|Church doesn’t fully understand black colleges’ mission,|
Oct. 4, 2005
Trudie K. Reed
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Black colleges have often been misunderstood
as recipients of mission, when in fact they provide ministry and mission
to the United Methodist Church and to society, according to presidents
of some of the denomination’s schools.
The presidents of the historically black United Methodist colleges
focused their Sept. 27 meeting on the lack of understanding across the
church regarding their schools.
“There are many people who do not understand the mission of the church’s
historically black colleges and universities, which is to provide an
affordable, education to deserving African-American students,” said
Trudie K. Reed, president of Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach,
Reed is also president of the Council of Presidents, the organization of
presidents and former presidents of the church’s 11 historically black
colleges. More than 15,000 students attend the schools.
The presidents pondered why the support that black colleges receive is
perceived differently from that given by the denomination to its other
colleges and universities.
“It is not us asking the church to do something for us,” said Elias
Blake, former president of Clark College, the predecessor of Clark
Atlanta University. “The argument is whether the church is serious about
finishing the mission it assigned to us.”
“We are not only the recipients of mission, but our students go out to
become the best citizens and engage in service learning, and many are
called into ministry,” Reed said. “We have a direct relationship to the
mission and ministry of the United Methodist Church.
“We have seen a need to interpret our stories so that people know the value and benefit of black colleges,” Reed said.
For more than 100 years, the United Methodist Church and its predecessor
denominations have been involved in educating African Americans. The
denomination created academic institutions in the South to educate freed
slaves after the end of the Civil War. The church created the Black
College Fund in 1972 as a way to include black colleges in the regular
support system of receiving apportionments instead of making them
recipients of special appeals or offerings.
The fund helps support the programs and mission of the black colleges.
Each summer, student interns fan out across the United States, visiting
annual conferences and churches to promote the fund and their schools
and to thank United Methodists for paying their apportionments.
Black colleges still carry half the burden for the racial equality
mission of the church, Blake said. “It is not a discretionary mission
that we chose. This church assigned its racial mission to these
institutions at the end of slavery, and these institutions carried that
mission alone for 100 years. Only in the last 30 years have the rest of
the United Methodist colleges shared in completing that mission within
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
Hopson (left), a new staff executive at the Board of Higher Education
and Ministry, talks with former college presidents Elias Blake and
Gloria R. Scott.
The presidents discussed where the United Methodist Church would be in
terms of that mission were it not for the black colleges and the
leadership of its graduates.
“These institutions redefined the racial equality mission of this church
and set a strategy for binding up the wounds from the institutionalized
division within the church,” Blake said. “Those wounds are in the
process of healing, and these institutions have that burden still
assigned to them.”
During the Council of Presidents meeting, the leaders were also made
aware that the Double Your Dollars for Scholars, the church’s matching
program providing $1,000 scholarships, will provide 315 scholarships for
a total of $630,000 for the 2006-2007 academic year. The United
Methodist Higher Education Foundation administers the program.
The program will be expanded to a Triple Your Dollars concept, according
to Thomas S. Yow, president of the foundation. Students might be
eligible for an additional $1,000 match, bringing the total possible
award to $3,000, he noted.
Information, guidelines and applications will be available online at the
foundation’s Web site, www.umhef.org, beginning in November.
Applications will only be accepted with postmark dates of either Feb. 15
or 16, and all recipients will be selected from eligible applications
received with those two postmark dates, according to a foundation
The presidents also:
- Heard a proposal from Abingdon Press, an
imprint of the United Methodist Publishing House, for the creation of a
resource on the importance of the black college experience.
- Paid tribute to the Rev. Joreatha
Capers, who left the position of director of the Black College Fund and
Ethnic Concerns in June, to return to local church ministry as a pastor.
- Greeted Cynthia Hopson, the new assistant general secretary of the Black College Fund and Ethnic Concerns.
- Said farewell to Ken Yamada, a staff
executive at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and
Ministry, who will retire Oct. 7 after 28 years. Yamada will continue
his service as special assistant to the general secretary for global
education and new initiatives.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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