Archive for category Publications

Influence of the Mill Village Church Cited in Our Father: Discovering Family

Northside Baptist ChurchThe mill village church that played such a vital role in the lives of its members across the piedmont Carolinas has all but disappeared. One of those churches, Northside Baptist Church, and its pastor are singled out for special praise by Mitch Carnell in his new book, Our Father: Discovering Family. Carnell credits the people of Northside and Rev. Roy R. Gowan for laying the foundation and then giving him permission to explore the meaning of his Christian faith. “Mitchell,” Gowan said one day, “God created all of you. That includes your brain. God did not expect you to turn it off when you come to church. God is not put off by your questions.”

Carnell’s book begins at St. Paul’s cathedral in London and then weaves back and forth in the stages of his life. He began writing the book with two simple questions. How did I get to where I am spiritually from where I started? What am I to do with the rest of my life? According to the author, God had a much bigger idea. He wanted me to discover the vastness of his family. I had to stretch the boundaries of my small town background and open my mind and heart to a larger way of thinking.

Dr. Carnell also gives a great deal of credit to his lifelong friend, the Rev. Ansel McGill who retired as pastor of Parisview Baptist Church in Greenville. He also singles out professors at Mars Hill College and Furman University. His late wife, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, questioned all of his assumptions in a loving but forceful manner.

He has now been an active member of First Baptist Church of Charleston for fifty years. He stresses the contributions of its long time pastor, the late John A. Hamrick, to his life. He credits Hamrick and the church’s legendary organist and Minister of Music and Worship, David Redd, for teaching him how to worship.

Our Father; Discovering Family, is available at most book stores, as an ebook from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or the publisher Dr. Carnell is a speaker/consultant in the fields of interpersonal and organizational communication. His website is

Tags: , , ,

What Writing a Spiritual Memoir Can Teach You

While speaking at the Village in Summerville, South Carolina, Dr. Mitch Carnell was asked  what he learned while writing his most recent book, Our Father: Discovering Family, published by Wipf and Stock.

“When I started writing the book,” Carnell stated, “I had two questions stemming from an amazing experience at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. How did my spiritual development bring me to this point from where I started in a small provincial town in South Carolina? The second question was what am I to do with the remaining years of my life.”

Mitch continued, “As usual God had a much bigger idea. He wanted to expand my vision as to who is in God’s family. God always has a bigger plan than we have. I am reluctant to put words in God’s mouth, but it is as if he were saying, Mitch, you can’t understand me until you know who is in my family.

The process lead me to two conclusions. First, I needed to drastically expand my understanding of God’s family and second God had been preparing me all of my life to be a voice for fostering better understanding and communication between Christians and between Christians and the rest of the world. We need a more civil dialogue and that became my mission.”

The book is best described as a spiritual memoir. Mitch grew up in the segregated South where learning about the brotherhood of man wasn’t easy. He struggled through the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention and a church split. He gives credit to his late wife for challenging all of his provincial ideas in a loving way. Her death was an unimaginable tragedy. Dr. Thomas McKibbens, interim pastor of the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, wrote the Foreword. Don Kirkland, former editor of the Baptist Courier of South Carolina, and Fifi DeGroot, alumni consultant at Mars Hill University, both wrote brief reviews for the back cover.

Mitch is the founder of the Say Something Nice Day listed in the Chase Calendar of Events and the Say Something Nice Sunday Movements.

This is his fourth major book. It follows, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, published by Smyth and Helwys. Our Father; Discovering Family, is available at most book stores and at, Barnes& and

Tags: , , ,

Carnell Reflects on God’s Call to Continue to Grow – Chautauqua Daily – Mary Lee Talbot

The Chautauqua Daily: August 28, 2015 – Our Father: Discovering Family –

9781498218733One of the ways that Chautauquans keep in touch these days is through The Chautauquan Daily online. Mitch Carnell reached out to me a few years ago when I took over the morning worship column after Joan Lipscomb Solomon’s retirement. Joan and Mitch have been friends since the mid 1950s, when they met at debate tournaments. Mitch had only heard of Chautauqua in his college days. Joan suggested Mitch teach some courses through Special Studies, which became his formal introduction to the Institution. Our Father: Discovering Family is Carnell’s reflection on the ever-widening, yet interconnected events of his life. Chautauqua is just one step in his journey from small-town South Carolina to a growing understanding of what it means to be part of the family of God. It was an experience in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London that set Carnell on the path of writing his spiritual autobiography, which he published in 2015. Carnell and his second wife, Carol, were on a trip to England, and one of the spots they stopped to see was the cathedral. Every day at 11 a.m., a priest asks the visitors to pause and say the “Our Father” or “Lord’s Prayer.” “Then the most unbelievable thing happened,” Carnell wrote in Our Father. “Voices belonging to people from around the world, of every language, of every color and hue, of every nationality, handicapped and whole, male and female, child and adult, gay and straight prayed aloud together.” The emphasis for him was on the “our.” He had never paid much attention to that three-letter word. Carnell’s reflections on his life spiral out from the small town where he was born. His eyesight was so bad it might have qualified him for disability but he decided he was never going to use his poor eyesight “as an excuse for not doing what I wanted or needed to do.” In fact, it surprised him to learn in college that most people did not know he wore glasses until he got a new pair.

