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Friday, October 21, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Rev. Davis resigns from church a second time

By Peggy Kreimer
Post staff reporter

Rev. Larry Davis resigned from the First Baptist Church Wednesday for the second time this month, said church member Don Willig. This time, Davis made it clear there will be no vote to accept or reject his resignation - he's gone and the church is moving on, Willig said.

Davis pleaded guilty on Oct. 6 to federal charges that he lied on a loan application and evaded paying taxes. It was part of a plea agreement in which five other charges were dismissed.

According to the plea agreement that Davis signed, he stole $500,000 to $730,000 from 2000 and 2003 from church accounts he controlled.

The investigation and revelations over more than 20 months split the powerful First Baptist Church of Cold Spring, that two years ago had 1,500 members and was acclaimed for helping bring the Billy Graham Crusade to Cincinnati in 2002.

Davis continued as pastor during the investigation, while a large segment of the church membership left and formed another church.

Just before pleading guilty, Davis submitted his resignation to church leaders, who said at the time the church would have to vote on whether to accept it.

Davis did not respond to calls to his home and cell phone this morning. Jeff McCarthy, chairman of the church's board of deacons, would not comment on what happened at Wednesday's service and meeting.

Willig said today that the combined board of trustees and board of deacons met on Oct. 9 and accepted Davis's resignation, but later several of the deacons and trustees met with the church steering committee with second thoughts.

"They decided that it was not in the best interest of the church at that particular time, and decided to extend his time in the church until February (when Davis is scheduled to be sentenced and faces 24 to 30 months in prison)," Willig said.

"Then there was further consideration and a lot of uneasiness," said Willig.

On Wednesday evening, at the usual service and business meeting, Davis presided over the opening songs and prayers in the service, but before the typical Bible study started he announced that he was resigning.

"He immediately turned it over to an acting moderator," said Willig.

In the business meeting, it was explained that Davis' resignation did not need approval and could not be prolonged.

"It was the same as a pastor resigning to go to another church," said Willig.

"There were a number of people who had strong concerns about him staying and about him leaving. Quite a bit of conflict could have developed around that," said Willig. "I think he wanted to relieve the church of that conflict rather than be the cause of it."

An associate pastor and other ministers have been leading services since Davis's plea agreement.

Willig said the church will form a pulpit committee to seek a new pastor.

"If there is a message in this that the community needs to understand, it is that the church is alive and will go on," Willig said.

"It's a painful time, but the church has to go on and achieve its purpose. Rev. Davis has been a very important person to the history and development of the church. I think he would agree the church has to go on. I believe that's why he resigned on Wednesday."