Below is a very sad story. Sad on a number of levels – the loss of respect a church and community had for a highly visible pastor. A pastor’s career ruined. People’s trust of the church and pastors shattered. People not following a Biblical model of addressing problems and reconciliation. This is why I truly believe pastors should NOT handle the money. A group of lay leaders need to have this responsiblity. The pastor can lead through that group, but that group needs to have the final accountablility.

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Pastor Admits Life of Crime (HT: FOTF)

Two years ago, things looked great for Rev. Larry Davis, pastor of one of Northern Kentucky’s largest and fastest growing congregations, the First Baptist Church of Cold Spring. Most of the congregation of about 1,500 people revered him. A year earlier, he had been instrumental in bringing Billy Graham to Cincinnati for a four-day crusade that resulted in thousands of tri-staters making commitments to Christ.

Now Davis is headed to prison. In a deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty last week to federal charges that he lied on a loan application and evaded paying taxes. Five other charges were dismissed as part of his plea agreement. He now faces 24 to 30 months in prison when he is sentenced in February.

Davis has admitted he stole between $500,000 and $730,000 from church accounts he controlled. He diverted funds to himself between 2000 and 2003 by appointing himself as general contractor to an ambitious building program the congregation had undertaken. In addition, he had written checks to himself and made cash withdrawals from ATM machines. When the building program went over budget in September 2003, Davis forged documents to get an additional $500,000 loan using a multimillion-dollar line of credit the church had with Fifth Third Bank. To do so, he submitted a fake resolution he had drafted himself on church letterhead, saying the congregation approved of the new loan, and forging the signature of an unidentified long-standing church member. During the investigation, he also told bank officials that the church owed more than $160,000 to various contractors, but court records show they had already been paid. And he claimed a trucking company (owned by his personal friend) was owed nearly $61,000, but it was found the company never even worked on the project.

Davis also pleaded guilty to tax evasion between 2000 and 2003. The income tax due is between $150,000 and $199,000. He agreed to file new tax returns for those years before he is sentenced.

The church split over the issue and some 300 to 400 members formed Christ Baptist Church a mile away. When the crimes were discovered, the deacons confronted Davis and asked him to take a leave without pay while they investigated. Instead, his supporters ousted the deacons at a contentious congregational meeting. Davis has remained the pastor at First Baptist for 20 years until he submitted his resignation last week. The congregation has not yet voted on whether to accept it, however. Many still feel Davis is the man to lead this church.

The plea agreement makes clear what former members often stated, that Davis controlled most of the church’s bank accounts, investment accounts and credit cards. Bob Hinant, who left the church when allegations against Davis first came to light, said that was a mistake. “You never let a hungry dog guard the food bowl, so to speak,” he said. “You don’t turn over control of finances to an employee. Everything should go through two or three hands before it’s disbursed.”

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