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October-November 2021

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news at welch college


Welch College in Gallatin, Tennessee, has been the official college of the Free Will Baptist Denomination since 1942. To find out more information about the school, visit

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Parrish Named Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement

Todd Parrish (below, left) has been tapped to serve as associate vice president for institutional advancement at Welch College. In this role, he will continue his work in major gifts acquisition and church relations but also work alongside David Williford, vice president for institutional advancement, in the overall administration of fundraising and external relations.

Before assuming his current role in January 2018, Parrish pastored First FWB Church, Washington, North Carolina. A North Carolina native who ministered in North and South Carolina for 26 years, Parrish has served in various denominational roles, including assistant moderator of the North Carolina State Association and vice president of the Welch College Alumni Association.

“This is a great move for the college,” Williford said. “Todd is an invaluable member of the Institutional Advancement team. His efforts have resulted in remarkable success in fundraising and public relations. He loves Welch College and her mission, and he gives himself untiringly to advance Christian higher education among Free Will Baptists.”

A 1989 Welch graduate, Parrish obtained the M.A. in Mental Health Counseling from Webster University in 2010 and the M.A. in Theology and Ministry from Welch in 2018. He is nearing the completion of his doctorate in educational ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is writing a doctoral thesis on the advancement function of Welch College.

Welch President Matt Pinson said, “I’m excited to have Todd Parrish in this new role to assume more leadership for ‘friend-raising’ and fundraising at Welch. When he came to the college, I knew he would succeed in these roles, and he has shown himself to be stellar at both. His love for Welch runs deep, and he’s known for his strong work ethic and can-do spirit. It’s a joy to see him taking a more expansive leadership role in Advancement.”

Parrish and his wife, Merinda, Welch’s clinical coordinator for teacher education, have two married daughters, Emily Vickery (Zach) and Ellen Stox (Kevin), both Welch graduates, and two grandchildren, Lucy and Jack.



Owens Hired as Divinity School Faculty Member

Dr. Jesse F. Owens (above, right) recently was hired as a full-time faculty member in the newly formed Welch Divinity School, according to Provost Matthew McAffee.

A 2010 Welch pastoral ministry graduate, Owens received the M.Div. (2013) and Ph.D. (2021) degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Since 2016, Owens has worked in the college’s facilities department managing lawncare operations while also serving as an adjunct instructor in the areas of theology and history.

He has led church planting efforts at Immanuel FWB Church in Gallatin, which he will continue to pastor on a part-time basis. Prior to arriving at Welch, Owens pastored First FWB Church in Louisville, Kentucky, from 2014 to 2016.

“Dr. Owens comes to this role from a long line of Free Will Baptist ministers,” McAffee said. “His father, Frank Owens, currently pastors Sylvan Park FWB Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and his grandfather, Guy Owens, pastored numerous churches over decades of ministry among Free Will Baptists.”

“Dr. Owens has demonstrated success in the classroom for the last five years,” McAffee continued. “He has established an excellent reputation among faculty peers and students. His academic credentials are what we need as we launch the new M.Div. program. I believe he has promise as a scholar who will serve our denomination well and contribute to the Reformed Arminian cause.”

Owens begins faculty responsibilities as assistant professor of historical and systematic theology. His primary focus will be theology courses in the newly formed M.Div. degree, as well as undergraduate courses as needed. As part of his faculty responsibility, he will serve as acting director of the Christian Service program, a role that appropriately overlaps with his ministry experience.

President Matt Pinson notes, “It’s unusual to find a faculty member who combines pastoral and church planting experience, high marks from students in classroom teaching, hands-on experience, a strong work ethic, and great promise as a publishing scholar in one person. Jesse fits this profile to a tee, and we’re delighted to see him transition to the full-time faculty of Welch Divinity School.”

Owens and his wife Tiffany have two young children, Gavin and Carter.

For more information about the residential M.Div. degree or the online M.A. degree in Theology and Ministry, contact Dr. Martin Sheldon ( or visit



Memorial Service Honors Franklin Leroy Forlines

On Saturday, August 7, more than 100 people gathered in Celorio Auditorium to celebrate the life and legacy of F. Leroy Forlines, who died December 15, 2020. Born on a tobacco farm in North Carolina, Forlines went on to teach at Welch for more than a half-century, influencing generations of students for the Lord and for truth.


Family and friends honored Forlines by singing his favorite hymns and reciting his favorite passages of Scripture. At intervals throughout the service, a dozen people made remarks in memoriam, including family, friends, colleagues, and former students. They shared musings and stories that evoked tears, laughter, and sober reflection regarding this man of God, man of honor, and man of integrity. Near the end of the service, a Forlines granddaughter sang a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the folk song, “Wayfaring Stranger.”

“This two-hour-plus service was a fitting exercise of obedience to God’s commandment to honor our fathers and mothers,” noted Matthew Bracey, theology professor and vice provost for academic administration. “We remain ever grateful for this Free Will Baptist father of the faith.”



©2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists