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Churches must safeguard their flock more closely -- Part 1 of 2

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Richard O. Jones
Con artists are continuously turning to the churches for endorsement by the preachers to exploit the congregation. The preachers apparently are so anxious to deliver a miracle that they fail to thoroughly investigate every snake oil salesman.  When the average businessperson is offered something that sounds too good to be true, they shy away. However, a preacher might not shy away and even thank God because even an unusual sounding deal might be a holy sign and he or she must demonstrate faith. Although scammers hit all church dominations, it seems to me that African-American churches are primary targets perhaps because they seem to be disproportionately awaiting miracles.

Is it my imagination or is the prosperity and/or expect a miracle message preached more often on Gospel television stations to African-American congregations? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good sermon as much as the next man but I can’t take much more of those ‘prayer cloths,’ and ‘miracle water,’ marketing ploys. When people are faithful without question and always in prayer for a financial miracle or blessing, it opens the door for scammers to walk right in and distract the pastor with heavenly visions while he or she fleeces the flock.  Pastors are supposed to be blessed with discernment not lead distracted by dollar signs.

Thousands of African-American church members lost their homes due to the crash in the economy. Just two weeks ago, a member of my church was in tears because she had lost her home through the subprime mortgage rip-offs that have swept the country. In the AME church, she is not alone. Other members of my church have friends and/or family members that lost their homes under similar circumstances. It amazes me that no one discusses the churches role in setting many of these firsttime homebuyers up with real estate utopia only to experience a crash landing.  Early in 2002, Countrywide Home Loans were beginning to sweep the nation with their sub-prime rate offers. I recall seeing brochures at my church advertising Countrywide Home Loans with a picture of Bishop John R. Bryant on the cover shaking hands with one of the White executives of Countrywide. In the brochure, Bryant made the following statement: “With a well-established membership of nearly 500,000 families throughout the western U.S., the 5th District AME Church is committed to helping our members better their lives in a variety of ways,” said Bishop John R. Bryant, presiding prelate of the 5th District. “In Countrywide, we have found a partner equally committed to educating our membership on the possibilities homeownership brings to them.”

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