category: Campus News

President Fowler speaks to C-N being “confessionally defined” during University’s Fall Convocation

Carson-Newman President Charles A. Fowler addresses students, faculty and staff during the University’s Fall Convocation.


Carson-Newman President Charles A. Fowler addressed students, faculty and staff during the University’s Fall Convocation today. The annual ceremony celebrates the senior class and serves as a faith-filled marker to begin the academic year.

The school’s 23rd president spoke on the importance of the University being Confessionally Defined. “Confessions are both biblical and beneficial,” Fowler said. “Christians have historically been confessional people. We adopt and adhere to statements of faith we call “confessions” as a “witness to our beliefs” and a pledge to the “faithfulness of Scripture.”

Fowler explained that Confessional Statements are intended to exert a unifying influence on organizations that adopt them and provide a cohesive identity. Because people define “Christian” in many ways, it is necessary for Carson-Newman to articulate what it means when identifying as “a Christian university.” Otherwise, C-N would be a Christian university that is undefined and overly general in its description.

“Our constituents, students, parents, churches, and alumni would not know who we are and certainly could not define the nature of our work,” Fowler said. “So, the University benefits greatly from having a well-articulated Confessional Statement that anchors our Christian identity.”

He cited the 2017 decision by the Carson-Newman’s Board of Trustees to adopt the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as the University’s “Statement of Faith or Confessional Statement.” The move has helped provide clarity for the University’s leadership. 

“Our Board’s motion to adopt the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 was accompanied by an instruction to incorporate the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 into all operations of the University,” Fowler explained.

“Having a cohesive and thoughtful confessional identity is essential for Carson-Newman,” he said. “A confessional statement is not a rigid list of doctrinal positions that everyone in our community must hold as their personal convictions. To insist on everyone agreeing on everything resembles some kind of a religious sect more than an authentic confessional community.”

Fowler stressed that as important as a confessional statement is, it is not intended to be a statement that supersedes the authority of God’s Word. “As a Christian university, we openly acknowledge the truthfulness, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture.”

The president shared the University’s commitment to the intellectual discipleship of its students, and that “this involves inquiry into why we do what we do and upon what our work is grounded.”

“It is my prayer that our students graduate Carson-Newman loving Jesus more and trusting the Scriptures more,” Fowler said. “I pray that the power of our Christ-centered mission which is anchored in our Confession will provide meaningful examples to help shape the lives and service of students.”

The President’s address on the University’s commitment to being confessionally defined represents the second of “Five Pillars of Purpose” that he utilizes to outline priorities in his presidency. Starting last year, Fowler is addressing each of the “Five Pillars”: missionally directed, confessionally defined, church focused, innovatively driven and culture impacting.

Founded in 1851, Carson-Newman is a Christian liberal arts-based university affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The University is located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, among the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Carson-Newman offers 50 undergraduate majors, as well as associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

Click to watch President Fowler’s Convocaton address in full.

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