All Articles Tagged "black church"
A battle over money and leaders in turmoil. We’re not talking about an episode of Scandal but the current state of affairs over at Los Angeles’ oldest, and one of its largest, black churches–First AME Church.
The church recently filed a lawsuit against its pastor, who is refusing to relinquish power over the institution and its bank accounts. First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) is suing the pastor and his wife for control of the church and its nonprofit corporations.
The suit accuses the Rev. John J. Hunter and his wife, Denise, as well as other leaders of “holding dictatorial control over [the church] … for their own personal gain — both financially and for self-aggrandizement,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
The plot is thick: According to the LA Times, last October Hunter was transferred to a San Francisco church by the head of AME churches in the western United States. But that church didn’t want any part of Hunter. The San Fran church literally blocked him from delivering a sermon. So back to LA went Hunter, just not as the official pastor. Thus began his fight to regain his position. And says the Times, he still maintains residence in a $2-million home paid for by FAME and has possession of a Mercedes-Benz, also paid for by the church. Meanwhile the church hired a new pastor, the Rev. J. Edgar Boyd, who lives in a hotel and is not yet drawing a salary. Hunter received a $239,000-annual salary. His wife took home $147,000 a year for running the church’s nonprofit organizations.
Hunter’s wife, who appointed herself the organizations’ “agent for service” a day after her husband was ousted by the church, is refusing to give up control of the church’s nonprofits, reports the newspaper. The nonprofits have assets worth several million dollars, according to tax documents.
Hunter became the pastor of FAME in 2004. Since then, he’s also involved in a sexual harassment civil claim that was settled for an undisclosed amount. And in 2008, an internal audit discovered Hunter had charged $122,000 in jewelry, family vacations and clothing to the church’s credit card. He agreed to a nine-year repayment plan for that, states the Times.
Now FAME, which has a congregation of 19,000 members, is in debt. “The church owes nearly $500,000 to creditors and some vendors say they have not been paid in more than a year…In addition to the church’s sizable debt, the lawsuit said recorded judgments against the church total an additional $200,000,” writes the Times.
While Hunter’s salary may be a shock to some — even to members of the congregation — most pastors of large churches receive hefty salaries. A study released by the Leadership Network found that “total cash compensation (including allowances for housing) for senior pastors ranged from $85,000 to more than $265,000, though the majority of the salaries cluster around the $100,000 to $140,000 range.” This is for so-called mega churches, where attendance is 2,000 or higher each week. And, says the study each congregation’s annual giving ranged from almost $2 million to more than $30 million, writes the Gospel Coalition Organization blog.
A group of Los Angeles pastors are protesting the foreclosure proceedings on a number churches, to be executed by a black-owned bank that was created to serve a once-segregated black population.
Broadway Federal Bank started in the 1940s to provide financial services to the black community. Today, according to the Los Angeles Times, “the bank had over 12% of its loans and other assets in delinquency or foreclosure, and seven repossessed churches on its books.” The bank can no longer take on additional church clients. The church pastors have promised to stand up to the bank.
Christianity Today reports that more churches have been foreclosed on in the past couple of years, showing the toll that the economic recession is having. It’s a topic that Reuters also covered earlier this year, saying that all denominations, and both black and white churches have been impacted. The foreclosures are happening as banks, the outlet says, “increasingly lose patience” with religious organizations that have defaulted on their loans and the financial institutions want to get their balance sheets in better shape. Churches told Reuters, at the time, that they just want to negotiate.
The pastors now protesting against Broadway Federal say the bank has foreclosed on 60 churches.
