Church and Society Partners with HBCUs
At the Leadership in Transformation conference, Church and Society partners with HBCUs on the struggle for justice.
Church and Society recently co-sponsored the LIT Conference (Leading in Transformation) organized by Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century (SBC21) in Atlanta, GA and facilitated a conversation with college students and chaplains at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Rev. Kevin Kosh, an elder in the Mississippi Conference and director of the Wesley Foundation for Jackson State University, on the importance of nurturing young adult leadership for church and society.
What Social Principles and justice priorities are imperative today?
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” - Matthew 5:14 The issues we face today are multifaceted and I believe we can glean insight from God’s word and all the social principles. With alternative facts and hate rhetoric the way they are, the education system in the state it’s in, mental health concerns and identity crisis on the incline, and climate change and the misuse of natural resources that kill our planet, I believe it is imperative for us to actively live out the Social Principles to help be the light of Christ in a dark and trying times. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose hope.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That profound statement by Dr. King encompass much of the challenges African American young adults face. Criminal justice reform and food security are two issues my students and I are passionate about. Racism, sexism, classism and endemic poverty are underlining social evils which we must acknowledge and always be willing to confront. I also believe identity crisis, self-care, stigmas around mental health, lack of a broad community and network of safe spaces to be challenged and nurtured are large issues which permeate the pew, personal lives, and college campuses of young adults.
When agencies such as Church and Society partner with HBCUs the church becomes more attractive, relevant, and inviting to the next generation of faith based leaders.
The Center for Civil and Human Rights illustrates the power of story telling. It taught me that freedom is a constant struggle and we must never loss hope and that change happens through everyday people like you and I. “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free” - Fannie Lou Hammer. It was powerful! It showed the students and I that we play a part in a much larger narrative. Injustice didn’t start and end with me. Though I have the unapologetic responsibility to be an advocate for myself and my community as a Christian I am also charged with speaking truth to power and being a voice for those on the margins of society. Church and Society not only informs us on issues outside of our context, it shows us how they all are intertwined and how we can get involved on a personal, national, or global level.
Why HBCUs? How do they make a difference in church and society?
“The Place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” - Frederick Buechner. I’m passionately called to be and cultivate transformational leaders. Teaching biblical truths, honoring religious and cultural heritage, while creating safe spaces for authentic worship, spiritual formation and social engagement to take place is my calling. Connecting church, college, and community through extension ministry is the platform which allows me to create disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Campus ministry was pivotal in my spiritual formation as a young adult. It was my United Methodist Black College Fund School Rust College and my United Methodist Seminary, Gammon Theological Seminary apart of the Interdenominational Theological Center which strengthened my discipleship and deepened my understanding of Methodism. It was those settings which taught me faith in Christ is not apathetic towards injustice and the social ills of the world. In order to proclaim the Gospel or “good news” of Jesus Christ it most be practical, theologically sound and in context. I will never be able to pay the church or my HBCU back for the opportunities they afforded me. Thus, serving them with my time, talents, and resources is how I pay it forward.
“Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures” - Cesar Chavez. HBCUs provide a social reminder of what restorative justice can look like. When faith, perseverance, public policy, and economics come together true reconciliation, innovation and spiritual restoration can take place. Historically Black Colleges and Universities where conceived by a nations morals and ideals being at odds with its unjust and ungodly practices. Most often then not these institutions were birthed out of faith communities and later supported with funding and resources brought on by public policy. They met a social need and produced some of the worlds finest minds and today they still hold true to that legacy. Did you know that the United Methodist Church currently has 11 UMC related Black College Fund Schools and one seminary? Why are HBCUS still relevant? They provide first rate education, offer a diverse and supportive atmosphere, empower students, and are a great source of accomplishment and pride. Despite our gloomy past and current struggles, HBCUS serve as a hopeful reminder of what can happen when we all pull together. They continue to challenge us to meet the need of creating safe spaces for critical thought, healing, innovation, and justice to take place.
Conferences such as the LIT (Leading In Transformation) Conference and conversations with Church and Society at the Center for Civil and Human rights expose young people to ways they can put their faith in action. It invites us to explore our calling and it inspires us to be the change we wish to see in the world. We can take for granted that though we are a connectional church many communities are still under represented or just unaware of the opportunities the church has to offer.