A gift of $10,000 to establish a scholarship for African Methodist Episcopal (AME) students in honor of Mother Emanuel AME Church was presented to Erskine Theological Seminary (ETS) July 7 by IBelieveSC.net, the organization that sponsors a South Carolina DMV license plate of the same name.
At a news conference in the rotunda of the Statehouse in Columbia, Hal Stevenson, a member of the multi-racial and multi-denominational IBelieveSC.net board, introduced representatives from AME churches, IBelieveSC.net, and Erskine Seminary.
Prior to the news conference July 7, proceeds from the sales of “IBelieve” specialty license plates had been designated for evangelism and ministry work, but no funds had been disbursed by the organization.
“Then came Emanuel,” Stevenson said, referring to the June 17 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, which took the lives of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight of his parishioners.
“The IBelieve board wanted to help train up new Clementa Pinckneys by helping talented and financially challenged ministerial students,” he said.
Dr. Christopher Wisdom, who serves as vice president and professor of practical theology at Erskine Seminary, noted that July 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the racial integration of Erskine Seminary, and the percentage of African American students enrolled has increased over the years.
“The largest group of black students by denomination are those from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and they number over one-fifth of our students,” he said.
“In response, this year Erskine has strengthened our relationship with the AME Church by hiring Dr. Lawrence Gordon, senior pastor of Greater Macedonia AME Church in Charleston, as adjunct professor of AME history, polity, and doctrine.”
Gordon, who was also present at the news conference, has played “a key pastoral role in ministering to the spiritual needs of the bereaved families of the nine murder victims of Emanuel AME Church,” Wisdom said.
Wisdom expressed appreciation to Stevenson and the IBelieveSC.net organization for donating the funds. “With this gift, Erskine Theological Seminary will initiate the establishment of a newly endowed scholarship for AME students, the ‘Emanuel AME Church Scholarship,’ in honor of the martyred minister and members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston,” he said.
The cause of racial reconciliation is advanced and the unity of the Christian community is demonstrated, Wisdom said, “by making known such acts of Christian generosity that cross racial and denominational lines in the interest of training future leaders of Christian churches.”
Wisdom thanked Dr. Oran Smith of PalmettoFamily.org for arranging the news conference.