Mainstream politicians and Black community leaders are demanding a better accounting of the “return on investment” offered by churches to the communities that fund them. Meanwhile, legions of faithful churchgoers defend their pastors and accuse their detractors of applying a double standard that ignores the largesse of wealthy, white televangelists, while underplaying the economic development and social service functions provided by the Black Church.
“The church has gotten caught up in materialism and greed, a lifestyle. Many ministers today want to live like celebrities and they want to be treated like celebrities. In other words, instead of the church standing with the community, the church has become self-serving. It has strayed away from its mission” according to Dr.Love Henry Whelchel, professor of church history at The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.
Amen. BTW I don't know what "Black community leaders" they're talking about, because I haven't heard a soul (so to speak) speak out on this one, except the guy who wrote "Pimps in the Pulpit," but he didn't even get famous enough talking about it to become a regular commentator on cable news. There are intermittent complaints form some quarters of Black media, especially the Black blogosphere, but the complaints haven't altered the behavior of Black pastors, who seem to be in a headlong competition to be the biggest baller on the block, rather than the greatest advocate for the often economically deprived communities they're supposed to serve. So what is LiveSteez going to do about it?
LiveSteez’s investigative series will take a forensic editorial approach to quantifying the return to Black America for the $350 billion in tax-favored donations it has given to the Black Church, examining the arguments on both sides of the pulpit. In this series we will seek answers and advisory to the following questions:
- How often and how much do church leaders take advantage of the faith of poor black people?
-We will investigate and indentify the churches they are showing a strong return on investment that goes beyond inspiration.
- What does the black community have to show for the $350 billion in tax free dollars?
- Expert analysis on what could potentially be done with such a huge amount of money and how it could improve the state of our communities.
- Why do some church leaders refuse to participate in the Grassley congressional Investigation, which requested the financial records of several mega-churches.
Go get 'em, Steez. One other thing I'd like to see is what ever happened to all that Faith Based money the Bush administration doled out to try and buy support from church folk.
Cutié and his girlfriend, Ruhama Buni Canellis, plan to marry.
Father Alberto Cutié has left the Catholic Church, and plans to marry, prompting a mini-cat fight between the Catholic and Episcopalian leaders in Miami. Per the Herald:
The Rev. Alberto Cutié, the celebrity priest photographed nuzzling a woman on a Florida beach, has left the Catholic Church to join the Episcopal Church and marry his girlfriend -- a move that attracted a strong rebuff from Roman Catholic leaders.
While the Catholic Church requires priests to hew to a vow of celibacy, the Episcopalians, who broke from Rome in the 16th century, have no such rules. Cutié was formally welcomed into the Episcopal Church in a small, private ceremony early Thursday afternoon at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, the church's South Florida headquarters in downtown Miami.
''I am continuing the call to spread God's love,'' Cutié said after the ceremony, adding that he has gone through a ``spiritual and deep ideological struggle.''
In attendance at Trinity was Cutié's girlfriend, Ruhama Buni Canellis, 35, a divorced mother living in Miami Beach. It was the first public sighting of the couple since compromising photos appeared in a Mexican magazine early this month that led the telegenic cleric to take leave from his South Beach parish.
Cutié sat smiling beside Canellis during the half-hour ceremony. Deacons and former Catholic priests now in the Episcopal Church were by his side -- many notably accompanied by their wives.
Bishop Leo Frade, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida, officiated as Cutié and Canellis knelt in front of him to be received into the church.
The switch led to a sharp rebuke from the Catholic Archbishop of Miami, John Favolora. A rebuke of Frade...
At a news conference a few hours later, Archdiocese of Miami officials expressed disappointment in Cutié and had strong words for the Episcopal Church, especially Bishop Frade.
''This truly is a serious setback for ecumenical relations and cooperation between us,'' Archbishop John C. Favalora said.
Favalora said he had not communicated with Frade about the transition and had not spoken with Cutié since May 5, adding that Cutié never told the archbishop he desired marriage.
And then, it got personal:
''Father Cutié is removing himself from full communion with the Catholic Church and thereby forfeiting his rights as a cleric,'' Favalora said, later adding that Cutié is still ``still bound by his promise to live a celibate life, which he freely embraced at ordination. Only the Holy Father can release him from that obligation.''
Not so, Frade said Thursday afternoon. ''That promise is not recognized by our church. If you can find it in the Bible that priests should be celibate, that will be corrected,'' he said. ``The only thing we can say is that we pray for ecumenical relations. . . . I am sorry they are sorry, and we love them.''
Cutié, who gained media fame across the Spanish-speaking world doling out relationship advice on TV and radio and in print, had telegraphed his intentions for weeks in interviews, during which he spoke about his wish to marry and start a family.
And he'll bring that celebrity status to the relatively small, but obviously savvy, Episcopal Church, while the Catholics will continue to be mad, and to struggle. In the same Herald issue today, there's this:
South Florida Catholics may learn of struggling churches' fates Sunday, when pastors are expected to announce the closure of 14 churches in the Archdiocese of Miami.
