Several ministries and individuals headlined the news in the faith community during 2019. The following highlights some of the most popular stories in the L.A. Sentinel Religion section.

Rev. Al Sharpton attends the BMC presidential installation of Rev. K.W. Tulloss in January 2019. (Courtesy photo)

Tulloss Heads Baptist Ministers Conference – The Baptist Ministers Conference (BMC) of Los Angeles and Southern California elected the Rev. K.W. Tulloss as president on Jan. 14. The pastor of Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Tulloss most recently served as a vice president of the 100-year-old organization.

“The conference will continue to serve as a preparation institute that will focus on building the capacity of pastors and ministers. We have an exciting agenda that’s going to help preserve and build on the foundation that was laid by our previous leadership. I expect great things with God’s help from the Baptist Ministers Conference,” said Tulloss.

During a dedication ceremony in March 2019, NBA star Allen Crabbe stands on the court named after him at FKCP Schools in South L.A. (CCC photo)

FKCP III Unveils Allen Crabbe Court – The Frederick K.C. Price III Christian Schools officially named their Youth Activity Center court after NBA star and alumni Allen Crabbe on March 20. The Brooklyn Nets player, who attended FKCP from the age of 12-weeks-old to his high school graduation, also donated a significant amount in 2018 to keep the institution operating in South Los Angeles.

“This is a time of rejoicing. We are all here on one accord to celebrate this young man and his accomplishments. I thank you, Lord, for his dedication, his hard work and his commitment to excellence,” said Crabbe’s uncle, Pastor Fred K. Price, Jr., during his opening prayer.

Allen Crabbe, standing at right with his family, including Pastor Fred and First Lady Angel Price and Apostle Frederick and Dr. Betty Price, during a recent worship service at Crenshaw Christian Center. (CCC photo)

Crabbe remarked that it was simply his love of God and his family that influenced him to contribute the finances. “I did this out of the goodness of my heart for God, my family and my grandparents and aunt who founded this school. The legacy that they have built over the years has been amazing,” said Crabbe. “The platform that I have is about giving back and letting the younger generation know that it’s not about the fame or money, but what you do with all you have.”

Recording artist Kirk Franklin shared insights into his career during an exclusive Sentinel interview in March 2019. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

Franklin Marks 25+ Years in Gospel Music – Kirk Franklin has ruled gospel music via singing, writing and producing for more than a quarter-century. His songs have earned 12 Grammy Awards, 43 Stellar Awards, nine NAACP Image Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, three BET Awards, and an American Music Award.

During an exclusive interview with the Sentinel in March 2019, he emphasized that the message in every song remains the same – the incredible power of God. “That’s always important for me so that people will understand that I’m a gospel artist and share the good news of Jesus Christ in every format and way that I can,” said Franklin, who released the track, “Love Theory,” in January and launched the album in May.

“I’m just doing what is authentic to me and I try to do what is true to me and try to communicate how big the God I’m talking about is and how relevant the conversation of God is within culture and to continue to try to push the conversation of God forward within culture. That is very, very important to me.

“The message of the Gospel and the message of God’s hope are for everyone and anyone. I’m very appreciative for the opportunity to have the chance to speak God’s great name. I need people to know that it is an honor for me to have opportunities to talk to others about how much I believe in what I am saying,” explained Franklin. “This is a very important component to our existence – the conversation of a loving God.”

Council President Herb Wesson, 4th from right, join Unity Fellowship Church members at the dedication of Archbishop Carl Bean Square. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

Wesson Dedicates Archbishop Carl Bean Square – Making a bold move on behalf of LGBTQ recognition, L.A. City Council President Herb J. Wesson designated the intersection of Jefferson Blvd. and Sycamore Ave. in South Los Angeles as Archbishop Carl Bean Square.

Bean, a leading national advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons, was recognized for founding Unity Fellowship Church of Christ (UFC) in 1982 and the Minority AIDS Project (MAP) in 1985.

Unity Fellowship, often noted as the first Black church for LGBTQ persons, has grown to more than 16 affiliates in the U.S. and the Caribbean. MAP offers prevention, care and treatment services for low-income African American and Latino individuals at a high risk or living with the HIV/AIDS virus.