I was born and raised in the grand ole Church of God in Christ, where they preach “holiness is right.” In my particular place of worship, “Thou shalt not wear red lipstick” should be the 11th commandment. On top of that, women are expected to wear hot pantyhose all year long, and rocking a skirt higher than a quarter inch above your knee is highly frowned upon. While this may not be the case for every denomination, there has always been a general code of conduct when it comes to women and the clothing that they choose to wear to church. For decades, women have obliged to this code; however, this more recent generation of young women, my generation, seem to be challenging the rules a bit. The attire being worn to church seems to be getting more and more risque as the years go by. “The skirts seem to be getting higher and the blouses seem to be getting lower,” I’ll hear one church mother grunt to another as some long-legged beauty struts by in her baby doll dress and 6-inch pumps to place her money on the offering table. “I hate this, it’s like they want to drag us back to the 1960s. Times have changed,” is what I’ll hear some of my other sisters complain. I’ll overhear this convo as I’m in the bathroom performing my own dreadful task of slipping on pantyhose in 80-degree weather.
I have a friend at church who seems to be going through the same thing right now. Sometime between this year and last, her “holiness is right” ankle length skirts have morphed into rising bandage skirts and those chic and sheer little asymmetrical get ups. More than a few people have approached her on the matter. One afternoon on the phone she vented her frustrations: “Why does it even matter? When I was living like hell and my skirts were down to my ankles that was okay, but now that I’m actually living right and my skirts are a little shorter than before I’m going to hell with gasoline draws on? What is more important, my heart or my hemline?” she groaned. This of course got the wheels in my head turning. Do we as Christians place more emphasis on the outward appearance as opposed to the heart of a man or woman? Should clothing actually be a debate at all?
Popular Christian rapper and recording artist, Lecrae, tackles this same exact subject in his most recent mixtape release with a song entitled “Church Clothes.” In it, he navigates through this debate from the point of view of someone who isn’t an avid churchgoer and wants to go, even if they don’t have the button down and Easter suit. It is a very thought-provoking track. One of the most profound lyrics from the song, however, is the following:
If God accepts me as I am I guess I already got on my church clothes…
While this is all true and of much importance, it still leaves one to question whether this gives us all a get-out-of-jail-free card to dress however we want because it is about the inner man? I mean there are scriptures upon scriptures that discuss men who appear one way outwardly and are another way internally. And then, if that is the case, does that mean that church should be a free for all where women can wear micro mini skirts and halter tops as long as they came to praise the Lord and hear the word? Where can the line be drawn?
The Bible may not say “Thou mustn’t wear hoochie skirts to church,” but what it does say in Galatians 6:2 is that we are to carry one another’s burdens and it is in this way that we will fulfill the law of Christ. With that in mind, what about our brothers in Christ? There are tons of scriptures on men and the shielding of their eyes of lustful images as well as the heaviness of merely lusting after a woman with your eyes. Do we not then have a responsibility to protect men from what scripture has made clear is a weakness for them? If the Bible instructs us all to flee youthful lust, then are we doing our brothers an injustice by flaunting the bait at the one place that should serve as their place of refuge, the church?
For years, I’ve worn my dresses a decent length merely because it was what I was told to do. There was also a point in time where I didn’t pay much attention to the lengths of my dresses or how tight my blouses were. I wasn’t fully made aware of the struggle that men have to cope with until I was sent this video by an older sister and mentor on the subject. This didn’t become personal to me until one day when I was shooting the breeze on webcam with one of my very close brothers in Christ, and as I’m yapping away I noticed that he kept looking away. After taking a closer look at my own image in the camera and him bringing it to my attention, I realized that some of my lady curves (aka, cleavage) had somehow creeped into view of my camera. You can imagine my embarrassment. Me, having dealt with my own personal struggles before, would never want to be a participant in leading someone else astray. So yes, the heart of a person is undeniably the most important thing when it comes to church, but is the way we present ourselves not of importance as well? Think about it…
Sound off, ladies: Do you believe that the church places too much emphasis on the outward appearance? Should we hold ourselves semi-responsible for protecting the eyes of the brethren in our local churches?
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Former Teenpreneur Accused of Scamming Millions of Dollars from the African American Church Community
Ephren Taylor Jr. was a business success story. He was lauded by everyone for his gifted abilities in business and commitment to empower those in the black community. He prided himself on reaching millionaire status as a teenager and retired at 19 after starting a dot-com company worth millions. But even after this accomplishment, he went on to work and become the youngest African American CEO of a public company. His story was told in three books, on countless media outlets and on his website.
