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Championing the Call: Carson-Newman remains true to founding vision, supporting those in ministry

Dr. Ryan Stokes lectures students on interpreting the Old Testament Book of Daniel. Stokes serves as C-N’s director of Graduate Theological Studies.

Governors, authors, educators, doctors, pro athletes and members of Congress have all called Carson-Newman University their alma mater over the last 171 years.

However, it was no accident that the third graduate to earn a degree on the banks of Mossy Creek was a minister. From C-N’s 1851 founding as Mossy Creek Missionary Baptist Seminary, the goal of producing prepared ministers to area congregations was made clear. Of course its purpose included promoting “education in general,” as stated in founding documents,” but an undeniable catalyst of the school’s beginning was contributing to the ministry.

It did and still does.

With October recognized as Pastor Appreciation Month, Carson-Newman’s appreciation for those in ministry extends far beyond 31 days.

“It’s a part of who we are,” said C-N President Charles A. Fowler, who felt led to reaffirm C-N’s historical commitment by including “Church Focused” as one of the University’s “Five Pillars of Purpose” – one of his first actions as president. “Carson-Newman was founded by the churches of East Tennessee. We have been supported by them, have worked in partnership with them, and have a complementary mission with them,” Fowler said. “We will only be as strong as our relationship with the church. Furthermore, we want those in church leadership to know we are grateful for them and that we fervently pray for them.”

Under Fowler’s leadership, the University is doubling down on supporting God’s “shepherds” as they tend to their congregational “flocks.”

Earlier this year, C-N renamed its “Religion Department” to “The School of Biblical and Theological Studies.” The move helped anchor both the identity and work of the school in the scriptures.  

It’s hard not to believe that even C-N’s Founders would have been surprised at the ripple effect of their vision – and its reach. The undulations are evident far beyond Mossy Creek banks.

This fall C-N expanded its degree options with the addition of a Master of Divinity degree (MDiv). The new offering has drawn local and international guest speakers alike, including Dr. Rob Blackaby, president of Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

“The MDiv program is preparing me for going into ministry because of the focus that the program has,” said Matthew Setsor, who earned his C-N undergraduate degree in 2020 and is now pursuing a calling into youth ministry. “Our classes are combining the knowledge of biblical truths in the inerrant word of God with practical knowledge of how to do church ministry every day in the culture that we live in.”

The University’s Master of Applied Theology (MAAT) offers seminars taught by theologians from such countries as Australia, South Africa and South Korea, while study abroad trips help offer context and enrichment.

Through such offerings, the University continues preparing pastors and those in ministry in the same spirit as its founding professors did generations ago.

“Carson-Newman prepared me for ministry by teaching me how to study the word of God,” said 1988 alumnus Marty Blakley, who serves as Lakeway Fellowship of Christian Athletes area director. “It exposed me to other ministry positions that I did not know existed such as the sports ministry that I am now involved in. As a communications major C-N taught me how to effectively communicate the message of Jesus Christ in various mediums.”

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