A Connecticut bishop died in front of his congregation Sunday after his family reportedly publicly confronted him about a past act of infidelity that his wife of 50 years, Christine, pushed him to confess.
The Connecticut Post reported that Bishop Bobby Davis of Miracle Faith World Outreach Church, who was also a certified marriage and family therapist, was pronounced dead at Bridgeport Hospital after the ordeal.
"After the service on Sunday the bishop's family asked us to remain in the church and the bishop confessed to us something that happened long ago," Judy Stovall, an elder at the church, said. "He wanted to come clean with all of us. He wanted to ask our forgiveness."
"We were shouting, 'We forgive you, we love you.' But the stress of all of it -- he had a heart attack," an emotional Stovall continued. "I held his head as he lay on the floor. … Our congregation is hurting now."
One source, who asked not to be identified during an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday, said the confession wasn't that clean-cut based on what they were told, and feels the situation could have been handled better.
"He (Bishop Davis) had confessed it (infidelity) personally to his wife prior to the service, and she called a meeting after church with just the members and the members stayed. He wasn't there at the time, he was somewhere else apparently, neither of them were in the service that morning. They had one of their pastors do the service," explained the source.
"From what I was told, she (pastor's wife) told the congregation what he had done. And so, when he comes through the door he had no idea what he was walking into. So it wasn't even. 'We're gonna make an announcement today' ... in a unified way as a couple," the source continued.
"I'm told that when he walked through the door she basically told him, 'Tell them what you just told me,' which is what induced the heart attack, because it's not like he was walking into it knowing," the source explained.
"She said it and he said, 'Yes, that's right.' She asked him to say who exactly it was. And he said, 'Well, it doesn't matter [because] that person has passed. God forgive, let's get past it.' Apparently it was his family members who reacted out in anger, from what I understand. It was not the congregation," the source noted.
"It got physical. One of the sons attacked him. I was told one of the daughters poured water on him. It was like something out of, not even like the Old Testament, but a bad reality TV show," said the source. "My heart is so devastated because it could have been handled in a private manner."
The source, whom Bishop Davis once pastored, said his confession must have been difficult for the family to handle because he was "a very black and white preacher."
"There was this expectation for us growing up as kids. If we fell short we should be able to know that, as our church family, we can confess it in public and kind of move on from there," noted the source.
CP reached out to the Bridgeport Police for an official account of what happened on Sunday and spokesman William Kaempffer said they responded to a medical call at the church on Sunday.
"A detective was assigned to the case. Over the last two days dozens upon dozens of people have been interviewed. Detectives were able to review video from inside the church that was taken by a member of the church. And based on what we observed, there is no criminal aspect to it. This was a medical call and the case is closed," he said.
When asked about the cause of death, Kaempffer responded: "You would have to call the medical examiner for that. That is what it appears to be, but we are not doctors."
Bishop Davis and his wife told the New York Times in 1999 that it was a miracle that inspired the start of their church in 1967 after Mrs. Davis' mother was cured of cancer following prayer meetings at her home.
The couple is also noted for pushing racial boundaries with their church when they moved their predominantly black congregation from Bridgeport to suburban Monroe in 1998 where there were few black residents.
''The Lord is on our side,'' Bishop Davis told the Times about his church at the time. ''People sense God and His love here, and they see miracles. People are healed of their drug, alcohol and cigarette addictions, and this sets them free. That's what draws people.''
''People feel the love,'' added Mrs. Davis. ''When they feel we care for them, they want to come back. We make everyone feel equal, whether they work at a menial job or have advanced degrees. We want everyone to feel this is one body, one family.''
Sylvia Jones, a former parishioner touched by that love, remembered Bishop Davis in a heartfelt post on Facebook Tuesday.
"I will always remember you Bishop Bobby Davis, although I knew you as 'pastor' because that's what you were back then. You were a forerunner and full of great vision. … We are the fruit of all your labor, your sacrifice ... and there are hundreds of us ... your spiritual children! No, you weren't perfect, none of us are. But you were still a man of God. We will uphold your legacy. My condolences to everyone who loved him," she said.