Lawmakers from both parties and African-American church leaders are heralding a new center designed to find faith-based solutions to the nation's social and economic problems.

Supporters say the National Center for Faith Based Initiative will work with churches, Congress, the private sector, government agencies, and communities to help boost local economies and meet the needs of poor residents—specifically African Americans.

"We have to reach into our souls and into our hearts to make this a better country," said Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) at a March press conference on Capitol Hill announcing the initiative.

Pentecostal Bishop Harold Calvin Ray, founder of the center and pastor of the evangelical Redemptive Life Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach, Florida, described the program as an "ecumenical, interdenominational, and crosscultural" effort designed to bring about "economic rejuvenation and holistic transformation."

Spurring Economic Growth

Ray says the national center will operate through a network of partnerships, collaborating with up to 75,000 churches to empower troubled communities.

"The goal is to create systemic wealth among African-American communities," Ray tells CT. "Once this is done as a model, and demonstrated, the idea can broaden."

The nonprofit center will be funded in part by for-profit Web sites and numerous financial services. These services, designed to "spur collective wealth," will redirect profits to the national center to fund its initiatives, Ray says.

Tom McNicholas, a spokesman for the national center, says it is designed to serve as a national clearinghouse, allocating money to its 12 regional offices.

These regional offices or "embassies," headed by African-American bishops of large churches from ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.