By Randy C. Davis
TBMB President & Executive Director
Charles Fowler admits he was surprised when he was informed last fall that his name had been put forward as a nomination to be the next president of Carson-Newman University. When I heard the news, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
I’ve known Charles for years. He is a gracious leader possessing a long and strong identity with, and understanding of, Tennessee Baptists. He has outstanding academic credentials, a pastor’s heart and a theologian’s mind. The CNU presidential search committee did an outstanding job of cultivating excellent candidates for the position and diligently prayed over and vetted each candidate. Just as I wasn’t surprised by Dr. Fowler’s nomination, I wasn’t surprised at the news of his selection. He started his new role July 1.
Officially, 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. I believe there will be a strong and continued Great Commission partnership between CNU and Tennessee Baptist churches.
Personally, I am overjoyed that God has appointed my friend and a fellow Tennessee pastor to be the next president of that great university. Charles is a man of Christlike compassion and clear biblical conviction.
The work of the Carson-Newman’s presidential search team under the leadership of David Ogle and its board of trustees, under the direction of chairman Harry Brooks, is appreciated by Tennessee Baptists. I, along with TBC churches, had been praying for the search team since the beginning of their work. As a Tennessee Baptist, I am very thankful that this diverse and remarkable team of servant-leaders did their work with prayer and unity.
Charles’ unanimous election as CNU’s 23rd president is historic in many ways. He is the first Tennessee pastor elected to lead the university since at least the 1920s. He’s been serving the past several years as pastor of Germantown Baptist Church in Germantown, near Memphis. Prior to that, Charles served 15 years as a professor and in several administrative roles at Union University in Jackson. His Tennessee roots run deep.
Even though hindsight may cast the perception that Charles was an obvious choice, that perspective would diminish the spiritual diligence with which he and wife, Sandra, and the CNU board of trustees approached this momentous selection. I personally know how difficult it is to leave pastoral ministry. In my opinion, serving Christ as pastor of a local church will always be a crown jewel of this earthly calling. The Fowlers mentioned in the news announcement of his being named president that when he went to Germantown Baptist in 2010, that he’d be there for the duration of his ministry. He added, “I just invested my life in that church.”
In an interview with the Baptist and Reflector, Fowler noted that over several months of praying and discussions with the CNU presidential search committee, it seemed “that in every step we’ve taken together, I’ve seen how my life and gifting just fits hand in glove with some of the leadership opportunities that are here at Carson-Newman.”
I’m excited about Carson-Newman’s future. The university was originally founded in 1851 as Mossy Creek Missionary Baptist Seminary to prepare pastors and ministers of the gospel. It has a rich history of producing great church leaders. I look even to our own Tennessee Baptist Mission Board staff with quality CNU graduates such as Roc Collins, Steve Holt, William Burton and Joe Sorah who all came to us from pastoral ministry and are now serving churches across our state. I am confident that under the leadership of Dr. Charles Fowler, that legacy of raising up leaders to serve the local church will flourish.
Charles, it truly is a joy to be with you on this exciting new journey.