Considered renegades by their critics, freedom fighters by their followers, ousted NAACP leader Benjamin Chavis and an excommunicated Roman Catholic priest are joining forces in the cause of empowerment and greater solidarity among African-Americans.

Chavis and former priest George Stallings, now archbishop of the African-American Catholic Congregation, a group that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church five years ago, exchanged tributes Sunday at one of seven temples opened by Stallings.Another joint appearance to promote Chavis' call for a summit of black leaders was scheduled for Thursday.

Chavis, an ordained Protestant minister in the United Church of Christ, preached the main sermon and received a foot stamping, drum-beating ovation from more than 1,000 worshipers at the recently opened Capitol Hill Imani Temple.

Chavis also declared he would never forsake his controversial alliance with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The Chavis-brokered alliance with Farrakhan was one of the issues involved in his dismissal eight days ago as executive director of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People.

What black Americans need for solving their problems, Chavis said, is not new groups, but "a coming together of the organizations we already have. That's what the summit is about. . . . We have more national organizations" than ever, "yet the masses of people are less organized."

Stallings said "some people were disturbed" about his temple becoming a forum for Chavis "but he's a freedom fighter and I'm a freedom fighter and we have to stand together.

"The firing of Dr. Ben Chavis as executive director sounds an alarm that we as a people have failed to take ownership and control over our own destiny and . . . are still puppets of those who control the purse strings," Stallings said.