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A house divided

A deep chasm has erupted in the leadership of Golden Gates Assembly and World Outreach Ministries over the decision of Archbishop Ros Davis to appoint his son, Trent Davis, as new senior pastor of the Carmichael Road church.

Several church members, who claim to be members of the executive committee, have by resolution reversed that decision, and instead elected Pastor Alan Strachan as acting president of the church.

But Ros Davis and other members of the church’s executive committee have taken the matter to court.

Named as the defendants are Alan Strachan, Cleo Cash, Inez Pinder, Alma Young, Ruth Miller, Dwight Armbrister, George Carey and Vandera Carey.

The listed plaintiffs are Archbishop Davis, Donna Turnquest, Genesta Williams and John Rigby, in the capacity as the executive committee of the church.

They are seeking a declaration that they are the legal members of the committee, that the resolution made by the other purported members is not a resolution of the committee and an interim injunction restraining the defendants from interfering with the business or operations of the church, among other declarations.

In an affidavit filed in court yesterday, Ros Davis said he is the president and senior pastor of the church, which was incorporated on September 12, 2001.

Since its incorporation, the church (registered as a company limited by guarantee in the Registrar General’s Department) never finalized a constitution, according to the affidavit.

Davis said that over the years, he has appointed “a number of persons pastors in the church”.

He said that on February 23, 2020, he announced at the church anniversary service that he selected Trent Davis as the next senior pastor.

“This announcement was met with disapprovals from some of the other 14 pastors,” Davis said. “A question was raised about my authority to appoint a senior pastor notwithstanding that I had appointed all of the pastors.”

The state of emergency due to COVID-19 intervened before Trent Davis’ installation.

Ros Davis said the issue arose as the competent authority moved to permit reopening of churches. In order to have an understanding of his authority with regard to the appointment, he said, it was determined that the church would seek legal counsel.

He said a pastoral meeting was held on June 29 with Krystal Rolle, QC, for the purpose of receiving her expert advice.

The advice was that in the absence of a constitution, one would have recourse to the customary practice of the church.

“It was agreed that the customary practice of the church was that as senior pastor, I consulted the board of pastors on the position of appointment of pastors but in the end the choice was mine after prayerful consultation,” Davis stated.

“This confirmed the priority of my selection.”

Davis said he received a WhatsApp message from Pastor Dwight Armbrister in the pastors group chat requesting a pastoral meeting on July 1, which was 24 hours’ notice.

“I replied that I did not sanction a meeting; there would be no meeting and they should govern themselves accordingly,” Davis said.

He added that on July 1, the defendants met via teleconference and “purported to issue a written resolution of a special business meeting of the executive committee” signed only by three of the purported participants.

“…This is not a meeting of the executive committee as none of the four members of the executive committee who are listed as officers in the annual returns to the Registrar General’s Department were present,” Davis said.

He added that on Thursday, July 2, the installation of Trent Davis as senior pastor of the church “took place in due and solemn form”.

On Sunday, July 5, there was a service at which the installation of Trent Davis was confirmed by assent, he added.

 

Conflict

Davis said that on Friday, July 17, persons purporting to act on the instructions of the defendants changed locks on the church and company property.

“A conflict developed and the divisional commander based at the Carmichael Police Station Chief Superintendent B. K. Bonamy hosted a meeting of both parties,” he added.

“Present were myself, Pastor Trent Davis and from the opposing side Pastors Alan Strachan and Inez Pinder and their attorney Glendon Rolle. After a long back-and-forth, there was no amicable resolution.”

Davis said Bonamy then decided that because only one side had an attorney present, the meeting in all fairness, to decide the way forward, should be attended by both attorneys.

“Before we left, Chief Superintendent B. K. Bonamy cautioned both sides that no activity was to be held in the church until after the opposing attorneys had met the next day,” Davis said. “Both sides agreed to comply.”

He said that on Saturday, July 18, he attended the scheduled meeting with Bonamy along with Trent Davis and their attorney Wayne Munroe, but the other side nor their lawyer attended.

Glendon Rolle was called by telephone and he and Strachan failed to agree a way forward for services on the following day, according to the affidavit.

