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President Fowler speaks to “Church Focused” during Convocation

President Fowler speaks to the C-N community during Fall Convocation 2022.

Carson-Newman University held its Fall Convocation on Aug. 23 in Holt Fieldhouse. The annual ceremony celebrated the senior class and served as a faith-filled marker for the start of the academic year.

In his address to the C-N community, University President Charles A. Fowler focused on Carson-Newman’s founding, foundation, family and the University’s focus.

“(The reason we are called to a faithful Church Focus) is undoubtedly because of our founding as a Christian institution in 1851,” Fowler said. “It is built upon our Foundation that holds to the centrality of Christ as Lord and Sustainer of Creation and Redeemer of the World. It acknowledges that we are not in this alone because we are part of a Family who shares a common faith rooted in Christ and united in service through Christ and His Church.”

Fowler noted that it was the leadership of Baptists who conceived the idea of the institution, and it was Baptist churches that provided the school’s initial home and essential resources. Fowler then made another observation.

“Mossy Creek Missionary Baptist Seminary (Carson-Newman University) was established to serve both Church and Society,” Fowler said. “Our purpose was ‘to promote education in general, and among the ministry in particular.’ … Mossy Creek Missionary Baptist Seminary served Church and society.”

It is this ongoing relationship between the University and the Church that continues to serve The Kingdom today.  

“Our family of churches consists of the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention,” Fowler said. “We became affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention in 1919. Since then, the Tennessee Baptist Convention has invested over $110 million into Carson-Newman University. The churches of the TBC are our most generous and faithful donors.”

Fowler explained how the TBC’s support extends beyond financial investment, but how its churches also provide many C-N students. “When you consider the TBC’s generous contributions, faithful leadership, and continual supply of students, there is perhaps not a stronger constituent of the University than this association of churches,” he said.

The value and role of the Church are essential to Carson-Newman’s identity said Fowler. “We cannot view ourselves as faithfully Christian without affirming the essentialness of our relationship with the Church. Therefore, our educational pursuits, our teaching, our service, our intellectual exploration, our scholarship, and all of our work that is part of being Carson-Newman University must be accomplished within the context of a vibrant relationship with Christ and with His Church.”

Let me make this clear,” he continued. “The Church does not run the University any more than the University governs the Church. We have unique purposes. While we co-labor as Church and University, we do not govern each other. We have a symbiotic relationship that communicates and showcases that we are mutually beneficial and essential. Just as the Church continues to resource the University and has done so throughout our history, so the University continues to resource the Church….” Fowler noted that this manifests in training ministers, but also through general education of church members.

In closing, Fowler said that the University has much to be thankful for. “We give thanks for the Church’s role in the life of Carson-Newman University and for all the benefits the Lord has granted Carson-Newman through His church over the last 170 years,” he said. “We pray that our Church Focus will serve as a point of thanksgiving and a source of accountability and identity for Carson­Newman for our next 170 years.”

The President’s address on the University’s pursuit of being faithfully Church focused represents the third of “Five Pillars of Purpose” that he utilizes to outline priorities in his presidency. The “Five Pillars” are: missionally directed, confessionally defined, church focused, innovatively driven and culture impacting.

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