By Barney Blakeney
Nationally the African Methodist Episcopal Church has entered a partnership with some 19 Black owned banking institutions around the country to begin an innovative economic collaboration. In Charleston where Community Owned Federal Credit Union is the premier such entity, that process is in its infancy.
C.O. Federal Credit Union President and CEO Perrin Middleton last week said the credit union currently is partnered with only one local AME church, but discussions with others soon may begin. Ebenezer AME Church in downtown Charleston long has been among the more progressive and economically proactive church congregations. Middleton said the church is partnered with the credit union to finance both structural and ministry activities.
Middleton said he is encouraged that the South Carolina District AME convention is slated to be held later this month in North Charleston. That will provide an opportunity for Black banking institutions in the state to meet with individual church officials. C.O. Federal Credit Union and Brookland Federal Credit Union in West Columbia are the two premier Black owned banking institutions in the state.
In addition to Ebenezer AME Church, C.O. Federal Credit Union has been fully engaged in financial collaborations with Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, said Middleton who joined the credit union earlier this year. Part of his agenda is to invite all local church congregations to make the credit union their preferred financial institution serving the churches and individual members.
That task soon will be made easier as the credit union implements more up-to-date services such as online banking, credit card, mobile, business banking and automated services. Building a strong relationship with the AME Church in South Carolina will catapult the credit union toward fulfilling the mission for which it was established in 1968, Middleton said.
Robert Smalls, the credit union’s board chair, said the partnership with the AME Church represents an opportunity for church congregations as well as the credit union. Noting its established relationship with Royal Missionary Baptist Church, he said those opportunities are great. Flexible customized services can offer congregation members alternatives to predatory lenders, he noted. And those opportunities soon will be expanded when a proposed merger between the credit union and Charleston County Teachers Federal Credit Union established in 1956 comes to fruition next year.
Between the partnerships and merger, the future really looks good, Smalls said. He hopes to also incorporate financial literacy classes among the services provided.