For churches, unity builds economic clout

Posted: Friday, August 04, 2000

BALTIMORE (AP) -- In Baltimore, a growing number of black churches are asking members to open accounts in area banks that have pledged to invest in the city's black community.

The concept, called collective banking, has netted $1 billion in assets for 110 black churches and nonprofit organizations that have joined the program, ministers say.

The Collective Banking Group of Baltimore and Vicinity recently renewed its three-year contract with four banks: Bank of America, First Union Corp., Harbor Bank of Maryland and Advance Federal Savings and Loan.

Collective leaders predict the banks will deposit about $1 million a week from church and nonprofit members.

''We're no longer infants and children in our economic development. We are moving out of our adolescence,'' said Bishop Vashti McKenzie, pastor of Payne Memorial AME Church and the collective's founder and president.

Last month, McKenzie became the first woman bishop in the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The partnership has allowed more than 40 churches to complete construction projects large and small, and made it possible for 61 small businesses to open or expand.

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