Going to college was the starting point to knowing a wider world and expanding the definition of “Our.” Carnell graduated from Furman University, he worked in an outdoor drama called Chucky Jack in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and for the first time encountered openly gay and lesbian people. He also met his first wife, Liz. Carnell was raised a Southern Baptist and Liz a Presbyterian, and her parents were missionaries in the Philippines. He went to work at the Wheeling Home for Crippled Children in Wheeling, West Virginia, and then to Louisiana State University to work on a doctorate in speech language pathology and work at the Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Baton Rouge. He arrived back in Charleston, South Carolina, to direct the Speech and Hearing Center in 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. He and his wife hosted the first integrated PTA meeting for their school. The PTA purchased a cotton candy machine to use at fundraisers, and the Carnells set it up in their bathroom. When the one African-American board member arrived, Carnell didn’t treat him any differently. “We are all in the bathroom, come on in,” Carnell wrote. “It set the right tone for the year.”

As his life and work grew, he continued to learn from others that the meaning of “Our” was about discovering the world family. Many of Chautauqua’s preachers have reminded congregations this summer that African-American preaching is about including everyone in the family of God. Carnell was learning that — even though it seemed like his life was full of meaningful but unconnected experiences. One of his more painful epiphanies came during the division of the Southern Baptist Convention and a break with his own congregation. In response, Carnell began promoting “Say Something Nice Sunday” on the first Sunday in June. In 2014, the Baptist World Alliance agreed to help promote the event. He also edited a book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. While at Chautauqua, he held discussions about Christian civility at the Baptist House. He wrote that his experience in St. Paul’s Cathedral unsettled his comfortable faith. At 80 years young, God is calling him “to learn more, experience more, love more, trust more, risk more, and to open my heart, my eyes, my ears, my brain, and my soul.”

Tags: , , ,

Our Father: Discovering Family Reviewed by Dr. Glenn Hinson – Baptist Seminary of Kentucky

I hope you will forgive me for not responding when I received a copy of your autobiography.  I intended to read it promptly and write, but several other jobs intervened.

The brevity of your memoirs chastened me.  I couldn’t help thinking that my autobiography, A Miracle of Grace, is nearly 500 pages. The conciseness of yours says something about you and your modesty. My expansiveness bears witness to either a big ego or low self-esteem.

That confession aside, so much in your story touched my heart and edified me.  One reason for that is the humble and honest way you told your story.  You told me something I had never noticed—that you have poor eyesight.  As I listened to your account, however, I heard echoes of a truth Douglas Steere often reiterated: Life’s interruptions often turn out to be God’s opportunities.” Coping with limited vision had a lot to do with the character and personality of the Mitch Carnell I’ve been privileged to know.

From the first time we met, Mitch, I’ve felt a sense of kinship with you, and Our Father has heightened that sense.  One thing that could account for it might be some people who’ve crossed both of our paths and left their mark on us.  John Claypool is the person who prompted me to do graduate studies at Southern, and he always remained a model figure in my life.  Several of those to whom you ascribe an important place in the shaping of who you are were my students at one time or another at Southern Seminary: Tom McKibbens, Mollie Marshall, Scott Walker, Scott McBroom, John Hughes.  All were among the very best students I ever taught, and I’ve maintained some contact with all except John Hughes up to now.

You and I have both borne a lot of pain in watching what has happened to the Southern Baptist Convention.  In reading Our Father I could see that you experienced the trauma at the local church level, whereas you will see that most of my agony connected with Southern Seminary, where I taught for more than thirty years.  As a matter of fact, a compulsion to explain why I did what I did prompted me to write an autobiography.  I had misgivings about doing so, as I suspect you have, for it takes a big ego to do that.  Like most autobiographies, it is an apologia pro vita sua, to borrow the tile of John Henry Newman’s autobiography.  I felt that others needed to know why I opposed fundamentalism so vigorously and predicted, as I think you can now see, that it would severely damage the work of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Southern Seminary is today the most glaring example of the basic objective they had in taking over the seminary: prepare ministers to lead churches and people in a culture that hasn’t existed for a century, if ever.  What says that more clearly than the Creation Science Center at Southern and insistence that the earth can’t be more than 7,000 years old!

Despite that bleak prognosis, Mitch, I’ve always felt that even churches headed by fundamentalist pastors had members who adhered to our basic Baptist tenets: the voluntary principle in religion (“To be authentic and responsible, faith must be free.”), religious liberty, separation of church and state as a way to guard it, and voluntary association to carry out the world mission of Christ.  Our Father confirms me in such thinking.  You may have engaged in fierce debate at FBC, Charleston, but you and others persevered and helped to right a listing ship.  For that I thank God.

My sincerest thanks for your friendship.Glenn Hinson, Professor, Baptist Seminaro of Kentucky

Tags: , ,

%d bloggers like this: