Larry Davis (minister)
Before entering the ministry
The son of a Baptist minister, Davis entered the United States Marine Corps and served 11 months, eventually being honorably discharged for being physically unfit. He attended for a time Cumberland College, a Baptist college in Kentucky now known as the University of the Cumberlands, but did not graduate. He later attended and graduated from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio with a degree in economics.
He worked as a supervisor for a General Motors plant in Dayton for 10 years, before quitting to enter the ministry. According to Davis, his mother was unhappy with the career change saying, "My mother cried tears of sorrow when she heard I was going to be a pastor. She didn't want me to leave a secure, relatively stress-free job for the life of a pastor."
In 1978, he became the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Harveysburg, Ohio. In 1980, Davis earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1985, he left Friendship Baptist Church to accept the pastorate of First Baptist Church of Cold Spring, Kentucky, a bedroom community of Cincinnati, Ohio. The following year he earned a doctorate in theology from SBTS.
Under his tenure, First Baptist became one of the fastest-growing churches in the region, thanks in part to a series of Southern Gospel concerts he was able to bring to the church.
During this time he had opposed the state's license plate design that included a representation of steeples from Churchill Downs because of the racetrack's association with gambling.
In 1993, the church purchased land for the construction of a new church facility needed because of the rapidly increasing membership and an expansion of the road adjacent to the church's previous property.
Following the 2001 Cincinnati Riots, Davis along with Rev. Damon Lynch of Cincinnati, initiated talks with the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in an attempt to have Franklin Graham conduct a revival. Billy Graham, who was at the time drastically reducing the number of evangelical campaigns he was preaching, accepted the invitation himself.
The church continued to grow, necessitating a multimillion-dollar expansion, which was dedicated on Easter Sunday, 2003.
In January 2004 church treasurer Darryl Neltner, identified $600,000 in questionable financial transaction made on accounts controlled exclusively by Davis and contacted the Kentucky State Police with those concerns, after Darryl Neltner had been contacted by the bank that held the loan for the church. The bank had contacted Darryl Neltner after the bank had noticed some "Unusual" activity in the church's building fund loan, in the way of ATM withdrawals at several different race tracks and at different stores in New York State, such as FAO Schwartz and different clothing stores in New York City, particularly in New York City's Chinatown district.
Later that month, the board of deacons recommended placing Davis on administrative leave with pay while the matter was being investigated. This recommendation caused the church to split into factions between Davis' supporters and his detractors. In late January, the church voted to place the entire board of deacons on inactive status, a highly unusual move even among Baptist churches governed by a congregational church polity and subject to frequent rifts.
Several weeks later, the Kentucky State Police served a search warrant on the church and Davis' private residence as part of their investigation.
Unhappy with the handling of the situation and with Davis' hesitancy to account for the funds in question other than to offer assurance of his innocence, several members began to hold separate services with some of the church's associate pastors. In reaction to these meetings, a motion was made to remove all those holding any type of office in the church—including ushers and Sunday school teachers. Against the advice of the church's attorney who argued such a move would violate the church's own bylaws, the church voted 334-202 to oust those who had attended an alternate service citing what they viewed as un-Christian behavior such as making negative comments about the church and Davis in the press, which had begun to attract considerable local media attention.
In early April 2004, more than 100 former members split from First Baptist Church of Cold Spring to form Christ Baptist Church and moved into the building previously owned by First Baptist that is located down the street from the original church.
By early summer, federal investigators had taken control of the case and a grand jury began looking into Davis' behavior.
In June 2005, Davis said he would continue preaching even if he was indicted, which Davis predicted was likely. The next day, the federal prosecutor announced the grand jury had handed down a seven-count indictment including falsifying a loan application and tax evasion, and misappropriation of more than $700,000 taken over a period of three years.
Despite his attorney's claim that Davis was unlikely to enter a plea bargain agreement and was eager to clear his name, in October 2005 Davis entered a plea bargain arrangement and resigned as pastor.
On February 15, 2006, federal Judge David Bunning sentenced Davis 30 months-—the maximum the charges permitted. Bunning explained his reasons for the sentence by citing several factors including Davis' abuse of trust (which he likened to a public corruption case), the division it caused in the community between Davis' supporters and detractors. He also noted an extended sentence would give Davis the opportunity to "do some good" for his fellow inmates and to address his gambling addiction. (Some of the funds were withdrawn from automated teller machines at race tracks.)
On February 4, 2008, after serving a majority of his sentence, Davis was placed in a halfway house in Cincinnati prior to his eventual release from prison, where he was also required to find employment within 15 days of his placement.
- Eigelbach, Kevin (2004-01-23). "Baptist Church Sidelines Deacons". The Kentucky Post. Archived from the original on 2005-05-16.
- Cincinnati Enquirer: "Man of Faith Surrounded by Cloud of Doubt" 14 February 2004
- Eigelbach, Kevin (2004-04-05). "Church Defends Embattled Pastor". The Cincinnati Post. E. W. Scripps Company. Archived from the original on 2005-02-27.
- Cincinnati Enquirer: Pastor Admits Theft 7 October 2005
- "Pastor, 'I Have Sinned And I'm Sorry". 2006-02-18.