Prominent Texas Pastor Expresses Concern About ‘Faith-Based’ Initiative

One of the nation’s most prominent African-American pastors has expressed concerns over one of the president’s signature policy efforts: the “faith-based” initiative.

Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House Church says his Dallas congregation has provided input into the Bush plan but has not accepted any federal money itself. Jakes, a popular author and speaker, said he worries that the spiritual mission of the church could be compromised.

“We don’t want to end up in a situation where the government is telling us what to preach or how to minister,” Jakes told AgapePress, a Religious Right news service. “And so, in order to facilitate that, I think there ought to be firewalls set up.”

Jakes recommends that churches set up separate non-profit affiliates to handle government funds. He advises religious leaders to be on guard against any policy that might require them to water down their Christian character.

“The church is the church because the tenets of our faith embrace the Bible,” he said, “like the government is the government because we have constitutional laws. To ask us to remove those things is to ask us to lose our identity.”

In other news about the faith-based initiative:

A group of African-American clergy has formed an organization to support Bush and the faith-based initiative. The religious leaders came to Washington, D.C., Aug. 20 to announce the formation of the National Faith Based Initiative Coalition. The group will be a politically oriented “527” group, a status that enables it to intervene in partisan campaigns.

The Bush campaign is apparently using the faith-based issue to woo black pastors. Several ministers in the Bay area of California told the Oakland Tribune that they had been contacted by Republican officials who implied that if they would support Bush, their churches might qualify for faith-based funding.

White House “faith czar” James Towey worked the recent Republican convention in New York City, addressing state delegations and taking time out to visit a homeless shelter. Addressing the Maine delegation, Towey complained that the city of Portland won’t give grants to religious groups that discriminate in employment benefits. Before the Mis­souri delegation, he asserted that marriage is under attack in the United States.

Addressing delegates from Wiscon­sin, Towey said, “So many of our problems in this country are spiritual in nature. You can be proud of what your faith-based programs are doing in Wisconsin.”