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Carson leaves a legacy of faith and service

Dr. John Little Carson

Erskine President Emeritus Dr. John Little Carson, a member of the Erskine College Class of 1967 who led his alma mater from 1998 to 2005, died Wednesday, Sept. 13.

A native of Gastonia, N.C., Carson was an E.B. Kennedy Scholar at Erskine, where he met his future wife, Sarah Ellen Patrick, also an E.B. Kennedy Scholar. He received the Master of Divinity degree from Reformed Theological Seminary in Mississippi, served as pastor of Ebenezer Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church in Charlotte, N.C., then studied at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, where he was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

His service to the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, in addition to his work as a pastor, included terms as Vice Moderator and Moderator as well as leadership on many boards and committees.

In 1991, he served as Chairman of the North American Presbyterian & Reformed Council. In 1993, he was Program Chairman for the Westminster Assembly 350th Commemoration. He co-edited To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the Westminster Assembly.

Carson taught theology and church history at Erskine Theological Seminary from 1985 to 1994, then became pastor of First ARP Church in Gastonia, N.C. Named Erskine president in 1998, he oversaw the launch of the Gold Campaign, which continued after his presidency. Among the many accomplishments of the campaign was the renovation of Memorial Hall with special attention to Memorial Hall Auditorium, which was renamed in honor of Carson and his wife Sarah Ellen.

After leaving Erskine, Carson and his wife served as World Witness missionaries, helping to launch the Mobile Theological Training Team (MT3), which has now been incorporated into the theological education ministry of World Witness, called SEED (Serving by Educating, Equipping and Discipling). He taught in multiple seminaries, including African Bible University and African Reformation Theological Seminary in Uganda.

World Witness has now partnered with Erskine Theological Seminary to offer a Global Diploma in Theology and Christian Leadership, assisting rural pastors and church leaders in Africa and other areas of the Global South. The Dr. John and Sarah Ellen Carson Scholarship program honors the Carsons’ missionary endeavors and their support of global theological education.

Near the end of his tenure at Erskine, Carson was asked about the successes of his presidency. He expressed his hope that “the people who came here to link their lives with Erskine’s mission” would be his greatest contribution as president. Giving credit to others and expressing his belief in God’s providence, he said, “This has been a family effort—everyone has been so generous. To God be the glory.”

John Little Carson is survived by his wife of 56 years, Sarah Ellen Patrick Carson ’67; three daughters, Marana Carson Basie ’97 and husband Dr. John Basie ’96, Emily Carson Pike ’98 and husband Colby Pike ’99, and Rebecca Jean Carson ’00; one son, the Rev. James Everette “Rhett” Carson ’02 and wife Katherine Hornby Carson ’02; and ten grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 16, at 2:00 p.m. in Bonclarken Conference Center Chapel, Flat Rock, N.C., with a reception to follow in Synodical Hall.

Read the obituary for Dr. John Little Carson here.

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