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United they stand: church-based business corporation 'reveals' new way to bring black dollars together.

Talk, of course, is about as cheap as it gets. Maybe that's why countless discussions on how to pool the approximately $400 billion blacks spend annually in the U.S. have never gone anywhere--until now. A new plan to accomplish this lofty goal is getting some notice because it is an actual plan.

Five of the nation's largest black church denominations recently announced the creation of the Revelation Corp. of America. The organizers plan to leverage the collective purchasing power of its approximately 20 million members across the country.

"Together we can do better than any of us could do separately," says Henry J. Lyons, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA. "It's a way for African Americans to participate in the wealth of this nation and get a piece of the economic rock."

The organization's goals are indeed lofty. Revelation plans to provide members with homeowner's, life and auto insurance, business, consumer and new construction loans, catalog sales and coupons for discounted food and merchandise. On a national level, the corporation plans to hold programs on single-family home ownership, multifamily rental housing, commercial and industrial development, as well as offer affinity credit cards and retail trade coupons.

But all of Revelation's goals hinge on developing a reciprocal relationship between its core group of church members and major retailers across the country, who are lining up to offer discount coupons for their goods and services. In addition to discounted prices, the retailers will offer rebates to Revelation. Thirty percent of the rebated monies will go directly back to the local church or purchasing group; the other 70% will go into a national housing fund to bankroll a home ownership program.

"It's all about creating a continuous revenue stream that will feed itself," says John Lowery, a white Memphis businessman who conceived the project and owns 30% of Revelation. Lowery, the corporation's executive vice president, put up the seed money, approximately $1 million. He's also responsible for initiating the rebate coupon program and attracting the corporate retailers necessary to make the corporation run. But his involvement isn't open ended. Lowery has agreed to sell off his portion of the corporation to the church groups after seven years, allowing it to be totally black-owned.

One of the more significant goals of Revelation is its home buyer's fund. Lowery expects money from the rebate program to feed a minimum of $88 million into the fund within 24 months. Once established, Revelation plans to loan money to home buyers with a credit rating of "B" or "C" at tne same interest rates offered to buyers with an "A" credit rating--a potential savings of thousands of dollars.

"For the inner-city resident who wishes to purchase a home but is unable to certify for a Class 'A' mortgage for various reasons, we will underwrite those mortgages," says Bennet Smith, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

In addition to Lyons' denomination, other participating church groups are: the Progressive National Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention of America, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Although the initial push is coming from these church groups, any religious group can participate.

For more information, call 800-893-5555.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:Revelation Corp. of America
Author:Smith, Eric L.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jun 1, 1996
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