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Published: Friday, March 3, 2000
By MARIAN DOZIER Staff Writer
Three pastors of some of the nation's most prominent black mega-churches went to Washington on Thursday, preaching economic self-reliance through an ambitious multimillion-dollar partnership they plan to form between their parishioners and major white-led corporations.
The pastors -- led by Bishop Harold Calvin Ray of the 1,000-member Redemptive Life Fellowship in West Palm Beach -- say they represent a potential audience of 80 million churchgoers.
Under the moniker National Center for Faith-based Initiative, the plan would offer corporations access to millions of black pocketbooks. The pastors would promote the companies from the pulpit in exchange for programs to help lift their communities and churches.
"This is a national collaboration focused on wealth creation," said Ray, making the rounds of TV and radio shows and congressional offices. "We're not going to just allow business opportunity, we're going to create the businesses."
It's not a radical business notion, but it is for churches. And if any church leaders can pull it off, these men can, say other pastors and John Vaughan, head of Church Growth Today, a Springfield, Mo.-based research center that charts mega-churches.
"These are not fanatics; these are well-established, well-respected men, very important men with huge congregations and television ministries," Vaughan said. "People would support them in a blink."
Though he hadn't heard about the initiative, the Rev. Mark Lyons of the 6,000-member Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale agreed. "These are not local pastors -- these are national figures, very, very major hitters," he said. "I'm impressed."
The Washington trip came at the behest of Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach. Republicans attending a briefing on Capitol Hill included House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas. The lone Democrat at the news conference was Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar.
Marian Dozier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6643.
Copyright 2000, SUN-SENTINEL Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.