Now, as he approaches 30, his story of honor has turned to one of shame. According to the Kansas City Star, he stands accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of “a Ponzi scheme to swindle more than $11 million, primarily from African-American churchgoers.”
But how was he able to swindle so much money for so long from the people that respected him the most? The Kansas City Star notes that it wasn’t just his long list of accolades. Taylor was a preacher’s kid, and people felt comfortable knowing that their money was invested with one of their own. He pitched himself as a person you could trust, someone who made it rich and could help you do the same in a socially responsible way.
“He sold himself as an African-American success story,” Kevin Berger, a Kansas City attorney for three local investors who have a $266,000 judgment against him said to Kansas City Star. “Rags to riches. ‘I’m good, made it to the big time through my hard work and enterprise and faith-filled community outreach.’ ”
His success story was a mix of truth and exaggeration. It’s true that he started his first business, Flame Software, at 12. In high school he later went on to found GoFerretGo.com, a job posting website for young adults with a high school friend and was featured in Forbes as having reached seven figures at 16. But the company never gained much ground and shut down in 2002, two years after he graduated from high school.
“I don’t think he ever was (a teenage millionaire),” Cathy Lerman, the Florida lawyer who filed a North Carolina lawsuit that was recently refiled in California, seeking class-action status said to the Kansas City Star.
Taylor continued to launch several businesses. Along the way he started to pick up fraud allegations, but managed to keep a clean, trustworthy reputation. His scheme began to gain ground in 2009 when he hired a PR agent and made several media appearances promoting his financial success. From 2008-mid 2010, Taylor and his company City Capital had raised $7 million from investors, most of which went to his lavish lifestyle, promoting his books and his wife’s music career.
“He appeared to be very spiritual, religious, and he sold to the religious community, which appealed to us,” Bill Lee, a NC resident who lost most of his retirement fund to Taylor’s schemes said. “It kind of makes you more upset because he was using the name of God to help him in this mess.”
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Question: Why is the news obsessed with what the black community thinks about same sex marriage?
I mean, they don’t ask the community about their feelings on the economy. Nor are we invited to share our thoughts on topics related to foreign affairs. But every since President Obama pledged his support for same sex marriage the spotlight has been put onto black community as political pundits and journalists alike wait with baited breath to hear what we think about it.
I don’t know about the rest of yall but I’m kind of offended. Two months ago, when the Black community was all a huff over the Trayvon Martin case, I don’t recall CNN or MSNBC rushing to get a comment from the likes of GLAAD and the Human Rights Coalition. Sure both groups did put out statements taking a strong stand against the injustices around the Martin case. But those statements never made it to the press. Nor were their cameras in what could be classified as traditional “gay spaces” asking them their opinions on Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence. I’m willing to bet though, that if a poll were done, like the many CBS/NBC/Gallop/New York Times polls we’ve seen about the black reaction to Obama’s announcement, we probably too would see a diversity of thought from the LGBT community including those who supported justice for the Martin family to those who downright thought he had it coming. I mean, just because you are gay, doesn’t mean that you can’t be racist.
Of course, it would be illogical to think that if a number of gay and lesbian, transgender and bisexual folks believe that Zimmerman was innocent than the entire LBGT community must be condemned. But that is what is happening to the black community now on the issue of same sex marriage. No matter how internally diverse we are, in the eyes of the mainstream it is one for all and all for one. The obvious explanation is that this is an attempt to drive a wedge – or at least exploit a supposed wedge issue that is already there – between the two communities, especially considering that the long standing narrative is that black voters let their Bible-thumping ways get in the way of any sense of justice for the LGBT community. We’ve seen that vilification of black folks in 2008 with the passage of California Prop 8 and we see it most recently in North Carolina with Amendment One – even as new evidences proved that other factors such as geographical location of the voters and generational differences in attitudes proved to be much more determining factors than actual race.
