Lyons' church files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Published Sept. 6, 2012

TAMPA — A church led by the Rev. Henry Lyons, a former national Baptist leader who served nearly five years in prison for theft and racketeering, has filed for bankruptcy as a bank attempts to foreclose its historic Oregon Avenue home.

Fifth Third Bank said in a court filing last month that the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in 2009 defaulted on a $1.1 million loan it took out in 2007 to buy land for a new, larger campus on 43 acres off Sligh Avenue east of Interstate 4.

The bank said it worked out an agreement with the church to temporarily reduce monthly mortgage payments.

But the church failed to meet its obligations under the revised agreement, the bank says.

On July 6, the church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, claiming $880,000 in assets and $1.2 million in liabilities.

The bank said in court documents that the filing was made in bad faith as an effort to thwart foreclosure.

Fifth Third Bank said in a motion filed in Bankruptcy Court that the church "conveyed away" its interest in nine properties used as loan collateral. The bank said the bankruptcy was filed just four days before a scheduled hearing in state court at which the bank was going to ask a judge for a foreclosure judgment.

Lyons was the president of the National Baptist Convention USA who was convicted in federal and state court in 1999 of swindling $4 million, most from the convention's corporate partners.

New Salem officials have previously told the Tampa Bay Times that their trustees, not Lyons, made the decisions that led to the church's financial difficulties.

Lyons and officials could not be reached for comment.