MEMPHIS, Tenn. (NNPA) — The Rev. Dr. Henry J. Lyons and his supporters vowed to challenge the results, announced a little after 9:30 p.m. Sept. 10, of the run-off for presidency of the National Baptist Convention, USA after a stunning loss.
REV. HENRY LYONS
Out of a possible 5,032 votes (three per church), Lyons garnered a mere 924 or 18 percent while Dr. Julius Scruggs amassed a resounding 4,108 votes. But that outcome was not unexpected, the Lyons camp said.
“We knew that the gentleman who is now the president-elect would indeed win by a serious landslide because this is exactly how the elections went the last time we had an election,” Lyons said in an interview with two reporters. “For two years I’ve gone about the nation preaching this and saying it will happen again if we don’t stop it. And just as I predicted, by a serious landslide, [a] lopsided victory, he won.”
The Lyons campaign filed a lawsuit in a Washington, D.C. federal court earlier this week, questioning the validity of the church’s election process, especially the decrease in the number of delegates who vote from more than 20,000. When the court denied the claim yesterday, Lyons said he knew it was over.
“I cried last night when we didn’t get all we needed from the courts to give us water of salvation or even life,” he said. “So I think that’s why I’m not crying tonight.”
Terry Elliott, one of Lyons’ national campaign coordinators and state president of the California State Convention, said they are not taking the matter sitting down, however, and plan to appeal to the court again.
“We cannot accept the results when we have hard data, as well as monitors and a number of different things that tell us far different results,” he said. “Something went wrong in the process … the process itself was not right. … Irreparable harm has taken place and when we return to the court on the 25th [of September] we’ll be able to show them what they needed to see.”
While Lyons vowed not to let his resistance escalate into a “protracted” campaign, some members of the denomination said he should let the matter go now. “If you want to look at something as being suspect you can but I think [the results reflected] the overwhelming opinion of the delegates,” said the Rev. Dr. C. S. Gordon Jr., pastor of New Zion Baptist Church and general secretary of the Louisiana State Conference. “It was a landslide and I expected it would be. The convention needed to move forward and the only way to do that was to elect Dr. Scruggs.”
Rev. Gordon added the results in no way reflected a lack of forgiveness for Lyons’ scandalous history of extramarital affairs and the theft of millions of dollars, which landed him in prison when he last served as the convention’s president.
“It was not a matter of forgiveness – people were happy when he was released and heard he was preaching again,” the New Orleans pastor said. “But, it was a bad decision by Dr. Lyons to enter the race. To enter the race for an office you were forced to resign from – I don’t think it was a Holy Spirit-made decision. I don’t think he took into consideration the good of the [church] body.”
Gordon was one of many state leaders, including 49 of the 56 state convention presidents – and the current president, Dr. William Shaw – who supported Scruggs, which almost secured his victory since many church members followed the direction of their local leaders.
“Thank you members of the National Baptist Convention, USA Inc. for your confidence to entrust with me the leadership of the National Baptist Convention,” President-elect Scruggs said. “I do not take your trust lightly. I will do everything that is in my power to seek to live up to your trust.”
Gordon’s parishioner, Dr. Eartha Johnson, said she followed her pastor’s lead and was happy with the results of the vote. “It was an exciting time,” said the first-time voter. “The lines were long but it was well worth the wait. Our future is bright and something we’d be proud of.”
Robert McCallum of Mississippi said he didn’t even consider any other candidate but Dr. Scruggs. “He was predestined,” he told the AFRO. “I believe he is the best candidate to lead us with vision, integrity, structure and accountability (VISA, the denomination’s current motto).”
Meanwhile, Lyons’ supporters are grappling with their loss. Festooned in bright green Lyons paraphernalia and standing in a strategic position to offer last-minute encouragement to voters this morning, Christine Brown, who had worked with the Tampa, Fla. preacher in his previous campaigns, had been confident in her candidate’s victory.
“We’re going to win; the Lord had already told me before I left Flint. He got the victory because God is on his side,” the Flint, Mich., resident told the AFRO at the time.
Sitting in the auditorium after the results had been read, however, Brown was downcast. “I’m feeling very sad; I worked like a dog. … I’m hurt,” she said in a subdued tone. “I don’t believe those numbers; we had more support than that.”
Sitting beside her Minister Kathie Holland, of Charleston, W.Va., and member of Metropolitan Baptist Church, said Lyons’ candidacy had promised a “restoration of that which has been lost,” i.e., “the little people,” whom Holland and others said had lost their voice in the past 10 years.
While registering her disappointment, she too expressed a defiant support for the beleaguered former president. “It’s not the results I thought but we still pray for the convention and support the convention – and I still believe in Henry J. Lyons.”
(Special to the NNPA from the Afro American Newspapers.)