Making HBCU Connections
Chi Alpha is taking steps to reach campuses of historically black colleges and universities.There are 101 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. Chi Alpha Campus Ministries U.S.A., the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions ministry at secular colleges and universities, has an active presence on only one of those campuses. While Chi Alpha’s mission is to “reconcile students to Christ, equipping them through Spirit-filled communities of prayer, worship, fellowship, discipleship, and mission to transform the university, the marketplace, and the world,” it has been a challenge to make inroads at HBCUs.
“It is a common misconception that only African-American leaders can reach HBCUs,” says Morgan. A. Fulton, 27, a U.S. missionary associate who is leading Chi Alpha’s HBCU work team. Fulton and her husband, Isaac, are campus ministers at Tulane University in New Orleans. “Of course, African-American leaders are ideal, but any Chi Alpha minister can reach out to any campus.”
In 2010, Chi Alpha created a diversity task force to bring racial diversity to the forefront of its efforts on college campuses. The HBCU initiative, which began about four years ago, came from Chi Alpha’s vision for diversity.
Historically black colleges and universities are educational institutions established before 1964 with the purpose of educating African-Americans. These institutions sprang up in response to legal segregation and helped blacks improve their quality of life during a time of limited higher education options. While desegregation has caused enrollment to wane, HBCUs still are significant, in part because of attracting increasing numbers of students from other races.
Fulton is working to make HBCUs a priority within Chi Alpha. There are ministries set to launch at Texas Southern and Winston-Salem State universities. The ministry at Xavier University of Louisiana, currently in leadership transition, has joined with Chi Alpha at Tulane. The Chi Alpha at Virginia Union University in Richmond is currently the only active one at an HBCU.
Fulton hopes that more campus ministers from existing groups will start inviting HBCU students to participate in their activities and eventually launch satellite campuses at HBCUs. She also would like to see more African-American missionaries answer the call to minister at HBCUs.
“Good things can come out of people being willing, open, and obedient,” she says.
Marcus A. Floyd, 25, is an African-American who has answered the call to be a U.S. missionary associate with Chi Alpha. Floyd, a 2016 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, leads the Chi Alpha chapter at Virginia Union University.
“The gospel is for everyone,” Floyd says. He believes that HBCUs are strategic to achieving the Great Commission.
Floyd, who had no previous church background, became a Christian through Chi Alpha while attending VCU and felt called to become a leader. Chi Alpha’s diversity task force and the Minority Mobilization Fund have helped equip Floyd.
Virginia Union University came into being in November 1865, a little more than six months after U.S. troops liberated Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. The school became a haven for newly freed black slaves seeking skills to improve their lives.
“African-Americans have been on the receiving end of so much injustice,” Floyd says. “I want students to be affirmed that their blackness is made in the image of God.”
Floyd hopes that through Chi Alpha, African-American students will become ambassadors for Christ who will play a crucial role in racial reconciliation.
“Kingdom diversity is being able to build bridges where none existed,” Floyd says.
For Morgan Fulton, part of that bridge-building process is getting Chi Alpha, a department of U.S. Missions, to partner not only with HBCUs but also black churches. Many students at HBCUs attend African- American churches and want to maintain that connection.