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New governor of Miss. undergirded by home church’s commitment service

JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–Before Ronnie Musgrove came to Jackson Jan. 11 to take the oath of office as Mississippi’s first Southern Baptist governor in 20 years, his home church made sure they sent him away with their blessings and prayers.

Alan Kilgore, pastor of First Baptist Church, Batesville, said about 600 people attended a special commitment service Jan. 9 at the church. The 30-minute service was held immediately after the regular morning worship hour.

“Our first intent was to share Christ with everyone through our regular worship service — there were four to six additions to the church that day — and then have the commitment service for the governor,” Kilgore recounted.

Deacon chairman Gary Wray delivered a charge to Musgrove on behalf of the deacons and the church congregation, that “we will pray for you and encourage the church to pray for you,” Kilgore said.

Deacon David Ball also delivered a personal charge of commitment to Musgrove, Kilgore said.

Each active deacon and ordained church staffer participated in a laying on of hands and time of prayer for Musgrove. Kilgore then presented each family member — Musgrove, his wife Melanie, son Jordan, and daughter Carmen Rae — with a Bible on behalf of the church.

The Musgroves were invited to stand with the new additions at the front of the church as the service ended. Virtually everyone in the sanctuary filed by to welcome the new members and wish the Musgroves well, Kilgore said.

Musgrove, a Democrat and an attorney, served one four-year term as the state’s lieutenant governor, beginning in 1996. Previously, he had been a member of the Mississippi Senate for eight years.

Musgrove is the second member of First Baptist Church, Batesville, to serve as governor. The late Cliff Finch, Mississippi’s governor from 1976-80, was an active member of the church and his widow, Zelma, is a member, Kilgore said.

Musgrove is a regular in the church’s adult choir and was chairman of the pastor search committee that called Kilgore to the Batesville church in 1994. “He’s served on every committee this church has,” Kilgore said.

Less than two weeks before his inauguration, Musgrove was still serving his appointed stint as deacon of the week, which meant he had to ensure the church was secure at the end of each service.

“It was really interesting to see the soon-to-be governor of our state going around the church cutting off lights and locking doors, but that’s the kind of man he is,” Kilgore said.

“I know where his heart is. I know he loves the Lord, and I know he’s a family man. Other than his relationship with the Lord, his family always takes first place,” the pastor said.

Kilgore has a firm opinion on Musgrove’s gubernatorial potential. “He will be even-tempered. There have been situations in the church that could have gotten out of hand, except for his leadership and calming presence. He has the ability to diffuse squabbles.”

To people who would question the new governor’s political affiliations or criticize him for disagreeing with them, Kilgore pleads for time and fairness.

“People will see Gov. Musgrove for the spiritual man that he is and for the wisdom he possesses. He backs up what he says with the life he leads.

“Our state is in good hands. Give him a chance and he’ll show you.

“I am proud to know Ronnie Musgrove, and I am proud to be his pastor,” Kilgore said. “We should all pray for him, that God will use him as governor as mightily as he [God] has used him in his home church.”

    About the Author

  • William H. Perkins Jr.