Davis said on the advice of Munroe, they gained access to the church and rekeyed the doors.

“When we arrived at the sanctuary around 4:30 p.m. with the locksmith, we discovered what the opposing side was doing in the sanctuary while the leader met with Chief Superintendent B. K. Bonamy,” he said.

“When we left the station, a team of rogue actors rigged all of the existing doors. Each door leading to the outside, 14 in total, had a padlock and chain across it so that the building could not be accessible.

“Safes, filing cabinets and other furnishing in the building were moved around to block entrances. The phone lines were open and off the hook to prevent land-based communication from coming into the building.”

Davis said early Sunday morning, there was activity at the church with the other side seeking to again access. The police were called in again.

He said the opposing pastors “immediately went to the altar, and placed chairs across the altar and sat in protest”.

“We waited for the police to arrive, and I instructed every church member not to engage these rogue actors,” Davis said.

“Finally, the dispatched officer arrived and we met in the executive office part of the building. He suggested that since they had taken such a visible position, so as not to bring any embarrassment to the police force, and any further embarrassment to the church, that we forgo our plans to worship and surrender our authority to the opposing pastors.

“This view was soundly rejected and because we had cleaned, prepared and set up the building for service, it was decided to move forward in worship.

“When my son Pastor Trent Davis and I entered the sanctuary, the people responded with a thunderous applause. I proceeded to the lectern as is our custom, to give the ‘Call to Worship’.”

Davis said he was blocked from the pulpit he had served in every Sunday for 47 years.

“Opting for the path of peace, I performed my duties with a microphone on the side of the lectern…”

He said the praise team was blocked from using the stage area so they went into the choir loft and led the congregation in praise and worship.

Davis said “the video footage will demonstrate that despite the constant interruptions behind [Trent Davis] and continuous movement on and off the stage by the opposing pastors, the word still was preached”.

He said, “It is clear, based on the past behavior of the defendants, that unless restrained by the court they will continue in their disruptive assertions and behavior with regards to changing locks and our scheduled weekly services.”

 

‘Strachan’s election as senior pastor will stand’

On Monday, Pastor Dwight Armbrister told another side of the story when he spoke with National Review.

He said Bishop Davis had the “unmitigated gall” to appoint his son senior pastor without allowing anyone in the church a say, and insisted the bishop is seeking to maintain a “Davis dynasty”.

“The position is that the selection of the senior pastor has to be elected,” he insisted.

“You cannot appoint the senior pastor. The articles and memorandum of association require us and demand of us that we elect the senior pastor/president of the association or the church.

“What Bishop Davis has done in the dark of the night without the pastors knowing, without the church knowing, was to appoint his son as senior pastor of the church.”

Armbrister said all of the congregants, the tithe-paying members of the church, should vote for the senior pastor.

“What bishop those are trying to do is use what they call custom where he can appoint pastors. That’s if you are appointing just regular divisional head pastors but you’re not electing the senior pastor and so the senior pastor must be one that is elected and all of the pastors.”

Armbrister added, “After we passed the necessary resolutions as per the laws of The Bahamas, we removed him as the senior pastor because by virtue of him appointing his son as senior pastor he has inadvertently moved himself, and so we appointed new officers, new directors to the board…”

He insisted that Strachan’s election as acting president will stand.

“They can fight back and moan and groan ‘til Jesus comes, the company laws are going to take effect,” Armbrister said.

Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander, who also spoke with National Review on Monday, said the council tried to mediate the situation.

“We have offered them two ways to mediate,” Fernander said. “Either they can go to election, which is the standard approach, or they can have binding arbitration where the decision is final.”

Asked whether it pains the Christian Council to watch the church saga play out so bitterly, he said, “Always. That’s why we always recommend that we deal with this stuff the way that we have been challenged by the Bible to deal with it.

“If it is that they don’t want the Christian Council, they can choose their denomination, but the court is definitely not the place and what is happening is not the way to handle these situations.”

Munroe, meanwhile, told us that if Trent Davis was illegally appointed then every other pastor was illegally appointed as they were all selected by Archbishop Davis.

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