Henry Lyons and Fire: Once Again!!!

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.

UPDATE 2/16/15

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.

  • Redetha Wilkes

    What brought me to this website in the first place was an episode of Justice Files featuring the Rev. Henry Lyons, his trial and eventual sentence of 5 1/2 yrs in prison. The prosecutor estimated he had stolen from the church and other church related organizations somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million dollars. $3 MILLION dollars stolen from the donations of others meant to help those in need, used for his own sinful wants. I say sinful because a large portion of the money went to support his mistress in lavish style and buy her extravagant gifts. (He is a married man or at least he was a married man when he did all this.) What stood out in my mind were the things he didn’t say he was sorry for. Not once did he mention being sorry for his sins against God and God’s work. I have a difficult time forgiving someone who does not seem to see what is wrong with their actions. I just did not see any repentance in the face of Henry Lyons at all. Now I see he is actually back at being a pastor again.

  • Tony P

    lyons is a typical preacher…phony, greedy, insincere liar

  • ChurchLady,

    Thank you. I appreciate you. God bless!

  • Ms. Marie

    Didn’t mean to reply to that comment.

    I don’t think he had anything to do with it; but I’ve learned not put anything past anyone.

    But if this church was in such financial ruin why not just close it and call it a day? I know it’s hard to walk away from something or someone you love but after a certain point you have to know when to let go. As a pastor you should never put yourself, your family, or your church family in financial ruin trying to stay afloat. Maybe it’s just time to let go and this was needed in order to start thst process. I don’t like letting go either but sometimes it’s needed.

    Like I said I don’t believe he had anything to do with it but I’ve learned not to put anything past anyone.

  • Dear ChurchLady,

    I come to you in love as I know being in the media in order to “sell” the story there has to be something “salacious” and intriguing like an episode of Scandal in order to attract readers/viewers. As a matter of fact, I read your blog nearly everyday when I get the early morning email. With that said, let me correct your aforementioned blog.

    #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. Remember, the building literally was built by African-American residents of that local community, brick-by-brick, beam-by-beam.

    #4- Finally, it is human nature to criticize that which we don’t know. I know you probably don’t know Dr. Henry J. Lyons personally. I also know the local media only cares to know the “no-good preacher” that got into trouble nearly 20 years ago. I read your blog regularly. I KNOW you know the Lord and you stand for righteousness in the body of Christ and I SO appreciate that. So, I DO hold you to a higher standard as a Christian blogger than the local and national media who knows not God, in most cases. So, let’s remember one thing, Dr. Lyons paid his debt to society by serving time in prison and completing probation. He repented for his transgressions. And, he went through the process of being restored spiritually back to ministry by his peers.

    Even though the secular mainstream media doesn’t operate in that context, I am asking that those in Christian Social Media, present company included, be reminded to operate in that vein. I hope you and your readers receive this in Christian love and not as an attack.

    In His Service,

    Rev. Robert L. Carpenter, II
    @RobCarpenter2

    • churchlady

      Rev. Carpenter,
      Thank you for posting and giving me the real deal regarding standard investigations of Houses of Worship and that, as of this time, NO foul play is suspected. Please keep me updated and I will ensure to post in a fair manner as always. My original post has been edited to include your statement that no foul play is suspected at this time and encourage readers to view your comments.
      One love,
      The Church Lady

    • Ms. Marie

      I don’t think he had anything to do with it; but I’ve learned not put anything past anyone.

      But if this church was in such financial ruin why not just close it and call it a day? I know it’s hard to walk away from something or someone you love but after a certain point you have to know when to let go. As a pastor you should never put yourself, your family, or your church family in financial ruin trying to stay afloat. Maybe it’s just time to let go and this was needed in order to start thst process. I don’t like letting go either but sometimes it’s needed.

      Like I said I don’t believe he had anything to do with it but I’ve learned not to put anything past anyone.

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