Lyons can’t seem to get away from “fires”. Today New Salem Baptist Church, the church by which Henry Lyons has been serving as Pastor the past few years, was destroyed in a fire and is under investigation for arson. In the 1990’s Henry Lyons wife torched a $700,000 home that he allegedly was sharing with his mistress, that incident later led to an investigation that caused Henry Lyons to be convicted for stealing money that was supposed to go towards helping black churches rebuild after their churches were burned down.
Years later and after serving a prison term Henry Lyons is once again the center of attention in a suspicious church fire, ironically, while the church is in bankruptcy and up for sale. What is stunning to me is Rev. Lyons response being the church is 64 years old and its time to rebuild. (Really???). Since leading this congregation New Salem has had to file bankruptcy and the church was in foreclosure (smh) When we will learn
Here is the story:
Tampa, Florida — An arson investigation is underway at a historical church in Tampa after flames tore through the building around 6:30 a.m. on Monday. This isn’t the first time the pastor has dealt with a suspicious fire.
Several people hugged and stood outside New Salem Missionary Baptist Church as firefighters rushed to put water on the fire. For many it was a heartbreaking sight. Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick grew up in the neighborhood and broke down when speaking about it. He says, “Difficult. Very difficult that we lost this.”
The black smoke billowing out of the church right before the roof collapsed was just too much for many to process. Sonja Bexley has family members who attend the church. She says, “Just to see the whole church destroyed, my gosh, I hope no one was in there.”
Tampa Fire Rescue believes the church was vacant when the fire started just 30 minutes before the daycare was about to open. The Rev. Henry Lyons says, “One man was in at a point – he picks up the children early – and that kind of thing, but he’s OK.”
Reddick adds, “Growing up this was one of the most prominent churches – black churches in the city of Tampa – they have a tremendous amount of history inside that church – that is probably lost.”
This isn’t the first time that Lyons, the church’s pastor, has dealt with a suspicious fire either. In the 1990s, his wife at the time set fire to a $700,000 home that he was sharing with another woman.
Lyons was the leader of America’s largest black Baptist church group when his home was torched – it was arson – it was a home he shared with a woman detectives said he was having an affair with. It sparked an investigation into his finances and he was convicted of stealing money that was supposed to rebuild black churches that had been burned down.
He spent 5 years in prison before taking over New Salem Missionary Baptist Church.
Lyons told 10 News though that they’re recent bankruptcy issue at the church to stop a foreclosure was in the past and that they were in the process of selling the church when it caught fire. He says, “The building is 64 years old. It’s time to rebuild.”
Lyons says since there was a daycare at the church his wife is trying to help parents find places for for their children. He says, “Basically my wife handles that. We have a thriving little daycare. I’m really proud of it. She’s already dealt with that she’s got a place for them. We’ve got to be careful about licenses and make sure we’re within restrictions and within the guidelines.”
In all fairness to Rev. Lyons, one of my loyal readers commented on this post reminding me that we should not jump to conclusions and that at this time there does not appear to be foul play involved. As always the churchladyblogs strives to be a platform that allows everyone a voice so I am thankful for Rev. Carpenter’s response and further insights to this developing story, here is a portion of his post, to read more, view the comments section below:
#1- When Dr. Lyons came to New Salem 10 years ago, they were in financial ruins and in foreclosure. Part of that process of “coming out” was to file for bankruptcy protection.
#2- As of Fall 2014, the church is in good standing with the bank, and, because of redevelopment in the West Tampa/North Hyde Park area of Tampa, the church body voted recently to put the 64-year-old building/property up for sale. (The church is located 2 blocks from a Wal-Mart, across the street from brand-new high end condominiums and shops, a few blocks from the prestigious & private University of Tampa, less than a mile from the Amalie Arena – formerly the Tampa Bay Times Forum which hosted the 2012 Republican National Convention and numerous world class sporting events monthly and half a mile from the Straz Center of the Performing Arts and Tampa’s soon to be completed Riverwalk project.)
#3 – The arson investigation you mentioned is only a procedure enacted by the Department of Justice every time a “house of worship” is set on fire to find out if arson has been committed as a RELIGIOUS HATE CRIME as to protect the parishioners of the church and the local community. That is why the ATF (Federal Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Division) is in charge of the investigation. As of this time, there is no suspicion of foul play at all.”
Read more in the comments section.
Dr. Henry J. Lyons & New Salem Missionary Baptist Church press forward after the fire that destroyed the historic church located in the North Hyde Park community of Tampa, FL Monday, February 2, 2015. The church had their first Sunday services (2) outdoors on a beautiful brisk day in the shadows of the ashen church Sunday, February 8, 2015.