LAKELAND, Fla., April 6 (AP) - The Rev. Henry J. Lyons, whose leadership of the nation's largest black church organization dissolved in financial scandal, is divorcing his wife, who set his downfall in motion by torching a home he had purchased with another woman.

Lyons quietly filed for divorce in Polk County on March 2. He is serving a 5 1/2-year sentence for racketeering and grand theft in a state prison there.

Lyons, 59, stated that his 28-year marriage to Deborah Lyons is irretrievably broken. He claims no assets and $7.8 million in debts, including restitution payments, and is asking for equitable distribution of the couple's personal property and liabilities.

The couple's troubles became public in July 1997 when Deborah Lyons was arrested for setting fire to a Tierra Verde home.

The arson triggered an investigation of Lyons, then president of the National Baptist Convention USA, and his financial dealings using the convention's name.

Deborah Lyons, 53, stayed at her husband's side through the escalating scandal, praising him and praying for him. Lyons was sent to prison in 1999. His wife pleaded guilty to arson and served probation.

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