Houses of Faith Facing Foreclosure
â€œAmong the largest [Black] megachurches are the Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood, CA, the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers, which seats 17,505; the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Cathedral in Lithonia, GA, which seats 10,000; the FaithDome of the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles, which seats 9,780; Jericho City of Praise Church in Landover, MD, which seats 10,000; World Changers Church International, which seats 8,900; and The Potterâ€™s House in Dallas, TX, which seats 8,000.â€ (Ebony, Dec, 2004)
WHAT HAPPENED ON WALL STREET IS NOW HAPPENING DOWN THE STREET…
TEN YEARS AGO, THE LOS ANGELES FORUM WAS PURCHASED BY THE FAITHFUL CENTRAL BIBLE CHURCH (AT A COST OF $22.5 MILLION). FOR A WHILE, THE CHURCH HELD SUNDAY SERVICES IN THE FORUM, BUT WITH THE EFFECTS OF THE ECONOMY OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, THE CHURCH DECIDED TO RETURN TO ITS ORIGINAL 2100-SEAT LOCATION.
â€œOur goal,â€ said Bishop Kenneth Ulmer, pastor of FCBC and visionary for the procurement of the Forum, â€œwas to have a positive economic impact on the communityâ€”[by] providing both entertainment and jobs. The Forum was never purchased to be turned into a church.
â€œSome of the events we hosted included Ringling Brothers Circus, the last Hannah Montana movie shoot, Michael Jackson â€œThis Is Itâ€ movie shoot, Steve Harveyâ€™s â€œHoodie Awardsâ€ and Stevie Wonderâ€™s annual â€œHouse Full of Toysâ€ event.â€
However, as the economy and entertainment industry began to change, the economic viability of the Forum suffered negative impact. In late August of this year, the LA Times reported that the Forum was experiencing financial difficulties.
According to the article, â€œThe Forum hasnâ€™t been generating nearly enough revenue to cover operating costs, let alone an annual $1.2-million mortgage payment to its lender, forcing the church to dip into its own funds to avoid defaulting on the loan. This spring the church said it could no longer make payments to the company it hired to operate the arena, triggering a contentious legal brawl with its former partner â€” the second such dispute with a management company in a decade.â€
â€œWeâ€™re in a challenging situation right now,â€™â€™ Bishop Ulmer acknowledged in an interview with Gospel Today, â€œWeâ€™re having to reassess where we go in light of the [economic] realities of today, be- yond the hopes of yesterday. We always wanted to benefit the com- munity. Weâ€™re back to square one.â€
â€œWith people losing jobs and even homes, entertainment took a hard hit; the expansion of â€œfreeâ€ entertainment choices, via Inter- net and television, made live events with escalating ticket prices less of a choice.
â€œAnother thing thatâ€™s different,â€ observed Bishop Ulmer, â€œwas that in the past, in times of recession and depression, people turned back to the church. I donâ€™t see that now. I donâ€™t see a spike in church attendance that is necessarily fueled by the economy. I think our culture is so spiritualized that the church is now seen as less of a refuge. The culture has become more spiritual and less Godly.â€
As for the future of the Forum, Bishop Ulmer said that his considerations include:
1. Developing a different kind of marketing plan.
2. Liquidating the property and using the proceeds to do ministry.
3. Partnering with some entity that has a commercial interest and a
â€œWEâ€™RE CONSIDERING HOW WE BALANCE THE REALITIES OF THE ECONOMY WITH OUR MANDATE FOR MINISTRY.â€ â€”BISHOP KENNETH ULMER