But the media needs its villains and scapegoats. And instead of putting the blame squarely on the state and federal governments, who choose to derail or flat out refuse to enforce the basic promise of equality under the 14th Amendment, they use the tried and true arguments of state rights and majority wins, which is as old as struggle for equality itself. First off, black folks have never been that politically powerful. And secondly, do you honestly think if a law, in regards to civil rights for black folks, were on the ballot today it would pass by the majority? Heck no, that’s why federal mandates were created to force the hands of states, who seek to deny people basic rights.
But all of that is secondary to the discussion at hand. More to my point: black people are a monolithic group, similar in kind to the Borg from Star Trek. We look alike, talk alike and therefore must think alike – at least by the mainstream media standards. Never mind the hundreds of free thinkers, black intellectuals, college professors, and ordinary blacks who’ve spent their entire lives either living or pondering on the intersection between being Black and being gay. Their views don’t matter. The only opinions that do matter belong to those, who the media has deemed the sole authority on the black experience: mainly the Southern black conservative church.
For the last few days since President Obama’s announcement, many mainstream news media, along with several black media outlets have been tripping over themselves to parade every single conservative preacher, Deacon and brother in a Christian barbershop in front of the cameras to give their brimstone and fire accounts of why President Obama and “the gays” are going to Hell. These people are scary and often feed into the political theater that the black community is largely homophobic, thus throwing their support for President Obama’s reelection campaign in jeopardy. It’s good fodder for 24-hour news stations, whose main objective is ratings, but bad for our community, who just can’t escape having our thoughts and images marginalized to fit someone else’s agenda.
There were plenty of black ministers who spoke out against President Obama’s stance on marriage equality and the media was happy to interview them. But there’s another side to this story. There are black and Latino ministers who strongly support the president and his newly stated stance.
Support for marriage equality among African American and Latino groups has increased over the past few years. A recent Public Religion Research Institute poll found that a majority of Latino Catholics and a third of black Protestants support marriage equality.
See who these men and women of God are at BlackVoices.com
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Yesterday, I caught up on one of the few reality tv shows I can still stand, Mary Mary. Some folks were very skeptical of the show because the sisters, the stars of the show, Erica and Tina, are gospel singers. I guess people didn’t want to see these two acting a fool on tv. I was skeptical too, but only because I thought it was going to be boring. But that’s not the case. The show, though it lacks the drama we see on Basketball Wives and The Real Housewives of Atlanta, is still very entertaining. Kind of like the Braxtons but with a lot less foolishness and infidelity.
In one of the more recent episodes Erica and Tina decided they were going to have a girls getaway with their other sisters and sisters-in-law. (They come from a large family.) Erica, the more mild-mannered sister, who was also pregnant at the time, suggested that while they were away in Palm Springs, they take a pole dancing class. Well, Tina, who is kind of hot-headed and feisty, was not having it. Despite Erica trying to convince her that it was just a workout with she and her sisters, Tina couldn’t get past the sexual connotation and even more importantly, she didn’t want to deal with the fact that the Christian community would throw major shade.
I remember watching the show and thinking well “gospel singer” is another career I can cross off my “occupations I couldn’t do” list. Really, the list is full of all types of jobs that would require me to be too much in the public eye because people, and for some ironic reason specifically church people, can be too mean spirited and judgmental.
When I was younger, I got to see the good and the bad when it came to church. I went to one where the message wasn’t fulfilling, the people were unwelcoming, petty and insanely judgmental and the church wasn’t meeting the needs of the community. And then when I got older I went to one that was the complete opposite. The latter church and the people in it, nurtured me and instructed me in a kind and loving environment. So I know how church should and shouldn’t be. Which is why it always saddens me when I think about the reputation “the church,” and let’s be real, “the black church” gets just because the people who rep it so hard, don’t know how to act like the Jesus they claim to worship. It breaks my heart to hear people claim that they’re done with church, although they believe in God, because the people inside the building have no act right whatsoever.
It breaks my heart because 1.) I know they’re telling the truth and 2.) because I know not all churches are like that and 3.)because God does not want his people out here dissuading others from entering his house. If any group of people are supposed to be accepting and warm, it’s supposed to be Christians; but far too often, that’s not the case. And that’s a shame.
