In a National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (NBC) meeting over the past summer, the convention talked about its ten new appointees to the American Baptist College board of trustees, citing a charter document which dates back to the founding of “American Baptist Theological Seminary”—now known as American Baptist College. During the convention, NBC developed plans to appoint members to the college’s board of trustees for suspect political and religious reasons—specifically its anti-LGBTQ agenda—even though it does not support the college financially.
It is important to note that American Baptist College already has a working board that oversees a thriving liberal arts college that has seen much growth under the direction of Forrest E. Harris Sr., who is also an associate professor and Director of the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on the African-American Church at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
It is also important to note that, until now, NBC has not had an issue with the trajectory of the college under the leadership of former president Rev. Julius Scruggs. In fact, Scruggs, who is an alum of American Baptist College, is also a major donor to the college.
However, NBC has experienced a tumultuous leadership change into hands that I describe as homophobic, sexist, and anti-community uplift. NBC’s new president, Rev. Jerry Young, has led a crusade against American Baptist College in the midst of one of its most healthiest times. He has led a crusade against the college for one reason: Rev. Randy Vaughn.
Rev. Randy Vaughn, a failed former presidential candidate of NBC, led a hate group of pastors called the “National Baptist Fellowship of Concerned Pastors” against President Harris because he invited Bishop Yvette Flunder, a woman who happens to be a lesbian, to be a guest speaker at the college. They said in a March 5th press release: “For a Baptist college president to invite a lesbian bishop legally married to a woman to be a guest speaker and worship leader on a Baptist college campus is irresponsible, scandalous, non-biblical and certainly displeasing to God.”
I have questions about their theology, which I unpack in my article at HBCU Buzz: “An Open Letter to Rev. Randy Vaughn About American Baptist College.” But more importantly, I am concerned that the pastors asked the president of a college which receives Title IX funding to discriminate against LGBTQ persons.
The new chapter of this fight against American Baptist College is that NBC will attempt to appoint new board members with the vision of changing the school to a discriminatory school against LGBTQ persons. Because of such, we need to call on the U.S. Department of Education to get involved in NBC’s chapter of war against a thriving HBCU.
NBC is a religious organization that has said nothing in a period of social unrest in support of discriminated individuals or groups. For example, They have not spoke with righteous indignation against police violence in a #BlackLivesMatter era.
According to Jennifer G. Hickey’s article, “Race Gap: Blacks Fall Further Behind Under Obama,” since Obama has been president, the African-American median income has fallen by 10.9 percent to $33,500, compared to only a 3.6 percent drop to $58,000 for Whites. NBC has said nothing about this disparity nor have they considered supporting the nationwide fast-food workers movement called “The Fight for $15.”
Lastly, NBC has never had a woman president. This speaks to why they have never spoken about women’s right issues like eliminating the wage gap between men and women.
NBC has a history of being absent on issues that African-American people are facing across the country. This is why seminary enrollment across the country is down and why many people are leaving African-American churches. In the case of American Baptist College, we are seeing another board governance issue because of anti-LGBTQ pastors.
Our HBCUs deserve better than this. They deserve alumni, friends, and partners giving money so that HBCUs are healthy. They do not deserve to be discriminated against by religious organizations that do not have the best interests of them or their students in mind.
Robert K. Hoggard, M.A. is a graduate of American Baptist College and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. He has written more than 100 articles on HBCUs at HBCU Buzz Inc. and is closely watching the life of HBCUs in a period of social unrest and injustice against African-American people.