A new man is in charge of the National Baptist Convention USA (NBC), and he is determined to steer the group clear of its recent troubles.

After a turbulent period of scandal and national embarrassment brought on by the misdeeds of former NBC leader Henry Lyons (CT, April 5, 1999, p. 13), the nation's largest black denomination last month elected Philadelphia pastor William Shaw as its new president at the NBC Annual Session in Tampa, Florida.

Shaw, 65, beat out 10 other candidates to win the race with 3,694 votes from nearly 10,000 delegates. W. Franklyn Richardson, 50, of Mount Vernon, New York, ran a close second with 3,451 votes.

"With the nation's eyes upon us, the delegates have chosen a message of redemption and a path of fundamental change for the National Baptist Convention," said Shaw, who promised to implement needed reforms in the NBC. His campaign slogan, V.I.S.A., heralded "Vision, Integrity, Structure, and Accountability," four principles he believes have been lacking in the life of the denomination.

Shaw, pastor of Philadelphia's White Rock Baptist Church for 43 years, is the NBC's first elected president since Lyons re signed in March. South Carolina pastor Stewart C. Cureton stepped in as interim president following Lyons's resignation.

Among Shaw's first goals is a freeze on all nonessential spending and a financial audit of the NBC by an outside accounting firm. Shaw also wants a more accurate count of the NBC's membership roll. The denomination has long claimed 8.5 million members, but that figure came under suspicion following the Lyons scandal.

Lyons remains imprisoned on racketeering charges, but support for the man was in full display in Tampa. Led by Cureton, the NBC took up an offering to help Lyons's family and to defray his mounting legal bills. "[Lyons] needs our prayers," Cureton said. "In spite of the mistakes he made, he is still our brother."

As many as 60,000 people attended this year's annual session, which pumped an estimated $46 million into Tam pa's economy. In addition to election business, NBC leaders baptized dozens of new converts who were evangelized in the community during the week and approved resolutions supporting school prayer, affirmative action, and the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol.

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