The churches of the Campbell-Stone movement contained from their earliest beginnings, enslaved and free men, who-full of fervor and zeal-began to establish colored churches. Soon state evangelists were at work building congregations in 10 states and by 1867, the first Colored Convention of Disciples had been organized.
In 1883 Preston Taylor was hired as national evangelist and was instrumental in organizing the National Christian Missionary Convention, held in Nashville in 1916. Throughout their history the Negro Disciples considered education of its leadership a priority. As early as 1882, Southern Christian Institute had been built and opened in Edwards, Mississippi. The Christian Women Board of Missions and many dedicated white Christians aided the Disciple Negro church to train leaders. Southern Christian Institute was joined by the Piedmont Christian Institute, Jarvis Christian College, Central Christian Institute, Lum and the Tennessee Christian Institute. The establishment of these institutions were early efforts at Christian education and training that are important components of Disciple history and heritage.
These efforts were not sufficient however. Though never without a voice, Black Disciples-especially Black pastors-quickly fell behind whites in education and training, the first recipient of a degree in Divinity did not appear until World War II. Concern and conversation about the state of Black ministry and the Black Christian Church was constant. But it wasn’t until 1966 that the Committee on Program and Structure of the National Christian Missionary Convention determined there was a crisis in Black Ministry. A symbol of that crisis was the loss of seven to eight ministers each year and the gain of only one Divinity school graduate each year. This group noted also that there were 25 emerging positions where Black Ministers could be employed. They spoke of the need to establish a national office to be a catalyst to influence policy, establish programs and produce new ministers. The disparity in educational attainment and the resulting conflicts on regional Commissions on the Ministry in granting standing and recognizing ordination highlights the need for oversight and care of pastors which continues to today. These concerns define and direct our efforts on behalf of the Church.
The first priority of the director of Black Ministries is the care and nurture of Black clergy. This care begins in high school or college when a declaration for Christian service is solicited or received through recruitment efforts. Seminarians are encouraged to attend various events and are introduced to mature pastors who can provide guidance and counsel. Our office is responsible for soliciting funds, receiving applications and administering scholarships, including the Star Supporter Fund which specifically supports those entering the ministry. Utilizing our Regional Ministers, we enter with pastors and congregations into the Search and Call process, striving to achieve matches that will endure. We are also available to act as mediators in those few situations when pastors and congregations have different perspectives. Another important function of the Office of Black Ministry the Annual Black Ministers Retreat. This retreat is our largest event.
The work of the Office of Black Ministry is a work begun more than 150 years ago. Black Disciples have been a part of the Church from its beginning, but have arrived at this day still striving for full-grown giving and taking participation in the life of the Disciples of Christ at all levels. The Office of Black Ministry represents and embodies the Churches’ intention to continue to press on until that goal is reached. We seek your prayers that all that we do be pleasing in His sight.