New Birth’s Jamal Bryant says church plans to build housing, medical clinic

Credit: Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin

Credit: Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin Paras Griffin

New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest plans to develop a big chunk of its massive acreage to develop affordable housing and assistant living for senior citizens and a family medical facility.

Preliminary plans were briefly announced on Sunday during remarks by Pastor Jamal H. Bryant before an appearance by hip-hop artist Kanye West, who brought his "Sunday Service" popup worship performance to the DeKalb County megachurch.

RelatedKanye West holds "Sunday Service" popup worship at New Birth

Bryant said in an interview Tuesday that the church will also launch a new capital campaign, a standard fundraising tool for churches to grow and reduce debt. The campaign begins at the end of the month.

When former pastor Bishop Eddie L. Long died in 2017, the church was carrying more than $30 million in debt, according to an previous article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That debt is now about $29 million, said Bryant and a church spokesman.

Bryant said he told the board before coming on board that there needed to be a strategic economic plan to reduce debt and support the ministries. It couldn't be done by simply passing the collection plate, he said.

He said the church wanted to look “more appealing to other financial institutions” and wanted to shop the existing debt to other lenders with more favorable terms.

New Birth, he said, was going to “start the journey towards becoming debt free.”

Bryant’s “pet project” also includes adding solar panels to the church, which would lower its carbon footprint but also reduce energy costs.

Experts say New Birth sits near the granite hills of Arabia Mountain, where development is sparse because builders must blast through rock to install sewers.

New Birth owns at least 250 acres in DeKalb County, of which about 180 acres are “buildable.”

Bryant said the church did not plan to “sell one acre of our land,” and was in talks with potential development partners.

Anthea Butler, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, however, is skeptical.

While such plans may generate excitement, “he has to have big donors and he probably doesn’t have them right now.”

She questioned how New Birth would be able to develop those projects when the church is already carrying big debt.

“Who will lend you money to make more debt?,” she said. “Are the properties lien free? If he’s not selling one acre, I want to know how he is going to be building. You can’t make bricks without straw.”