The African-American community has contributed greatly to the growth and prosperity of the United States. In honor of Black History month, the spiritual Web site Beliefnet.com compiled the top ten most influential black religious leaders in America.
Eight of the top ten leaders are Christian pastors or ministers, many of whom have combined religious duties with social activism.
On either side of the coast, there are megachurch pastors Charles Blake in Los Angeles and A.R. Bernard in New York City.
Bishop Charles Blake serves as presiding bishop of the 6 million member Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination – one of the nation's largest denominations. He is also pastor of the 26,000-member West Angeles COGIC located in Los Angeles. In addition to his work as a pastor, Blake also overseas a ministry which supports more than 350 orphanages through sub-Saharan Africa.
In Brooklyn, the Rev. Bernard is senior pastor of the 28,000-member Christian Cultural Center. His radio broadcast is heard by 300,000 listeners and is influential in the political arena. He is sought by presidents, senators, and politicians and has been invited to join the board of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Board of the Directors of the Brooklyn Public Library.
The outspoken Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, is known for being unabashed when speaking about subjects such as AIDS in the African-American community. Wright is credited for introducing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to Christ and the senator still seeks his guidance on spiritual matters.
Lastly, there is Archbishop Peter Akinola, who although is not an American, has played a major role in the schism within the U.S. Episcopal Church over the ordination of homosexuals. Conservative Episcopal churches in America have voted to split from the Episcopal Church and asked Akinola to be their archbishop.
Top 10 Black Spiritual Leaders
•Rev. A.R. Bernard – pastor of 28,000-member Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York
•Rabbi Capers C. Funnye – rabbi of Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, Ill.
•Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III – pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York and president of SUNY College in New York
•Archbishop Peter Akinola – Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria
•Dr. Renita Weems – Christian minister, author of "Just a Sister Away" and "I Asked for Intimacy;" winner of the Religious Communicators' Council's 1999 Wilbur Award for excellence in communicating spiritual values to the secular media
•Rev. Jeremiah Wright – pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Ill.
•Archbishop Wilton Gregory – chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Committee; the first African-American to head the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
•Bishop Charles Blake – presiding bishop of the 6-million member Church of God in Christ denomination; pastor of the 26,000-member West Angeles Church of God in Christ
•Imam Zaid Shakir – internationally respected Islamic scholar, author, and speaker; national voice for moderate American Muslims
•Dr. Myles Munroe – preacher, international motivational speaker, best-selling author, and business consultant
•Rev. Dr. Claudette Copeland (up-and-coming) – pastor of New Creation Christian Fellowship of San Antonio; founded Destiny Ministries, a national empowerment group for woman; she and her husband became the first active duty African-American couple to serve as chaplains in the United States Air Force