By Bob Allen
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas celebrated with a historically black Baptist college that recently dedicated a new building just months after emerging from cash-flow straits.
Ray Higgins, coordinator of the statewide network of churches that support the Decatur, Ga.,-based CBF, called the March 10 grand opening of the First Security Community Union at Arkansas Baptist College “the latest example of President Fitz Hill’s impressive leadership and unique vision for the college as a national model” for historically black colleges and universities.
Hill, a former Division 1-A college football coach at San Jose State University and author of Crackback: How College Football Blindsides the Hopes of Black Coaches, took over as president of a struggling Arkansas Baptist College in February 2006.
One of his early decisions was to purchase and renovate a condemned 1890s Queen Anne cottage at the corner of 15th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. near the campus located eight blocks from the Arkansas State Capitol. It was a tangible sign that Hill’s plan was not only to rebuild a college but also the surrounding community.
After renovation the old house became the home office for CBF Arkansas. Higgins called the move symbolic of “a creative partnership” between a Baptist institution of higher education and a network of churches, individuals and faith-based and community organizations interested in Christian social ministry.
“During this seven-year partnership, we have worked together to recruit and nurture church, denominational, organizational and individual partnerships to engage with the college in community development, education, literacy and serving the underserved,” Higgins said.
The CBF Arkansas website outlines a multi-faceted partnership that includes:
• Supporting the vision of the college to provide a college education to the underserved.
• Connecting Arkansas Baptist College and CBF partner churches in Arkansas.
• Renovating homes purchased by the college for use by the college.
• Working together to revitalize the American Baptist College neighborhood.
• Working together to renovate facilities for American Baptist College’s use.
• Working together in Arkansas for literacy.
• Working together in Arkansas for prison ministry and reform.
• Creating a New Baptist Covenant movement in Arkansas.
• Modeling healthy race relationships.