As Dowless spoke at the school’s Winthrop King Center, protesters down the hill along Shorter Avenue were standing in opposition to the newly adopted policy requiring staff members to sign a personal statement of faith.
“Shorter University and indeed the broader Christian community is a diverse body made up of individuals who do not always agree,” Dowless said. “What unites us — our faith and love for God — is larger than those things that would divide us. Here at Shorter, the security and the solidity of our academic identity allow us to disagree with respect and civility,” he added.
Dignitaries, faculty and staff officially welcomed Dowless as the 19th president of the institution was officially installed.
Friday’s ceremony featured speeches of congratulations from Floyd County Commission Chairman Eddie Lumsden, Rome Mayor Evie McNiece, Shorter Board of Trustees outgoing Chairman Nelson Price, Shorter Student Government Association President Cheryl Culp and Georgia Baptist Convention executive director J. Robert White.
The lifeblood of the university will continue to always be in the students and the faculty, the president said.
“Students I want to say this: We love you, you’re special, you count, you matter,” he said. “To our faculty and staff: you’re special, you have the keys to knowledge and understanding. You have the degrees, you have the talent. I would encourage you to pray daily for every student on this campus, to pray daily for everybody.”
Dowless came to Shorter from North Greenville University in South Carolina, where he had served as vice president for academics since June 2006.
He holds the Master of Divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Ordained to the ministry by Good Hope Baptist Church of Youngsville, N.C., in 1982, he has served as a supply pastor, as a pastor, and as a guest speaker.