UCFLA Co-Pastor Russell Thornhill shared a statement from Bean, who was unable to attend. In his message, Bean expressed thanks to Wesson, L.A. City Council, Watson, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, retired Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and volunteers who supported UFC and MAP throughout the years. In addition, Bean charged the audience to continue to work on behalf of civil rights and social justice.

“We must demand that women have the right to control their own bodies. There must be prison reform, access to education, immigration reform, voting rights, transgender rights, LBGTQ rights and an end to police brutality and the current climate of racism in this country right now,” wrote Bean. “To all of us, all hands on deck!”

                 Bishop Marvin Sapp (Courtesy photo)

Sapp to Lead Chosen Vessel Cathedral – Bishop Marvin L. Sapp announced on June 2 that he is retiring as senior pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan to become senior pastor of Chosen Vessel Cathedral in Fort Worth, Texas. Sapp replaced Bishop Richard E. Young, a close family friend and the pastor of Chosen Vessel since 1985.

“When I began considering retirement, it was the Spirit of the Lord that prompted me to call Marvin,” said Young. “Not only is there a relationship rooted in mutual respect, but Marvin has proven himself to be extremely loyal. This ministry is one that I have spent the majority of my life building, and I want it to go to the next level. I know that Bishop Marvin Sapp will be committed and will lead Chosen Vessel to new levels, and that is why I asked him to be my successor.”

Sapp, who preached his first sermon as senior pastor of Chosen Vessel on Sept. 15, is also the metropolitan bishop in the Global United Fellowship, where he oversees more than 100 churches in 19 states. In addition to being a gifted preacher, he is an author, radio show host and renowned singer who has won 24 Stellar Awards, two Soul Train Music Awards, two BET Awards, two Dove Awards and eight BMI Songwriter’s Awards.

   Rev. Hermia and Pastor Mark Whitlock (Courtesy photo)

Whitlock Heads East to Reid Temple AME Church – The Rev. Mark E. Whitlock, Jr. is the new pastor of Reid Temple – one of the largest churches in the AME denomination – in Glenn Dale, Maryland. Bishop James L. Davis, presiding prelate of the AME Second Episcopal District, announced the appointment on July 11.  Whitlock succeeds the Rev. Dr. Lee Washington, who retired after leading the congregation since 1989.

Whitlock’s ministry is well known throughout the greater Los Angeles area. As the pastor of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine, he led the largest predominately African American church in Orange County. Also, he established multiple ministries and outreach services, collaborated across ecumenical lines, and was an outspoken advocate of social justice and human rights.

In addition, Whitlock served as executive director of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement and as director of Community Initiatives at the USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture.

“I am excited, overwhelmed and just completely slayed by the Spirit of God to be the pastor of Reid Temple AME Church,” insisted Whitlock in a telephone interview. “I didn’t ask for it or politic for it, so I know this was nothing but an act of God.”

Reid Temple, a mega-church with more than 18,000 members worshipping in a 3,000-seat, 140,000 square-feet sanctuary. The church also operates 80+ ministries, an elementary school, a private college, an edifice in Laurel, Maryland, and are preparing to purchase a $60 million senior citizens home.

“Dr. Washington created a ministry that is par excellence. He took that church from a very small membership to where it is today,” said Whitlock. “It is an incredible place to do worship and I am just so grateful to God for this opportunity.”

Still, it’s not easy to leave COR, a place where he ministered for two decades, admitted Whitlock, who said, “My greatest regret is to leave the members of Christ Our Redeemer, [but] God called my wife and I to go to Reid Temple and we were obedient to the spirit of God. It is a daunting task, but it is a divine assignment to do the work of the Lord for Reid Temple AME church.”

Nearly 2 Million Muslims Gather in Mecca Ahead of the Hajj – Saudi Arabia says more than 1.8 million Muslims from around the world have arrived in the country to take part in the hajj pilgrimage on Aug. 9. According to the Associated Press, the Director General of Passports, Gen. Suleiman al-Yehya said close to 970,000 male and 868,000 female pilgrims had already arrived by Aug. 6. In total, more than 2 million people, including Saudis and expatriate residents of the kingdom, are expected to take part this year.

Muslims are required to perform the five-day hajj once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage is meant to draw the faithful closer to God.

