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c. 1997 Religion News Service

First wife of embattled Baptist leader says he beat her

(RNS) The first wife of the Rev. Henry J. Lyons, the embattled president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, has said in an interview that she left him in 1968 because he beat her.

Her allegations add to the list of recent questions about Lyons’ marital and financial decisions that is prompting some denominational leaders to call for his resignation.

Now remarried, Patricia Tiggler said she”couldn’t be the subservient wife that he wanted.” At first she was reluctant to discuss the alleged beatings, but after a reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution read court records of the divorce, she commented on her past.”He has so much going against him,”she said.”I didn’t want to add to that.” The court records show that their marriage ended in 1969 after she claimed that Lyons continually abused her for three years, the Associated Press reported. At the time, he was pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Thomaston, Ga., about 70 miles south of Atlanta.

Patricia Demons Lyons said in the records that Lyons twisted her arm and leg, knocked her down with a punch and beat her repeatedly with a belt.

Tiggler, who now lives in Griffin, Ga., said Lyons threatened to kill her on”numerous occasions,”often slapped her and threatened to hurt her father.”He had two personalities, one public, one when he was alone,”she said.

Lyons married a member of his church’s youth group six weeks after his divorce from his first wife was granted in February 1969. Three years later, he filed for divorce from his second wife.

Lyons’ current wife, Deborah, was charged with setting fire July 6 to a $700,000 house her husband bought with another woman.

Since that time, there have been numerous reports about his marital and financial situations.

Some Colorado leaders of the NBCUSA have called on Lyons to resign as president of the denomination, whose annual meeting begins in Denver Sept. 1.”There are too many allegations and this is embarrassing,”said the Rev. Benjamin L. Reynolds, a member of the denomination’s board of directors and a Colorado Springs pastor.

Clergy from Florida, Missouri, Mississippi and Alabama, calling themselves Concerned Pastors for a Better Way, have issued a statement asking for Lyons’ resignation.

But another church official in Colorado, the Rev. Acen Phillips of Denver, predicted Lyons might ride out the controversy successfully.”The church is in the business of dealing with sin and repentance and forgiveness,”said Phillips, fifth vice president of the denomination.

United flight attendant to sue Schuller for $5 million

(RNS) The United Airlines flight attendant who accused the Rev. Robert H. Schuller of assaulting him in June said Wednesday (Aug. 20) he plans to file a $5 million lawsuit against the well-known TV preacher and author.

Khaled Elabiad said at a news conference that Schuller drank alcohol and repeatedly called him a liar before grabbing him and shaking him on the Los Angeles-to-New York flight.”It was in no way a simple assault,”said Elabiad.”I was grabbed very forcefully. … I was shaken so hard that my head was going back and forth so many times, giving me whiplashes and pain.” Schuller, whose”Hour of Power”has a worldwide audience of more than 20 million, pleaded innocent Aug. 13 to one federal misdemeanor count, apologized to Elabiad, and agreed to pay an $1,100 fine to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Federal authorities determined that the 70-year-old preacher grabbed Elabiad and shook him in the airplane’s galley after disagreements about hanging Schuller’s clerical robe and serving him grapes.

Elabiad, 33, said he has suffered physical and psychological damage and has not returned to work, the Associated Press reported. United officials said Elabiad has had an exemplary record during his three years of employment.

In a telephone call to a news conference at Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., a couple who had been sitting in front of Schuller in the first-class cabin said Elabiad acted inappropriately and Schuller’s actions were nonthreatening.

Dual Macintyre of Larchmont, N.Y., who was traveling with his wife Kara, described the encounter as”a hissy fit between a flight attendant who was having a bad day and a well-intentioned elderly passenger.” On CNN’s”Larry King Live”Wednesday, Elabiad said he did not know of Schuller before the incident.”He said, `Don’t you know who I am? I am the powerful Rev. Robert Schuller,'”Elabiad said.

Elabiad said he urged Schuller to stop assaulting him.”If you don’t let me go I will have to press charges,”said Elabiad, recalling his words to Schuller.”All of a sudden he froze and let me go.” Terry Giles, Schuller’s lawyer, responded on CNN by saying he has the comments of the witnessing couple and has received calls from passengers on other flights who have complaints about Elabiad.”This is nothing but an extortion attempt,”Giles said of the pending lawsuit.

UCC express regret, sorrow to First Nations people

(RNS) The United Church of Canada, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, has expressed its”deep regret and sorrow”to the First Nations of Canada _ Indians and other indigenous people _ for the suffering and injustices inflicted on them by Canada’s system of residential schools that were often run by the church.

The new statement, adopted by the church’s General Council _ its top decision-making body _ at its meeting in Camrose, Alberta, follows on an apology offered the native peoples in 1986 and comes at a sensitive time as both the church and the government face legal suits arising out of the alleged abuse of First Nations people at the schools.

Moderator Marion Best said the new statement recommitted the church to”living out”the 1986 apology but it was also carefully crafted not to be an apology. The 1986 statement said the church had”imposed our civilization as a condition for accepting the gospel”but did not mention the residential schools.”We recognized there were legal implications to any statement that we make,”said the Rev. Linda Butler, chairwoman of the committee that drafted the new statement.”And we quickly learned that the word `apology’ has a lot of implications. We also became convinced that (an) apology is inadequate theologically.” The United Church has been named as a defendant in connection with a sexual abuse lawsuit involving the former Port Alberni Indian Residential School in British Columbia. That lawsuit also names the federal government and a former employee of the school as defendants. The former employee is currently in prison after pleading guilty to several charges of sexual assault.

Congressman makes secret trip to Tibet

(RNS) Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., a leading congressional crusader against religious persecution, said Wednesday (Aug. 20) he had made an unannounced trip to Tibet earlier this month and found the people there living in”unspeakably brutal conditions.””There is no freedom in Tibet, period,”Wolf told a news conference.”The inescapable conclusion is that China is swallowing Tibet.” Wolf said he entered Tibet Aug. 9 on a U.S. passport and a tourist visa without making it known he was a member of Congress and that only one person in the U.S. State Department knew that he was making the trip, the AP reported.

He also said he did not ask the Chinese government to authorize his visit because he believed it would have denied his request. He said he is only the second member of Congress to visit Tibet since the Chinese occupation in the early 1950s.

Tibet has emerged as a special focus in the new U.S. policy toward religious persecution abroad because of the clash between the Chinese government and followers of the exiled Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism.”I met with (Buddhist) monks, men and women on the street and others who risked their personal safety and well-being to steal a few moments alone with me to tell how bad conditions are in Tibet and to petition help and support from the West,”Wolf said.

Calls to the Chinese Embassy in Washington seeking reaction to Wolf’s comments were not returned.

Quote of the day: Pope John Paul II

(RNS) Pope John Paul II arrived in Paris Thursday (Aug. 20) to participate in the World Youth Days festival of Roman Catholic youth. In his arrival remarks, the pontiff spoke of the importance young people have played in his ministry:”My coming to Paris marks a new step in a kind of grand journey that I have made with young people across the world in the past 12 years, in an ever-renewed exchange with them. Their generation is involved in a difficult search not only for a minimum of material necessities, but also for reasons for living and goals that will motivate their generosity.”

MJP END RNS

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