- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

Black Pentecostals choose new leader

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Bishop Charles E. Blake, an influential Southern California pastor, has been named presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ Inc., the world’s largest predominantly black Pentecostal denomination.

Bishop Blake, pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, replaces Presiding Bishop G.E. Patterson, who died last month at 67 of heart failure. The Memphis-based church body claims 6.5 million members worldwide, mostly in the United States.

His church has a history of involvement in the local community and in global outreach programs, and he said he planned to continue that tradition.

“In addition to pursuing the basic principles of service to God and our ministry to the community in spiritual areas, my focus has always been on community development and global involvement,” he said after his appointment, which came at the church’s general assembly this month. “I certainly intend both to preserve those things and to do them on a higher level now, if we can.”

The church he has led since 1969 is the denomination’s largest congregation, with a membership of about 24,000. It has long been a key stop for California’s Democratic politicians.

St. Paul schools sued over flier ban

ST. PAUL, Minn. — An evangelical Christian group is suing the city’s public school district in a bid to overturn its ban on religious fliers, contending that the First Amendment gives it the same right as Boy Scout troops and Little League teams that distribute recruitment material at schools.

Administrators acknowledge the district’s ban on materials of a sectarian nature, and a school lawyer said the district’s opposition to the St. Paul Area Evangelicals’ flier is that it asks parents to take their children out of class each week.

The evangelical group runs Crossroads Ministries, which for 50 years has offered Bible classes to students. It relies on a Minnesota law that allows parents to release their children from school up to three hours a week for religious education. Some schools in the district had allowed distribution in past years, according to the lawsuit, but the district now restricts access completely.

Jordan Lorence, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based Christian civil rights group representing the churches, said if the district has a problem allowing students to use in-school time for religious education, it should take up the issue with the state Legislature.

Flat church giving threatens programs

NEW YORK — Donations to 65 Christian denominations rose slightly in 2005, but not enough to outpace inflation, while giving to church relief efforts was flat, according to a report by the National Council of Churches USA.

More than $34 billion in total church giving was reported to the denominations, a 2.7 percent increase from the previous year, according to findings published last month in the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.

Individual congregants gave an average of $713 to their churches in 2005. Some donors, meanwhile, are contributing to parishes with declining memberships, causing even greater financial challenges, the yearbook said.

Benevolence giving — or contributions to church programs such as relief efforts and feeding or housing the homeless — remained flat at 15 percent.

“This level of giving for benevolence will be the source of sober reflection,” the report concludes. The giving trends could lead to “less support for church-sponsored day care, fewer soup kitchen meals, less emergency help to persons with medical problems, or reduced transportation to the elderly.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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