Canada?s New Black Evangelists: They?re shepherding their flocks toward prosperity

Rev. Dr. Pat FrancisThey are a new breed of Afro-Canadian evangelical ministers who, like their U.S.-based counterparts, are preaching freedom from debt, financial success and wealth building as God?s wish for all who subscribe to Christian teachings. The Rev. Dr. Pat Francis, leader of Kingdom Covenant Ministries, and Orim Meikle, who heads Rhema Christian Ministries, are the most powerful Black evangelical preachers in Canada. Based in Toronto, the nation?s financial capital, they are part of a rapidly growing community of the faithful. While many traditional churches are in decline in Canada, evangelical ministries are showing significant growth. Accord-ing to Canada?s 2001 census, the Protestant church overall saw a 7 percent decline; in some cases it was as high as 12 percent; United Church attendance fell by 8 percent; and Presbyterians lost 35 percent of their followers. In contrast, evangelical missionary churches in Canada grew by 48 percent.

Orim MeikleMeikle, whose ministry has grown from a congregation of 20 five years ago to one of 2,000 today, adds: ?People are moving to churches where they can find answers and empowerment. We have employment opportunities at our ministry. We help people get out of debt. We offer financial counseling, marital counseling. People who are looking for answers in life, they are turning to these ministries.?

Rhema and K.C.M. offer seminars on writing business plans as well as mentorship programs. K.C.M.?s youth pastor has an M.B.A. and coaches youth about how to run businesses.

?We have formed companies and we have stimulated the congregation in a practical way. We have taught that we should own property, not just rent for the rest of our lives. Our young people are purchasing houses at 23. They are progressive in their lifestyles, progressive in their thinking, because God has shifted their minds,? says Francis, who boasts of helping some 200 church members become home owners.

Francis and Meikle have strong ties to evangelical churches in the United States. Francis, a Jamaican-born former radiologist, guest preaches throughout the United States, including at Bethany Baptist Church in New Jersey and at Philadel-phia?s Impacting Your World Christian Center. Meikle?s covering church is Bishop Eddie Long?s popular Newbirth Mission-ary Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Like many televangelists in the United States, Francis and Meikle run church corporations offering high-energy, music-filled sermons broadcast locally and abroad, as well as sophisticated Web sites offering 24-hour streamed sermons and online faith products and services. Francis owns Elomax Financial Group, a financial consulting company, as well as Admarie Com-munications Services, a call center,

and Admarie Records, a full-service gospel music and media enterprise, where, says Francis, she empowers followers of Christ with employment and career development opportunities. She travels often to the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, leading medical missions and setting up schools there. Meikle, who recently returned from a mission to Nigeria, set up a school for underprivileged children in the Dominican Republic. He opened a K.C.M. branch in Ottawa in May and plans to open another in Calgary within months.

God put humans on the earth, ?to glorify the church, bring value to the earth and to prosper? says Francis, who plans to begin construction in 2007 on a $35 million complex with the capacity to hold 12,000 worshippers. The complex will house a church; schools; a television ministry; youth services, sports and recreation facilities; a theater and more, she says. Meikle, too, has drafted plans for his brand of religious community complex. Both say these projects are designed to help worshippers achieve what God wants them to achieve: freedom from debt and prosperity.