Chicago pastor resigns after 1960s sex abuse revealed

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Chicago – A Chicago Southern Baptist pastor has resigned after disclosing his long-term sexual abuse of a minor in the 1960s, the Illinois Baptist reported Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Charles Lyons resigned as pastor of Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago following what church leaders called a “corrective leave of absence” that began in October 2018. As part of a process analyzing concerns over Lyons’s leadership, Lyons disclosed his long-term sexual abuse of a minor from the 1960s. No criminal charges were filed at that time.

Lyons, 68, who served as pastor of Armitage Baptist for 45 years beginning in 1974, announced his resignation May 19. It became effective July 31. Lyons did not return to the pulpit after the leave of absence.

The pastoral team told the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) they consulted with experts on mandatory reporting regulations, and conducted further interviews seeking to confirm that there were no accusations of sexual abuse against Lyons during his pastoral tenure.

In a Nov. 4 statement, Armitage Baptist Church leaders said, “We acknowledge the pain that many people have felt throughout this process. We grieve over the damaging effects produced by sin. We continue to pray for all those involved in trusting in the healing and restoring power of God.”

The pastoral team said that Lyons will not return to pastoral ministry at Armitage Baptist Church, and has been instructed not to engage in public ministry while under the discipline of the church.

The abuse was reported to the pastoral staff by Lyons in October 2017, and later by relatives of the victim in April 2018. Lyons submitted to a series of corrective measures, including paying for the victim to receive counseling for more than a year. The pastoral team also worked with Lyons “to share the story of his past sexual abuse with the congregation.” That action came after leaders confirmed with the victim that she was ready for the abuse account to be told to the church.

During Lyons’s more than four-decade tenure, Armitage Baptist Church on Chicago’s north side became a model for multicultural, multiethnic ministry, bringing together the Anglo, African American, and Hispanic populations of the surrounding Logan Square neighborhood. At its peak, the church averaged 1,100 worship attendees. Today it averages between 300 and 400.

Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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