The role of historically black colleges in church & society

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The Union of Black Episcopalians and the Office of Black Ministries have issued a joint statement on the “Rationale for Historically Black Colleges of Episcopal Church.”

A Perspective in The Episcopal Church Regarding its HBCUs: For over a century The Episcopal Church, along with the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Black Methodists [AME, CME, AMEZion], Presbyterian and Baptist [American, Southern and National] and Roman Catholic, has sponsored and nurtured (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Since integration (despite the current benefits noted above) there is a growing attitude that these institutions are no longer needed….that the historic racial, social and economic dynamics which necessitated them a century ago no longer exist. In addition to these assumptions, for many in The Episcopal Church there is a general assumption that the legitimacy of black Colleges affiliated with our Church is to educate black Episcopalians or, by conversion produce new Episcopalians. There has also been the expectation HBCUs would produce candidates for the priesthood. While it is true that many black church leaders have received education from our HBCUs, we believe it has not been the essential measure by which the support and mission of these institutions should be legitimized.

The True Value of HBCUs to The Episcopal Church’s Mission: We believe that the true value of Historically Black Episcopal Colleges is that they represent the longest and most effective mission of the Church to black youth and communities. Other than black congregations, there is no other long sustained and specific Episcopal Church ministry to the black community. This is particularly true when considering those communities in the most economically, socially and culturally challenged circumstance. The Episcopal Church often laments the continued effects of historic injustice on the black community, often forgetting that our Historically Black Colleges have been serving these communities and offering certain remedies of grace and uplift on behalf of our Church. These remedies of grace include:

  1. 1. Graduating significant majority of youth who are first generation college educated;
  2. 2. Providing a safe and nurturing environment to grow in identity, intellectual inquiry, personal

    confidence, and character (i.e. being exposed to healthy role models and the rich contributions

    of African American history, culture and other significant accomplishments);

  3. 3. Having a particular attraction to youth from rural and inner-urban communities;
  4. 4. Breaking the cycles of poverty and alienation from the larger society;
  5. 5. Producing professionals to serve both minority and majority communities in business, science, technology, education and other relevant disciplines.

All of this, and more, is done in the context of religious values, the liturgical and spiritual ethos of the Episcopal Church (including our values of ecumenism, diversity of thought and culture, and commitment to justice). Because we have not understood the value of our Colleges there has been minimal moral and economic support on the part of the Church and its members. This lack of appreciation and support has contributed to the demise of many of these precious resources of mission for our Church.

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