While I could understand Tina’s reasons for not getting on the pole, it’s a shame that she, as a gospel artist, a woman who makes a living glorifying God, would even have to consider what other religious people might have to say about her working out on a metal bar. Sometimes…no a lot of times, it’s people’s own perversion that make them condemn others. If you’re the type of person who can’t look at a pole and not think about a woman taking her clothes off, then it’s not something you should be burdening other people with, that sounds like more of a personal problem.
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Black History Month isn’t just a time for corporations to put out a pro-black diversity message, it’s also recruiting season for African Americans for Humanism, a national organization of non-believers.
“Can I believe in a God that will help me find my keys and win a ball game but allows hunger in places like Africa? Those are really big questions the church does not have answers to.”
Dallas is just the jumping-off point for the billboard campaign which will also show up in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, DC, and Durham, NC. Other prominent African American figures like Frederick Douglas and Zora Neale Hurston will appear on billboards as well. While a local Dallas pastor said the campaign will provide an opportunity for challenging debate and discourse, Alix says he’s not interested. According to him, the billboards are simply meant to provoke thought.
“It’s for the ones that really have doubt,” he says. “Understand you are not alone.”
It will be interesting to see how people react once the ads go up next week.
What do you think about this idea? Do you think black atheists feel particularly isolated given the tradition of Christianity among African Americans?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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The holiday season brought with it a little bit of familial sadness for me.
My 22-year-old cousin is all but a non-closeted lesbian at this point. For years she has battled her mother, who is far too incensed by her own religious fervor to accept that her daughter is not just experimenting around with the same sex. She has a legitimate partner with whom she’s been for a period that defies most reasonable folks’ statute of limitations for experimentation.
It’s hard for me to negotiate loved ones who stand in opposition to an issue I’m so passionate about: the protection of gay rights. I’m diametrically opposed to any idea that suggests gays should not be left alone to do what they will. To me, there is no argument within reason that indicates otherwise. Sadly, the scenario of my aunt and her cousin exists out with black families all over the country – perhaps disproportionately so.
Given the large presence of evangelical Christianity in the black community, combined with our social mores regarding expectations of the black male masculinity, it’s still dangerously unacceptable for black folks to leave the closet. Even if things have improved in the past decade or so, it hasn’t been enough and there’s still very far to go.
Frankly, this is one of those issues in which black folks embarrass me. I realize that the rest of the world is woefully, shamefully behind in their religious-based myopia, but we especially got it bad.
The empiricism of genetic instances related to homosexuality aside, I think common sense should dictate to intelligent people that the lifestyle choice is more than a “lifestyle choice.” The idea that a person is just making a conscious choice to be gay goes out the door when you consider their dress, attitude, speech, their consistent persecution, abandonment from family and – perhaps most illuminating – the long-term monogamous union of two people who raise children and develop their own lives together. I can’t think of too many people who can stay in character for that long.
On a very simple level, however, adults should be allowed to make decisions regarding what they do with another adult, and young people should be allowed to develop their own sexuality in a fashion that is healthy and not stunted by one’s church or family’s own moral proclivities. Anything else is unhealthy for the individual. It really needn’t go any further than that.
I realize that I’m quite inconsequential in the grand scheme of thousands of years of faith, the Idiot Tome and socio-cultural ideas about things, but hopefully I can plant it in at least a handful of you to be done with the homophobia that plagues our community, once and for good.
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(Politics 365) — Starting Sunday, September 25, 2011, the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) is officially inviting African American men back to church. NBCI is working to make sure 10 million black males return to church over the next 10 years. NBCI’s press release noted national partnerships with major black religious leaders and denominations in response to the serious issues facing African American men, including rising levels of incarceration, drug use and unwed fatherhood. Rev. Anthony Evans, President of NBCI says, “NBCI has no other greater mission than to re-establish God’s order – the first step being to call our men back to church. We are committed to devoting a half a million dollars and a million hours of evangelism to get black men back into our pews. There is something missing from the heart of the black church – the presence of our black brothers will heal hearts, minds and families.”