Bishop Phillip Davis was founder and senior pastor of Nations Ford Community Church; Authorities say he was cleaning his pistol and died of accidental wound to the chest
Bishop Phillip Davis, founder and senior pastor of Nations Ford Community Church in Charlotte, was found dead Saturday inside his Union County home, apparently the victim of an accidental gunshot wound, the Union County sheriff’s office said.
Davis, 62, was apparently cleaning his pistol at his home in Weddington when it accidentally fired, striking him in the chest, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. He had invited his adult son to go to a firing range with him later that day.
Cynthia Davis, his wife of more than 40 years, called 911 shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday and said she found him collapsed at his desk. She attempted to administer CPR.
“The investigation revealed no signs of foul play, and the evidence confirms this was in fact an accidental death,” the sheriff’s office said in the statement.
At Nations Ford, a Southern Baptist congregation that is predominantly African-American, Davis had worked alongside his wife, a pastor who serves as community services officer. The couple have three children and three grandchildren.
Worshippers at the church’s 8 a.m. service Sunday were greeted by an usher holding out a box of Kleenex. In the sanctuary, photos of Davis flashed on big screens as members hugged and wept.
“Today is a very sad day for us here at Nations Ford Community Church,” church spokeswoman Jacinda Garabito told reporters. “It’s a shock to us. This morning was supposed to be a huge day of celebration for us.”
Sunday was to have been the culmination of the church’s Founders’ Week, celebrating Davis’ establishment of the Southern Baptist congregation 36 years ago. Last week the church paid tribute to Cynthia Davis, as well marking the couple’s 42nd wedding anniversary and Davis’ birthday.
The Davis family remained at the home Sunday and did not attend the 8 a.m. service, Garabido said. The church’s elders visited the home after the shooting to console the family, she said.
The bishop’s widow, Garabido said, is “holding up as well as she possibly can. We’re praying for her and their three (grown) children.”
The Davises’ son, R.J., is pastor at the church’s Ballantyne campus.
The church usually broadcasts its services live but said it was not doing so Sunday.
This Sunday’s services are to be cut short, with no preaching. Instead, the congregation will be invited to grieve and pray.
“The focus today is, Bishop Davis’ legacy lives on,” Garabido said. “Today it’s OK to grieve. This is something that is hard for all of us.”
Reporters were asked not to go into the sanctuary or to interview members.
“Bishop Davis is an amazing leader here,” Garabido said. “He’s really like a father figure to us all….If you needed him, he was a phone call away.”
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SOURCE: The Charlotte Observer
Tim Funk, Karen Garloch and Karen Sullivan