The Saudi government has spent billions of dollars to improve the safety of the pilgrimage in recent years, particularly in Mina where the deadliest incidents have occurred.

Rev. Dr. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray views the commemorative birthday booklet at the September 2019 celebrtion. (Clayton Everett photo)

Community Salutes Murray on 90th Birthday – Hundreds of people from throughout the country descended on L.A. to celebrate the 90th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Cecil L. “Chip” Murray during a worship service at Holy Trinity AME Church in Long Beach on Sept. 20, and a reception at USC on Sept. 26. Both occasions attracted overflowing crowds expressing their love and respect for Murray’s legacy.

The legendary theologian, who served 27 years as pastor of the historic First AME Church of Los Angeles, led thousands to Christ and guided Angelenos through the pain of the 1992 civil unrest. Continuing to work in his senior years, Murray holds the position of the John R. Tansey Chair of Christian Ethics in the School of Religion at the University of Southern California.

He is also a senior fellow of USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture and is the chairman and namesake of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Civic Engagement. In this capacity, he oversees the curriculum that has prepared hundreds of ministers and lay people to make tangible contributions to improve their communities.

               Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. (Courtesy photo)

West Angeles COGIC Signs Blockbuster Deal to Improve Crenshaw Corridor – West Angeles Church of God in Christ (WACOGIC) closed a deal on Oct. 2, to sell some of its properties with the guarantee that future uses will improve, beautify and revitalize the Crenshaw Corridor. The arrangement also enables WACOGIC to build its Family Life Center, pay off the mortgage on the WACOGIC Cathedral, and establish a financial reserve.

Bishop Charles E. Blake led a team of experts to review and negotiate the numerous unsolicited offers for the sold properties, which include the administrative offices, the church annex and theater. The new development uses will attract, employ and engage the greater South Los Angeles community.

“We know of the tremendous value our property holds, not just financially but its importance to our community. We count it a blessing to have our properties developed in a manner that will beautify the Crenshaw Corridor and provide resources and opportunities to the community,” said Blake.

The transaction was negotiated to include restrictions on the future use of the properties. Nuisance businesses, including, but not limited to bars, cannabis businesses and strip clubs will never be permitted. In addition, the deal will close in phases, which will allow West Angeles to continue to occupy its North Campus facilities while the Family Life Center is being built.

“Paying off the Cathedral’s mortgage ensures that the Crenshaw Corridor will forever have a house of worship that cares about its community. I am thankful to God that West Angeles Church of God in Christ can play such an important part in the future development and beautification of the South Los Angeles community,” said Blake.

Erica Campbell was one of the headliners to perform on the TOS Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Gospel Stage in October 2019. (Nell Davis/L.A. Sentinel)

Church Comes to the ‘Shaw’ at 14th Annual Taste of Soul – The Spirit of the Lord enveloped 39th St. and Crenshaw Blvd. at the TOS Brenda Marsh-Mitchell Gospel Stage as vocalists and choirs rocked the corner with powerful, inspirational music.

The stage, sponsored by LIVEFREE and the Black Leadership Aids Coalition, opened the first half with talent recruited by Pastor Kelvin Sauls of Sauls Enterprises and Ricardo Mowatt of Mowatt Entertainment.

Christian comedian J-Red returned as emcee and kept the audience entertained with his clean comedy jokes and ticket giveaways to upcoming events around the city. Then, the performances began and the crowd enthusiastically responded to selections by Pastor Desmond Pringle, vocalist Angela Polk, song stylist Shari Demby, Starquest finalist Tameca DeVant, the Crenshaw High School Elite Choir, Jubilant Voices of Holman United Methodist Church and the L.A. Inner City Mass Choir.

Headlining the second half of the program were Warryn and Erica Campbell’s My Block Family, which featured several dynamic vocalists, including gospel superstars Mary Mary, comprised of Erica and her sister, Tina. The lineup included The Walls Group, Lena Byrd Miles, JoiStaRR, Toni Estes and James McGee and The Choir.

Danny Bakewell, Sr., TOS creator and Sentinel executive publisher, said, “We aim to spotlight the best of L.A. gospel at the Brenda Marsh-Mitchell stage and this year’s artists brought a Holy Ghost party to Crenshaw Boulevard!”