Higher education has been a priority of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from the earliest days of the movement. Alexander Campbell once said, “Colleges and churches go hand in hand in the progress of Christian civilization.” It is that idea and vision that has propelled Disciples across the generations to be committed to promoting education through the establishment of colleges, universities and theological institutions across the country. Disciples remain proud of this heritage and committed to keeping our institutions of higher education strong. One of the schools that is part of this legacy is Tougaloo College in Mississippi.
Having been founded in 1882 by the Home Missionary Society of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Southern Christian Institute of Edwards, MS, served black students during the Jim Crow era and trained several generations of African American educators, clergy and other leaders. In 1954, the Southern Christian Institute merged with Tougaloo College and continued its central mission of education, while also playing a critical role in advancing the cause of freedom justice during the Civil Rights Movement.
While Tougaloo was not an original signatory to the 1977 Covenant between the colleges and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Tougaloo has continued to appreciate its affiliation with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and has stated such in its mission statement over the years. Beginning in 2015, Rev. Dr. Alivin O. Jackson, retired Disciples clergy and member of the Tougaloo board of trustees, began facilitating conversations to try and strengthen the relationship between Tougaloo College and the Disciples. These conversations led to a formal meeting between Dr. Beverly Hogan, President of Tougaloo College, and Rev. Chris Dorsey, President of HELM, where both agreed to work toward Tougaloo achieving full affiliation with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
At a recent Tougaloo College Board of Trustees Meeting in October 2018, the Board voted to affirm its commitment to the current Covenant between Colleges and Universities and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and officially requested to join in full affiliation with the other fourteen affiliated colleges and universities of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In November, the HELM Board of Directors voted to approve Tougaloo’s request for full affiliation, and this was followed by an affirmative vote by the Presidents who make up the Disciples Council of Colleges and Universities. Finally, the Administrative Committee of the General Board voted to approve Tougaloo’s request. This brings the total number of Disciples colleges and universities to fifteen!
At a time when many private colleges and universities are giving up their affiliations with churches and religious organizations, it is rare that a school would seek to strengthen its relationship with the church. Furthermore, as the church celebrates the merger agreement that brought together the National Christian Missionary Convention with the International Convention of the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ), this is an opportunity for the Church to welcome another HBCU into a full affiliation with the Church. We give thanks for the deepening of the relationship between the Disciples and Tougaloo College as we continue to strive to make Campbell’s words a reality.