MINNEAPOLIS, MN (June 22, 2018) – Delegates to the 133rd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church today voted 721-13 to elect Lance Davis as the next executive minister of Develop Leaders/Ordered Ministry.
Davis is currently pastor of New Zion Covenant Church in Dolton, Illinois, which he planted. He also serves on the Covenant Executive Board. Develop Leaders gives particular focus to the credentialing, care, discipline, and development of clergy (Ordered Ministry).
Mark Pattie, lead pastor of Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, Minnesota, who chaired the search committee, introduced Davis, saying, “Lance shared his desire to help our board deepen our understanding and perspective regarding racial, ethnic, gender, and other issues that both enrich and sometimes divide us.”
Davis, the first African American to serve as executive minister of Develop Leaders, said his experience of being marginalized as a black male has enabled him to feel greater empathy with others and pursue healing for all.
He told the gathering about the day he and a friend ignored his mother’s advice as children and rode their bikes into a neighborhood she had warned them to stay away from. “That day, my friend and I were almost murdered by an angry white mob and I thank God that he gave me pedaling grace.”
He added, “So when we start talking about being marginalized, when we start talking about the hurt in a community, I identify with it. But I also know that Christ is the answer for the perpetrator as well. I think the one who has been traumatized has to be healed and the one who has done the traumatizing has to be healed as well. So the church is a place where we can be mutually healed,” he said. “And in that mutual healing, we can see where we failed in other places, and then we are able to go beyond that even more.”
Davis said it’s important to discuss problems and issues, “but when I focus on answers and solutions, and I find them in the word of God, I’ll stay there. I will remain there. I won’t leave there. And I want a denomination that says the first affirmation is the centrality of the word of God.”
Dwight Perry, a longtime friend and the dean of faculty at North Park Theological Seminary, said, “I am not affirming your nomination because you are African American. I am affirming you because you are the best qualified candidate for this time in the history of our denomination.” He told the delegates, “Lance Davis is a Christian first who happens to be African American, not an African American who happens to be a Christian.”
Davis said he wanted to strengthen the ties between Develop Leaders and the seminary. He noted that the school had started offering classes at his church in south Chicago as part of a pilot program for ministers and laity.
That program has been invaluable for people who otherwise could not have afforded to take the classes or travel to the school.
Davis is highly regarded in his community for his entrepreneurship, which has included initiating the idea that became Bezalel, the denomination’s undertaking to create affordable housing while also teaching people work and life skills.
Davis said he would bring that same entrepreneurial spirit to his position because the church needs the denomination to be “creative and imaginative.”