By Mark Brown
Carson-Newman News Office
JEFFERSON CITY — Carson-Newman University trustees recently agreed to incorporate the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as part of Carson-Newman University’s operating procedure. The agreement ensures the partnership of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board as the university fulfills its mission to help “students reach their full potential as educated citizens and worldwide servant-leaders.”
“Bearing witness to our faithful embrace of Christianity’s cardinal doctrines, our institution’s articles of faith stand like an Everest on our university landscape. We have always enthusiastically testified to being intentionally, distinctively Christian, and we will continue to do so as we proclaim our historic Christian witness within the Baptist tradition,” said President J. Randall O’Brien.
Carson-Newman University’s relationship with Tennessee Baptists spans the history of the institution. The symbiotic relationship has transpired over more than 165 years, from the school’s direct connection to local churches, long before a state denomination existed, to the recent agreement.
The partnership has produced church leaders, including pastors, other ministers, missionaries and lay leaders who have made an impact across the state, as well as around the world. It’s also shaped occupational laity, professionals across the spectrum of education, business and other roles in society, whose lives have been molded by Carson-Newman’s Christ-centered commitment to faith and learning.
“Since our founding in 1851 as Mossy Creek Missionary Baptist Seminary, our beloved school of providence and prayer has been intentionally, unashamedly Christian,” O’Brien said. “Through the years our constituents have rallied around our commitment to academic and Christian excellence. And, quite frankly, that is the salt and light of the Carson-Newman experience — heart work and head work that honors Jesus.”
Along with providing a strong connection to prospective students from the pews of Tennessee Baptist churches, the relationship has yielded operational budget dollars, currently $1.875 million annually.
David Crutchley, chair of the religion department said the addition is a significant development to a partnership that has such a strong heritage. “Our students and faculty have profited from the investment of the Tennessee Baptist Convention in the past, and we continue to share the common dream of making a difference for the kingdom of God.”
The board of directors of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board was informed of the Carson-Newman University board of trustees’ to “incorporate the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message and the Preamble as part of the standards and regulations concerning the operations of the university” at their September meeting.
The directors also heard the response of their Partner Ministries Committee (PMC) which has been in dialogue with C-N officials during the past year: “The Partner Ministries Committee of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board appreciates and receives the positive response of the Carson-Newman University board of trustees toward our concerns.”
Mike Kemper of Jackson, interim pastor of Smyrna Baptist Church, Humboldt, and chairman of the PMC, said concerns about Carson-Newman were brought to the committee earlier this year.
“We received these concerns and began to share them with our board in executive session,” Kemper told the Baptist and Reflector.
No details could be released because meetings were held in executive session to insure confidentiality.
Kemper said the PMC met with the denominational relations committee of Carson-Newman and trustee chairman Harry Brooks, a member of Union Baptist Church on Washington Pike in Knoxville, in July.
Carson-Newman trustees discussed the concerns at their meeting in August and adopted the motion to incorporate the 2000 BF&M in its operational documents. The president of Carson-Newman (Randall O’Brien) will implement the policy and supervise its compliance, according to Brooks.
He added that the president will be accountable to the board of trustees on all issues related to the implementation of the policy.
Kemper said the action of the C-N trustees indicated a desire to resolve the TBMB’s concerns. “It is a step in the right direction,” he affirmed, adding that “we look forward to continuing to strengthen relationships.
“Our desire is for Carson-Newman to remain one of our valued partners,” Kemper said. “We are committed to our mutually beneficial relationship and we desire to go forward together accomplishing Kingdom objectives,” he added.
The 2017-18 budget adopted by the TBMB directors included an estimated allocation of $1,875,900 for Carson-Newman.
“The Carson-Newman University’s board of trustees’ strong affirmation and incorporation of the Baptist Faith & Message in their governing documents will serve as a strong reflection of the biblical core beliefs of Tennessee Baptists,” said Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the TBMB. “We greatly appreciate this action of the leadership at Carson-Newman,” Davis added.
— Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist and Reflector, contributed to this story.