ORANGEBURG—Hundreds of golfers from South Carolina and across the nation are preparing to converge on the Orangeburg Country Club Sept. 27 for the eighth annual Bishop L. Jonathan Holston Golf Invitational benefiting Africa University.
This year, the charity event—an initiative of South Carolina United Methodists—has a dual focus.
Golfers and friends will gather as usual for a day of friendly competition and fellowship. Their gathering will raise funds to support scholarships and other needs at United Methodist-related Africa University in Zimbabwe, southern Africa.
In addition to investing in Africa University, golfers will also use their time together this September to pay special tribute to a lifelong Methodist and dedicated fellow tournament participant. The Rev. John Wesley Hipp died Oct. 27 last year, barely one month after taking part in the 2020 tournament. He consistently supported the tournament from its launch in 2013 at the Cobblestone Golf Course in Blythewood.
In 2020, the tournament raised more than $35,000 to assist Africa University students and help South Carolina United Methodists meet their annual budget commitment. All 12 United Methodists districts invested and fielded teams in the tournament.
Wespath Institutional Investments, a unit of Wespath Benefits and Investments—the largest reporting faith-based pension fund in the United States—is the tournament’s lead sponsor for a third consecutive year.
“We are pleased to support Africa University’s vision to improve life, peace, and prosperity through higher education,” said Joe Halwax, Wespath Institutional Investments’ managing director, Institutional Investment Relationships. “Wespath too seeks to drive social change by empowering sustainability through investments on a global scale while stewarding our investors’ assets responsibly. Together with like-minded partners like Africa University, we can continue to elevate this work and ensure a better future for generations to come.”
Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter, the ranking Democrat in the South Carolina House of Representatives, serving District 66 in Orangeburg County since 1992, is a major sponsor of the tournament. Cobb-Hunter, a friend of Africa University, sees wide-ranging benefits to the local community.
“I have been a supporter of Africa University and Jim Salley (an Orangeburg native and chief advancement officer for Africa University) from the inception of the institution,” said Cobb-Hunter. “It is vital that persons in the Orangeburg community and the State of South Carolina have a world view and assist others less fortunate than we are. This golf tournament brings persons to the community that normally would not visit or pass through. It is a natural venue. The Orangeburg Country Club has the facilities and history for a national event like this. The economic impact to the City of Orangeburg and the county is also a tremendous help to the local community.”
A legacy of building bridges, strengthening relationships
The Rev. Mitch Houston of Bethany United Methodist Church, Summerville, was Hipp’s college roommate and lifelong friend.
“I speak for his family and friends in saying we miss his laughter and warm smile every day,” Houston said. “John loved the game of golf. We played many rounds and tournaments together. A great memory I have of the last time he and I played was at the Africa University tournament at Orangeburg Country Club. I am blessed that we will start a scholarship in his memory.”
Holston, the resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference and tournament patron, remembers Hipp’s gift for connecting with people.
“From the pulpit to the conference room to the golf course, John could find common ground from which to begin meaningful and humorous dialogue that furthered God’s kingdom here on earth,” Holston said. “John leaves a legacy that challenges each of us to continue the work of building bridges and strengthening relationships that reflect the goodness of God’s creation.”
Hipp’s pastoral ministry spanned four decades. It included 28 years as a chaplain in the South Carolina National Guard. Hipp retired a Lieutenant Colonel in 2008 and held ministerial appointments in Aiken, Wagner, Rock Hill, Saluda, Chapin, Conway and Charleston.
After 32 years in the pulpit, Hipp became superintendent of the Orangeburg District in 2010. Two years later, the bishop added responsibility for the Florence District. Hipp guided church life and growth and shepherded the pastors in these two districts eight years before retiring in 2018.
Mention of Hipp among those who knew him immediately triggers reminiscing about his humor, love for people, and of course, food.
“John Hipp knew all of the best eating establishments in Orangeburg and Florence,” said the Rev. Ken Nelson, superintendent of the Orangeburg District. “John cared about food because it was a way to nurture the soul and depths of human relationships.”
Nelson said the Orangeburg District is a place where authentic relationships and encounters happen around food and a table.
“Some may see it just as a meal, but I understand that work as ‘soul food,’” Nelson said. “It is often a starting point for tending to the soul! We learned that from John.”
Fellow superintendent the Rev. Timothy Rogers of the Marion District is looking forward to sharing stories in September with others who knew, loved and respected Hipp. He recalls the joy that Hipp brought to life.
“People followed John because they knew he cared deeply,” said Rogers.
Following a visit to the Africa University campus in February 2020, Rogers and Marion District-based pastor the Rev. J. Elbert Williams launched an effort to endow a scholarship. Now, organizers are earmarking a portion of the proceeds from the 2021 Bishop L. Jonathan Holston Golf Invitational for that effort.
“We are grateful for the help we are receiving from the Holston Golf Invitational as we establish the Marion District Scholarship Endowment for Africa University,” Rogers said. “The endowment is an opportunity to invest in new leaders for Africa and extend the reach of the love of Christ on the continent.”
About Africa University
Africa University—a pan-African higher education ministry of The United Methodist Church—will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2022. The university opened in 1992 with 40 students from six African countries. It now has an annual full-time enrolment of 2,400 students representing as many as 30 of Africa’s 55 nations. Degree programs as well as short courses are offered in three colleges: Health, Agriculture & Natural Sciences; Business, Peace, Leadership & Governance; and Social Sciences, Theology, Humanities and Education. More than 90 percent of Africa University’s 8,000 alumni have remained on the continent of Africa. Graduates are at work and in leadership roles in more than 32 African countries as well as in countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America. The university’s main campus is located near Mutare, in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe.
For more about Africa University, visit www.africau.edu and www.support-africauniversity.org.
To register for the tournament, learn about sponsorships and more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.support-africauniversity.org/2014/news-and-media/events_bljhgi_sc_2021_overview.