America's 'Most Influential Black Spiritual Leaders'

A new report has named today's "most influential black spiritual leaders" in the nation.

From some of the most prominent spiritual figures and preachers to up-and-coming figures, spiritual website Beliefnet released a non-comprehensive list of African American religious leaders who have had the greatest influence in America.

High-profile evangelical Bishop T.D. Jakes was listed for his "electrifying blend of gospel and tell-it-like-it-is sermonizing." Best-selling author Jakes pastors the Potter's House, one of the largest churches in the nation with more than 30,000 members, in Dallas and hosts an annual MegaFest conference that has drawn up to 80,000 people. The popular conference was cancelled this year but will return in 2008.

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The Rev. Floyd Flake of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., was recognized for his successful church of more than 25,000 members. The former U.S. congressman and current president of Wilberforce College has also helped revitalize his church's neighborhood and build affordable housing for the surrounding community.

A prominent voice in social issues, the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III, was named as an influential black spiritual leader for his outspoken criticism of New York civil institutions. He is currently president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York.

Also listed is best-selling author Iyanla Vanzant, who has empowered African American women as an inspirational speaker and television personality; the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of the 15,000-member Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston and a spiritual advisor to President George W. Bush; and Bishop Charles Blake, pastor of the 26,000-member West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles.

The report went further to name leaders from other faith groups such as Imam Siraj Wahhaj, an eminent Muslim spiritual leader, along with controversial leaders, including Bishop Carlton Pearson who was highly prominent for his charismatic teaching but controversial for his belief that all will go to heaven regardless of their behavior on earth, or what he called the "Gospel of Inclusion."

Another controversial leader with wide influence is Dr. Creflo Dollar, who is best known for preaching the "prosperity gospel." The televangelist and pastor founded Christian World Changers Ministries in College Park, Ga., a media empire that includes a 25,000-member megachurch.

The report comes as the nation celebrates the 81st African American History Month. And captured within this month was the achievement of Coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts who became the first black head coach to win the Super Bowl. He was joined by Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears, who also made history as the first black coach to make it to the big game. President George Bush called it "an historic moment" for many Americans.

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