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Church doesn’t fully understand black colleges’ mission,
leaders say


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Trudie K. Reed
Oct. 4, 2005


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, Fla.

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.

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A UMNS photo by Linda Green

Cynthia 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.
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 this church.”

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 announcement.

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 newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

The Black College Fund

Black United Methodist Colleges and Universities

Board of Higher Education and Ministry

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Dillard University