1998 NCC News Archives

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as ecumenical ship, serving the world

Gospel Singer Contributes $250,000
to NCC Burned Churches Fund

NEW YORK, August 7, 1998 ---- Gospel superstar Kirk Franklin, Gospo Centric and Interscope Records have announced that they will contribute a total of $250,000 to the National Council of Churches (NCC's) Burned Churches Fund in anticipation of the profits from Franklin's The Nu Nation Project album, set for release September 22, 1998.

"We are grateful that Kirk Franklin and his record company are focusing attention on the continuing burning of churches and synagogues," said the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, NCC General Secretary. "As a gospel artist, his gift is especially fitting since many of the churches that have been burned are precisely the ones whose tradition gave birth to gospel music."

"By the end of 1998, the NCC will have assisted in the restoration of 156 burned churches," Dr. Campbell reported. "However, sadly, we know of at least 20 churches at the present moment trying to figure out how to rebuild. Yet because church burnings are no longer in the national spotlight, it has been more difficult to raise money. We want to assist as many burned churches as new contributions will allow, so this kind offer comes at a most opportune moment."

"I was raised in the church," Mr. Franklin said. "It is important that we support the churches and synagogues that have been burned or defaced. I couldn't help but help. Those churches are part of me."

Highlighting the new album is a song, "Lean On Me," written and produced by Franklin, which features him performing with U2's Bono, R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, Crystal Lewis and his group, The Family.

"This song will get the message of the Gospel to those people who have been turned off by this type of message in the past," Mr. Franklin said.

As an artist, musical mentor and producer, Franklin has achieved enormous success. His self-titled 1997 album from God's Property is the biggest selling gospel album in history and all his albums have been critical and commercial hits.

"We're reaching people with our message and at the same time Kirk and his fans are helping to restore houses of worship when they buy the album," commented Vicki Mack Lataillade, President of Gospo Centric. "It's all about putting our message into action and doing the right thing."

"There is no question that the spoken word, the minister's word, doesn't play the role with young people that artists do, especially musicians," Dr. Campbell said. "Young people trust a man like Kirk. They trust his message. So for someone like Kirk to say, 'I'll give my resources to rebuild churches and communities,' that is a message of wholeness and hope. It also says that when we see a wrong, we have to do what we can to right it."

The NCC brought the epidemic of hate-motivated church burnings to nationwide attention in June 1996 when it brought pastors from 38 burned churches to Washington, D.C. where they met with President Clinton and the Secretaries of the Treasury and Justice Departments.

In May 1996, the NCC initiated the Burned Churches Fund, which included Jewish, Muslim and Roman Catholic partners.

Since 1996, the NCC has raised over $9 million in cash and $2.4 in material gifts to restore burned churches and has awarded nearly $7 million in cash grants for reconstruction. The NCC has coordinated volunteer labor for more than 70 churches and has facilitated the use of material gifts including lumber, modular units and musical organs.

$1.25 million has gone toward racial justice and reconciliation work, including support for specific initiatives throughout the country. For example, the NCC has provided funding for a Kentucky Council of Churches program to monitor hate groups in that state and to work with local ministerial associations on community education and dialogue, has supported a national effort by the Center for Constitutional Rights to monitor cases of police brutality in communities of color and has produced two one-hour documentaries through the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission that look at race in religion and in media. Those documentaries will air on NBC and ABC in the fall.

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