LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Rex Horne, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock the past 16 years, has accepted the presidency of Ouachita Baptist University. He will begin his duties May 1.
As the 15th president in OBU’s 120-year history, Horne follows Andy Westmoreland, who begins June 1 as president of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
Horne, a member of the board of trustees for the 1,500-student Baptist university, was elected unanimously during a special trustee meeting April 6 in Little Rock. William H. “Buddy” Sutton, OBU trustee chairman, presented Horne at a news conference following the meeting.
“This marks a milestone in the history of Ouachita to take Ouachita to a new level and a new era in these exciting times,” Sutton said.
Horne was the unanimous choice of the 18-member presidential search committee.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Becky, my wife, and me as we think about this next stage of service to the Lord and to Arkansas Baptists and to all of those who love and call Ouachita home,” Horne said. “We are delighted with this opportunity. We’re humbled by it and we’re honored by it.
“What I’m experiencing at this time is a call,” he continued. “It is not a choice I am making but a calling I am following. Just as the Lord directed us to Immanuel … the same Lord has a purpose for our lives and for the life of Ouachita…. We pledge to do our best. We desire to honor the Lord and help all who are involved in Ouachita, in whatever way our gifts would unable us, to prosper and to do well in the days ahead.
“I am overwhelmed that the search committee and the board would think that I’d be the person to lead Ouachita,” Horne said. “The university has a great history and a strong line of presidents, the last three I count as dear friends. I’m honored to follow their example of service and leadership, and I’m committed to making an impact, not just in the future but right away.
“I’ve followed Ouachita’s growing academic reputation through the years as a student, as the parent of a student and as a board member,” Horne added. “The faculty’s commitment to the students is one of the institution’s greatest strengths. We have well-qualified scholars who share a devotion to a Christ-centered learning community.”
Before becoming pastor at Immanuel, Horne served as a pastor in Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma. He was president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention from 1995-97.
He said the decision to leave Immanuel for the new challenge at OBU required much prayer.
“I came to believe it was the will of God for my life and my ministry,” Horne said. “I have served what I consider to be finest church in the country, but we have absolute confidence that God has just the right person to lead Immanuel to the next level.”
Horne sent a letter to members April 4 informing them he was under consideration for the post at OBU, which is located in Arkadelphia. “I cannot express how agonizing this process has been. I love Immanuel with all my heart and today am just asking for your prayers and God’s will to be accomplished.”
He has led Immanuel, one of the Arkansas convention’s largest churches with a membership of more than 4,500, since 1990. In 2003, he led the church in its move from downtown Little Rock to a $40 million building in a highly visible location in west Little Rock just off Interstate 430.
Ken Shaddox, chairman of the committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Searcy, commented, “It’s a great day for Ouachita. Dr. Horne is a man of integrity and a great communicator. He has a stature that makes people want to listen when he speaks. His role as a leader has extended throughout Arkansas and the region.”
Shaddox said Horne rose to the top of the candidate list based on his “integrity, vision and extraordinary communication skills.”
Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas convention, welcomed the news. “Dr. Horne is a proven leader who is widely respected across the Southern Baptist Convention. He’ll be an asset to the school and serve all Baptist churches well in that position.”
“Ouachita has embarked upon a new and aggressive effort in its role as an institution devoted to educational excellence in a spiritual environment,” Sutton said. “Rex Horne enjoys respect for his wise and pure approach to all that he has undertaken, and we are confident that God will lead him to great success at Ouachita.”
At a March 9 meeting, OBU trustees urged the administration to explore the feasibility of launching a graduate program in theology.
Charles Wright, retired vice president for academic affairs and dean of fine arts, served as vice chairman of the search committee.
“I can think of no one who would bring to this presidency a greater commitment to Christian higher education, or one more capable of providing the strong and positive leadership necessary to unite the talents of Ouachita’s faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends,” Wright said.
A native of Bastrop, La., who was raised in Camden, Ark., Horne has many memories of OBU from his childhood. “Our church had a part-time minister of music from Ouachita. We spent time on campus, too. Dad and I would go to Tiger football and basketball games. My parents always had great respect for Ouachita.”
Horne completed his freshman year at OBU, but finished his bachelor’s degree at Arkansas College (now Lyon College) in Batesville. His first church staff position was at First Baptist Church in Batesville.
Horne earned a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and a doctor of ministry degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Horne has served on the Arkansas convention’s executive board and as chairman of the 1994 Southern Baptist Convention Tellers Committee.
He has been a weekly columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for 10 years and is the author of three books: “Potluck Dinners and Other People Parables,” “Our Conversations” and “Insights from Kingdom Builders.” He also has been host of “Conversations,” a live talk show, broadcast weekly in Little Rock.
Horne and his wife, Becky, have four grown children.
Charlie Warren is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News, online at www.arkansasbaptist.org.