tribune correspondent

Black Lives Matter activist and Christian pastor Jomo Kenyatta Johnson announced last week that he was establishing a new Christian denomination, the Church for Black Men.

Planned to be made up of house churches, the denomination aims to reach Black men at the point where traditional churches have left off, said organizers.

“Most evangelical churches won’t speak on political issues because they are tax exempt or will cause division,” said Johnson. “Churches that don’t speak on Black suffering will not attract Black men that want to address Black suffering We want to address Black suffering so we can point to the truth on how the suffering can be alleviated.”

Johnson formerly pastored the Open Air Church in Philadelphia from 2010 to 2014, the same year he graduated from the Westminster Seminary. Now, he is living in Savannah, Ga., where he he has been working with the city’s Black Lives Matter branch to advocate for social justice issues, including the investigation of five deaths in the county jail.

But Johnson stressed that the denomination is not a Black Lives Matter effort, so much so that he said he will step down from the activist organization “to focus on the [Church For Black Men] full time.”

Aside from hosting the services in homes, the main differences between the Black men’s church and others are that it will not be tax exempt and it will not take up a collection.

“We want to detach the greed that is often associated with American Christianity,” said Johnson. “[And] we will not be tax exempt. We will speak directly on political issues that affect lives.”

The first service will be held in February in Montgomery, Ala. The logistics for the Philadelphia service are still being worked out.

Black men and their families are welcomed to join the church, which will base its teachings on the Bible.

“The first would be self-identity,” said Johnson of what he wants Black men to realize from the denomination. “[And] for them to realize how valuable they are to God, that they don’t have to conform to American Christianity, that we can be unapologetically Black and spiritual at the same time.”

Marvin Morris, a coordinator in Washington, D.C., agreed.

“There is a need for Black men to develop their sense of identity in Christ,” said Morris. “There is a great deficit oftentimes of Black men fulfilling their destiny and walking in their purpose.

The transformative message of the Gospel is what Black men need in order to embrace their God given power to live above circumstance,” he said.

For interested organizers, training for church hosts begins Jan. 3.

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