Churches unite to promote black wealth

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BRITAIN'S black churches have joined together to launch initiatives to create wealth in the black community.

The churches, which have a combined membership of about 250,000, hope to use their organisation and wealth to promote the talents of religious leaders, community workers and professionals.

The Rev Ronald Nathan, of the Afro Caribbean Evangelical Alliance (ACEA), the main umbrella group for black churches, said: 'We are realising that we have to regenerate the black community, and that means materially as well as spiritually.'

The ACEA is setting up a black economic development trust which will aim to nurture young business talent. Although the trust, which is expected to be working by May 1993, will have charitable status, it will be able to put entrepreneurs in touch with black capital to help them set up businesses.

In a separate development, the Joint Council for Anglo Caribbean Churches (JCACC), whose supporters include the Princess of Wales, is setting up an organisation to promote black investment. The JCACC will hold a conference in the new year to set an agenda for this programme.

The churches hope to promote a 'buy black' campaign in which black consumers will be encouraged to spend their money with black businesses. The churches will use the financial might of their members to try to coerce financial institutions which are not helping the black community.

Mr Nathan said: 'If a bank won't help us we can always suggest to our members that they might consider closing their accounts. We have financial power and we shouldn't be afraid to use it.' The black community in Britain has an estimated disposable income of pounds 3.5bn.

Mr Nathan said that within two years he expected the 'buy black' message to be preached regularly from the pulpits.

The churches have particular importance because they are among the few organisations which have flourished in the black community. They have proved capable of raising money and producing leaders.

This move into the political realm has its opponents. Some clergy feel that by concentrating on material things, their members appear to be expressing doubt in the world to come. However, the move has been influenced by the American example, where the churches have been instrumental in encouraging the community to produce wealth.