Oral Roberts University officially became the exclusive educational strategic partner of America's largest Hispanic Christian organization on Wednesday.
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which represents about 16 million Hispanic Christians in America, endorsed ORU as the school of choice for the "Hispanic, spirit-filled" community.
NHCLC president the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez explained that the Tulsa, Okla.-based university has historically stood as the flagship higher education institution for the "spirit-filled, charismatic Christian" movement.
And America's fastest growing religious and ethno-cultural demographic is the Hispanic evangelical community, particularly from the charismatic tradition. Therefore, he said, it makes sense that the two organizations partner together.
Rodriguez is an ordained pastor of the Assemblies of God denomination.
"What we are about here is a culture of faith," said ORU president Dr. Mark Rutland during a press conference Wednesday. "What we are about is a culture of Christ-centered, spirit-filled [people]. What we are about here is a multi-ethnic environment where a culture of faith is encouraged across ethnic lines."
The relationship between ORU and NHCLC began when the university reached out to Rodriquez for help in recruiting Hispanic students for an ORU-hosted conference that took place earlier this year. From that initial contact, Rodriguez then invited ORU to be the educational strategic partner of the NHCLC.
"The future of American Christianity is primarily multi-ethnic, Hispanic, evangelical, prophetic, and primarily spirit-filled," Rodriguez said Wednesday. "ORU stands poised to empower this community today."
Currently, plans are underway to establish the Jesse Miranda Center, NHCLC's research and development think tank, at Oral Roberts University. Initially, the center will serve to recruit Hispanic Christians to attend ORU. It will eventually evolve into a national research and development center that will address the issues of the Hispanic American faith community and allow for better understanding of what the American religious landscape will look like in the future.
Oral Roberts University currently has about a 22 percent minority enrollment. The figure for Hispanic students at the school was not immediately available. The school's goal is to increase the Hispanic student enrollment to 25 percent over the next few years.
NHCLC is made up of 25,434 member churches and represents about 16 million Hispanic Christians. It seeks to serve as the voice of Hispanic evangelicals in the United States.
In recent years, NHCLC and Rodriguez have increasingly become more influential with the growth of the Hispanic evangelical community in America. Rodriguez has emerged as a much sought after religious leader by Washington lawmakers, especially during Congressional debates on immigration reform.
Last year, the NHCLC president helped arrange a meeting between then Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Hispanic Christian leaders during the campaign season.