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« on: August 02, 2003, 06:32:56 AM »

Black Church Will Pay Whites To Attend

SHREVEPORT, La., July 31 (UPI) -- Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist
Church in Shreveport, La., is eager for more diversity, so it will pay
white people to attend services in August.

Bishop Fred Caldwell says he will pay $5 per hour for Sunday services
and $10 an hour for the Thursday service. The idea came to him during
his sermon Sunday.

"Our churches are too segregated, and the Lord never intended for that
to happen. It's time for something radical," Caldwell says.

He is basing the initiative on a parable from Matthew 20:1-16, the story
of the workers in the vineyard. A landowner hired men to work in his
fields for the day and throughout the day kept seeking more workers. No
matter what time they came to work, the workers were all paid the same.

Caldwell says he has had several positive responses from the white
community and expects to put out extra chairs Sunday.

One man who called didn't want the money; he just appreciated the

Church member Criss Williams says paying people to attend is a bold step
but doesn't have a problem with it.

"I don't see it as any different than a lot of the churches that have
different social functions to attract  visitors," Williams says. "Bishop
just kind of cut to the chase and went to the money."

Evangelization strategies in many churches often have "bordered on
bribery," says professor Peter Huff, chairman of the religion department
at Centenary College in Shreveport. In mission fields, it is common for
people to seek out religious agencies to get food or medical assistance,
the professor says. But their faith lasts only as long as the help.

Nevertheless, he says, conventional methods have not integrated

"(Caldwell has) hit on the problem," Huff says. "All of the best motives
have not been able to overcome the racial divide. Just showing people
that racism conflicts with the Gospel seems not to be enough."

The professor agrees with the bishop that joint activities between white
and black churches rarely work out in the long run. Despite such
efforts, people often return to their segregated home churches, Caldwell

Williams, one of a handful of white members of Greenwood Acres, says she
feels completely at home with the church. She also appreciates that
Caldwell will address even the most sensitive issues from the pulpit. "I
don't know where people get the impression that he doesn't love white
people. I know he loves me," she says.

To get their money, white visitors will have to register when they
attend a service. The bishop will pay them from his pocket and enlist
the help of the congregation if it's needed.

"I just want the kingdom of God to look like it's supposed to," Caldwell

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