The most visible change in mission funding in recent years has been that of ministries in higher education. The shift from both national and regional agencies (read synods) to presbyteries and congregations has been nearly universal. One observer of a new thing happening among the presbyteries in North Carolina says, “You’ve just reinvented the old Synod of North Carolina!”
The five North Carolina presbyteries, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, New Hope, Salem, and Western North Carolina share a common history and a common theology for ministry in higher education. Campus Ministry has long been the passion of Presbyterians in North Carolina, a commitment that embraces both public and private institutions. In addition, the five presbyteries have covenants with nine Presbyterian related colleges and universities.
In 2004 we recognized a shared need and a singular opportunity as presbyteries. Representatives of the five presbyteries met over that year and came up with a design and made a common commitment. Our stated goal is to revive our historic leadership role by rethinking traditional patterns of doing campus ministry; by initiating new forms of ministry; and by a review of the covenants with our Presbyterian-related colleges and universities in North Carolina.
New ministries being developed include models of congregation-based ministry for and with the community colleges in North Carolina. The Community College Initiative has drawn enthusiastic support from ecumenical partners, the North Carolina community college system, and North Carolina Campus Compact, the leading agency advocating Service-Learning among all higher education institutions in North Carolina.
There also has been an emerging recognition that if we are to close the gap between expectations and the resources required to maintain and expand these vital ministries, and to strengthen the stake the Presbyterian Church has in higher education in North Carolina, we must undertake a significant effort to tell the story and to undergird our shared witness financially.
A board, named by the presbyteries and the various statewide constituencies, governs North Carolina Presbyterian Higher Education Ministries (NCP/HEM). Incorporated in 2005 as a non-profit organization, the board’s leadership has come from a cadre of former campus ministers as well as current higher education professionals, both lay and clergy. This board’s vision statement sets its sights on “Bringing together faith and knowledge in search of truth.”
The Professional Association of Campus Ministers (PACM) and the North Carolina Student Collegiate Council (NCSCC) have been organized to provide statewide leadership by these important Presbyterian constituencies: campus ministers, college/university chaplains, and students. Links to these bodies, to all campuses, and to the board membership may be found on the Web Site www.preshighered.org.
George Gunn is vice moderator of the board, North Carolina Presbyterian Higher Education Ministries, Inc. He headed the Office of Higher Education of the former P.C.U.S. (1973-76) following campus ministries at the University of Georgia and University of Arkansas.