Not saying the two are related, but I'm guessing that Father Cutié won't necessarily be leaving the Mother Church alone. Most Miami Catholics believe it's time to retire the celibacy vow, and I'd guess most Catholics everywhere wouldn't object to priests enjoying healthy marriages, as opposed to unhealthy sexual activity on the down low. Episcopalians have their own struggles (my Godmother's church in New York? Don't even get me started...) not least of which is the struggle between their conservative and liberal members. But here, it's hard to argue that the more liberal church didn't win this one hands down.
Things you don't see every day: Detroit chucrh prays for a bailout
A Detroit church backs the SUVs up to the altar to pray for help for the ailing auto industry. From Reuters:
DETROIT, Dec 7 (Reuters) - With sport-utility vehicles at the altar and auto workers in the pews, one of Detroit's largest churches on Sunday offered up prayers for Congress to bail out the struggling auto industry.
"We have never seen as midnight an hour as we face this week," the Rev. Charles Ellis told several thousand congregants at a rousing service at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple. "This week, lives are hanging above an abyss of uncertainty as both houses of Congress decide whether to extend a helping hand."
Local car dealerships donated three hybrid SUVs to be displayed during the service, one from each of the Big Three. A Ford Escape, Chevy Tahoe from GM and a Chrysler Aspen were parked just in front of the choir and behind the pulpit.
Ellis said he and other Detroit ministers would pray and fast until Congress voted on a bailout for Detroit's embattled automakers. He urged his congregation to do the same.
Other Detroit-area religious leaders -- including Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders convened by Cardinal Adam Maida -- have urged Congress to approve an auto aid package.
But the service dedicated to saving Motown's signature industry at Greater Grace Temple was the highest profile effort to mobilize support yet.
"Everybody can't live on Wall Street. Everybody can't live on Main Street. But all of us have lived on the side street, the working class," Ellis said. "I call it the working class because everything tells me there is no more middle class." ...
Hm. Wonder if that has ever happened before? As a matter of fact, here's another example of SUVs on the altar, that might explain part of the problem: SUV bling has seen the church before...
Rev. Gaston Smith gets lots of support at "Save Our Pastor Day."
I asked a pretty well known preacher here in town this morning, why pastors only seem to come together and bring out the community to save the prominent and the powerful -- or to save each other -- but not so often for one of us regular schmoes. He admitted that pastoring these days is kind of a ballers club, and the rest of us are just not in the league. From today's Herald:
Inside a modest Baptist church -- beige with brown trim -- nestled amid dilapidated corner stores and low-rises at the corner of Northwest 58th Street and Seventh Avenue, a preacher known for his fiery oratory cracked a joke Sunday.
Noting the crowd that had packed into Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, the Rev. Gaston Smith said:
``Maybe I should get locked up more often so we can always get a turnout like this!'' ...
...Smith, who has led a neighborhood revival of sorts aimed at economic growth and whose sermons are often tailored toward fighting injustice, has his own trouble with the justice system.
Smith was arrested Thursday evening and charged with misspending a $25,000 county grant to a nonprofit he ran. The arrest is part of a continuing investigation into the financial dealings of Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
Police say two checks given to a company owned by Spence-Jones' family from the minister's charity, Friends of MLK, were among several payments under investigation. Spence-Jones was among the more than 1,000 parishioners, civic leaders and black clergy who attended Sunday's rally.
''My prayers go out to him and his family,'' she said. ``Smith and Friendship have been a beacon in this community for many years and this will pass.''
Shaken by the thunderous applause, Smith thanked his friends for gathering on the communion Sunday.
''The support is overwhelming,'' he said. ...
And next, cue the "internal investigation" -- not of the wrongdoing, but of the investigation into the wrongdoing. Herald, take it away:
The fact that the city's sole black commissioner and now one of its most influential black ministers is under fire has stirred concern in Miami's black community.
... Bishop Victor T. Curry, head of the Miami-Dade NAACP, said the group is launching an investigation into Smith's arrest.
So what happens next? We get the Black community all riled up to "fight the power" that's trying to take down yet another one of our leaders, we scream bloody murder and perhaps the authorities back down ... and there's still nothing being built in the empty lots that $25,000 was supposed to help fill, no children who are going hungry or desperately in need of tutoring get it, and the money's long gone. Nothing changes, except that we've saved another one member of the club from going down. To what end? Will anything change?
I just finished working on a campaign in which I learned, first hand, that much of my community is for sale to the highest bidder -- including many of the pastors. How did we go from our clergy leading a mass movement for non-violent change, to our clergy hawking prosperity ministries and sticking up poor people for tithes that ultimately go into the pockets of the pastor, rather than into building the community outside and adjacent to the church's four walls?
This isn't just an issue in the Black community -- it's a very American cancer, and its rotting us away at the core. And yet, the rot is much more lethal in the Black community, because our position is so much more precarious to begin with.
There's something wrong with the way we're doing things in the Black community. Something very fundamentally wrong, and unfortunately, it just might start in our churches. ...