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Carson-Newman elects Charles Fowler as president

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. (BP) — Tennessee Baptist pastor Charles A. Fowler has been elected as the 23rd president of Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.

Fowler, the unanimous choice of both the C-N presidential search committee and of the board of trustees on June 7, was introduced as president on June 10 during a news conference on the C-N campus. He succeeds Randall O’Brien who retired in 2018 after a decade as C-N president.

Fowler comes to Carson-Newman’s presidency from the Memphis-area Germantown Baptist Church, where he has served as senior pastor since 2010.

He previously served in a number of roles at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., for 15 years, including vice president for enrollment management, vice president for development and professor of Christian ministries and education.

He is a graduate of Union University, Mississippi State University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

The search committee received more than 75 nominations, with trustee chairman Harry Brooks, a member of Union Baptist Church in Knoxville, describing Fowler as “the person God intends to lead this university.”

Fowler “is one of those rare individuals whose life experiences are a perfect fit for our institution,” Brooks said. “His experiences in academic development and external relations will help propel Carson-Newman toward a bright future of growth and expanded programs of study.”

“Our search was deliberate, intentional and process-oriented,” said David Ogle, chair of the search committee and member of First Baptist Church in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

“Our search was bathed in prayer,” Ogle said. “Not a time did we gather that we didn’t go to the Lord in prayer to guide us in our search and to yield a nominee who would, in every way, be His nominee.”

Among the attributes the committee looked for were a devout and sincere belief in Christ demonstrated over a lifetime, integrity and strength of character, leadership and listening skills, someone who was a proven fundraiser and someone who could help improve relationships with churches and pastors in East Tennessee and across the state.

“The opportunity to serve as president of Carson-Newman University is incredibly humbling and exciting,” said Fowler, who will assume the presidency July 1.

“I look forward to locking arms with Carson-Newman’s trustees, faculty, staff, students and alumni as well as the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention,” he said. “We look forward to working together to graduate servant-leaders who are equipped to be difference-makers for the cause of Christ.”

During the press conference, Fowler reflected on the history of the school, which was established in 1851 to “prepare preachers and missionaries.”

“God has been at work here for a long time and I look forward to how He’s going to work here in the future,” the new president said.

Tennessee Baptists voiced appreciation for, and support of, the decision of C-N trustees to elect Fowler.

“Tennessee Baptist Convention churches have been praying for the search team at Carson-Newman since the beginning of their work,” said Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. “As a Tennessee Baptist, I am very thankful that this diverse and remarkable team of servant-leaders has reached a place of God-birthed unity and a God-ordained recommendation. Dr. Charles Fowler will be an outstanding Carson-Newman president.”

Davis described Fowler as “a gracious leader who has a strong identity with, and understanding of, Tennessee Baptists,” citing his track record as a key leader at Union, his academic credentials and his “pastor’s heart and theologian’s mind.”

Davis predicted that under Fowler’s “leadership and in continued Great Commission partnership between Carson-Newman and Tennessee Baptist churches, I believe the days ahead will be filled with new and unprecedented unity, record enrollment and Kingdom advancement at East Tennessee’s flagship Christian university.”

David Green, president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Greeneville, agreed. “I truly believe that Dr. Fowler is God’s man for the next chapter at Carson-Newman,” he said. “He has a proven track record as a leader in Tennessee Baptist and Southern Baptist life…. His love for Christ, the Word of God, the local church, pastors and his high academic standards with a biblical world view are a few of the characteristics that make Dr. Fowler the right choice for Carson-Newman University.”

Fowler told the Baptist and Reflector that he looks forward to and is committed to working with Tennessee Baptists.

“Tennessee Baptists have invested more money into Carson-Newman than anyone else over the years,” he reflected. “Tennessee Baptists are our core constituency. We want to be good stewards of what they have invested in this university by providing students a Christ-centered education and to grow the Kingdom of God.”

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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