- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2002

A lawyer turned bishop is hoping to aid the faith-based welfare revolution with a national tour to train urban ministers how to become more businesslike so they can win government and corporate grants.
Bishop Harold Ray, who three years ago opened the National Center for Faith Based Initiative at his West Palm Beach, Fla., megachurch, passed through Washington last week for a two-day "economic empowerment" forum, funded partly by federal grants to impart management skills to grass-roots religious workers.
"We want to get you to the point where you can function," Bishop Ray told a gathering of 350 mostly black pastors at the Renaissance Hotel in the District.
In one part of the two-day seminar, he explained that an effective ministry must have a mission statement, know its local demographics, target its projects, present its information succinctly and research the prospective donors.
"It's the same thing whether you are writing to Exxon, Bill Gates or the government," said Bishop Ray, who preaches every Sunday at his large church, but delegates much else.
Much of his training session was about how to groom ministry staff and let them take responsibility for growth and success in a project.
"I give them the authority, but I take the responsibility," Bishop Ray said.
The Washington visit was the sixth stop on a 60-region tour that is expected to run through next September.
Bishop Ray began the tour in April with partial funding from the Prudential Financial Group, and last week was granted $2.1 million as one of about 20 recipients of a total $30 million from the Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) appropriated this year to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
On Thursday, HHS will announce all the grants at a major event in the District, an agency official said. "What this fund mainly does is provide a way for [ministers] to learn from people who know how to do projects and make grant requests," the official said.
The charitable-choice law has allowed ministries to bid for federal grants to provide welfare services since 1996. But the Bush administration proposed the CCF as a way to pool government and foundation money to train grass-roots charitable groups.
Groups such as Bishop Ray's have been called "intermediaries" in the training process.
The $30 million was appropriated by Congress because the CCF has not yet been legislated. The fund is part of a House bill, and is mirrored in the Charity, Aid, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act that Senate backers hope to bring to a vote in the next two weeks before Congress recesses for the election season.
Meanwhile, organizations such as Prudential have contributed grants or expertise in helping faith-based projects become better organized.
"The company was very interested in diversity and uplifting [urban] communities," said Sol Hicks, a retired senior officer who often speaks at Bishop Ray's institutes. Prudential will help sponsor 11 of the free-to-the-public events through this year.
Mr. Hicks said the company wants to help clergy understand finance and management, but also hopes to recruit employees from their pews.
"We are looking for entrepreneurs who want to work toward a financial success," Mr. Hicks said.
The businesslike mood of the training tour should not be seen as religious groups trying to cash in on secular business opportunities or tap into pork-barrel grants, one participant said.
"The information we're receiving will bring a blessing to others in need," said the Rev. Ode H. Hines of the Greater Good Samaritan Baptist Church in the District. "It is imperative for Christians to comply with rules and regulations, and that's very biblical."
In July 2001, when supporters of President Bush's faith-based legislation raised a few million dollars from private business to lobby for its passage and promote local projects, black church leaders such as Bishop Ray voiced concern that they were not included.
"That was never a major rift," Bishop Ray said in an interview. "Our efforts have never waned. We're at the table, and we're team players."
A typical training session with Bishop Ray opens with a history of the faith-based enterprise. A large booklet given to participants includes forms and documents, a Bush policy speech and a White House analysis of how to create a "level playing field" for small ministries.

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