Bishop Oversees Purchase of Entertainment Arena for His Church

December 30, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On December 30, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported the formal announcement by Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer that the Faithful Central Baptist Church in Inglewood "had signed a $22.5-million deal to buy" the 17,500-seat Great Western Forum. The sale "marks the first time a U.S. church has bought such a large sports and entertainment venue." Since the popular Ulmer "arrived at Faithful Central on Florence Avenue in 1982, the congregation has grown to more than 8,000. That has made it one of the largest in Southern California, but it also forced it to hold three separate Sunday services." Ulmer's middle-class African American congregation raised $1 million in 60 days for the purchase. At the formal announcement of the sale, "Ulmer described his vision of finally creating a Sunday gathering place for the entire congregation and leasing out the building to build economic power for the church." He "will use the Forum for Sunday morning services on a regular basis....The Forum will be used on other days of the week by the new ABA basketball team, the Los Angeles Stars, and the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks. Other events scheduled at the Forum include Disney on Ice, Sesame Street, and concerts by Elton John, Billy Joel and Cher. A conference center, hotel and shopping complex are planned for the grounds....Sunday worship will use a modest collapsible set that can be built up and broken down with ease." Believing "that church should go beyond stained glass windows and delve into economic empowerment for the community," Ulmer "expects that the creation of the hotel and conference center at the Forum will provide hundreds of jobs, building what he calls bridges between faith-based groups and corporations." Some attribute Ulmer's popularity to "an uncommon ability to explain the Bible in everyday language." Church member Ronya Brown said, "Not only is he a preacher, he's a teacher, too. He can relate to just about anybody."