Gradual Diversity Progress
MINNEAPOLIS — In his early days as an Assemblies of God church planter, Scott A. Hagan placed a priority on welcoming different ethnicities. He always wanted the congregations he’s pastored to be representative of heaven. He’s followed the same approach since becoming president of North Central University in 2017.
Ironically, as the most urban Assemblies of God university, the 93-year-old school until recent years also ranked as one of the least ethnically diverse. Nowadays, however, the student population more closely resembles the demographics of Minneapolis, which, according to the 2020 U.S. Census, is nearly two-thirds white. First-year students at North Central are 31% nonwhite, an all-time high.
Attracting African American teachers and staff has been slower going. Several Black professors and administrators have been hired under Hagan’s watch, including LaToya J. Burrell, dean of graduate education and accreditation, and Darnell Keith Williams Sr., associate professor in the College of Church Leadership. Williams, who started teaching this school year, is also on the 21-member AG national executive presbytery and has been a leader in facilitating more people of color to gain a pathway to ministerial leadership.
Joshua A. Edmon has been North Central vice president of spiritual life and dean of multicultural engagement since 2020. Originally from Joliet, Illinois, Edmon is the son of a Church of God in Christ (the nation’s largest Black Pentecostal denomination) pastor. He has been on staff at a pair of Chicago-area AG congregations, Oak Brook Community Church and Chicago Embassy Church. Edmon met Hagan at an AG National Black Fellowship.
“Once I heard Scott Hagan’s heart regarding reconciliation, it resonated with me,” says Edmon, 40. “He has played a significant part in me thriving here.”
One of Edmons’ goals is to ensure that students grow in their faith. Post-pandemic, that is more of a challenge, even though North Central continues to hold chapel services every weekday, as has been the case since the school opened in 1930.
“We want students to speak to culture from a Holy Spirit-empowered perspective,” says Edmon, who holds a pair of master’s degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, one in urban ministry, the other in theological studies. “We want students to extend grace to people, but also be truth tellers and leave here with vocational clarity.”
Hagan, 60, concedes that constructing intentional biblical diversity is complex these days because of the politicization and outside unbiblical forces at work.
“It takes discernment and a steadfast commitment not to waiver from the Bible as we build a university that looks — and lives — like heaven,” says Hagan, whose office bookshelves are lined with titles about racial struggle.
“We believe every person is created in the image of God,” Edmon says. “As image bearers, God has given us a uniqueness that reflects His love for diversity. When we celebrate diversity, we in turn praise our God, who created us in His image.”
PHOTO: Joshua Edmon is North Central vice president of spiritual life and dean of multicultural engagement.