The Rev. Henry Lyons, just back from the jail after he was accused of being a racketeer and thief, could take comfort Wednesday in the prayers of his congregation and the continued support of the leadership of the 8.5 million-member National Baptist Convention USA Inc., one of the nation's largest black denominations.

Members of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church poured into the sanctuary Wednesday night - Ash Wednesday - to support Lyons, pastor for more than 25 years.Still, Lyons' arrest raised a new outcry among his critics, who have largely been quiet since convention members voted last September to retain him as president.

Lyons was charged Wednesday with one count of racketeering and two counts of theft for allegedly giving church money to his wife, daughter and a secretary.

He was released on $100,000 bail. As he arrived at court, Lyons said he planned to clear his name.