Charles Franklin Karns
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1921 - 2020
Charles Franklin Karns (98) passed away peacefully at home on Nov. 2, 2020. He was born Dec. 10, 1921 in Loveland, CO to Esther (Gano) and Charles Freeland Karns. His family moved to Boise, ID in 1930. Along with his father and brother, Frank became an immersed believer in Jesus Christ on April 7, 1931. As a seventh grader, he learned to play his grandfather’s old violin, which began a lifelong love of performing in small groups and orchestras, as well as solos for church and civic groups.
After graduating from Boise High School in 1939, Frank earned a bachelor’s degree from Cincinnati Bible Seminary in 1943. He then began his first fulltime ministry with the Jeromesville (Ohio) Christian Church whose leaders were agreeable to his also taking a full course of studies at nearby Ashland College with the goal of earning a second bachelor’s degree from an accredited school in case he was able to pursue graduate studies in the future. In the summer of 1944, Frank graduated from Ashland College, married Arlene Smalley, and began a brief ministry with the Christian Church in Corbett, OR.
During the 1945-46 academic year, Frank served as Academic Dean of the fledgling Restoration Bible College in San Antonio, TX, where he also taught courses in Genesis, Christian Doctrine, Greek and English. This experience was followed by three very successful preaching ministries with First Christian Church, Unionville, MO (Jan. 1947 – May 1949), Martinton (IL) Christian Church (May 1949 – May 1953) and Hooverson Heights Church of Christ, Follansbee, WV (June 1953 – August 1960). During these years, in addition to preaching on Sunday mornings and evenings, Frank also worked with the teen youth groups, taught mid-week Bible studies, published weekly newsletters, sang in or directed the choir, provided special music on his violin, was involved with the area Christian service camps and youth rallies, and preached or led singing for several extended evangelistic meetings. While he was with the Hooverson Heights congregation, he also led a major building program that replaced their small 40’ x 60’ basement structure with a beautiful arched building that included many new features and accommodated more than twice as many people.
With the blessing of the Hooverson Heights church leadership, Frank began taking a part-time load of classes in speech and communication at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall of 1957, commuting to Pittsburgh two or three days a week. He hoped a Master’s degree in that field would better enable him to teach preaching classes at a Bible college one day. In the fall of 1959 the church graciously allowed him to accept a student assistantship at the University which involved taking a full load of graduate courses and teaching several basic classes while still handling all weekend church activities. As Frank was completing the work for his Master’s degree in 1960, the University offered him a 3-year fellowship to pursue a PhD. This provided free tuition plus a stipend for the family (including seven children) to live on, and he would teach more classes. But he could not hold any other job. Since this opportunity would even further equip him to teach preaching at a Bible college, he decided to resign his ministry and move his family to Pittsburgh.
In all of his ministries to that point, 345 individuals had become new members of the various congregations, 253 of them by baptism. After 1960, Frank performed numerous additional baptisms, including 2 great-granddaughters and a daughter-in-law in 2019.
When Frank received his PhD in 1964, there were no appropriate Bible college positions available, so he accepted an associate professorship in the speech department of the University of Florida. He greatly enjoyed working with the UF faculty and students, in addition to teaching Sunday school classes and serving as interim preacher as needed for the Christian Church in Gainesville. But in 1971 he gladly accepted the call to teach preaching, speech and philosophy at his alma mater, Cincinnati Bible Seminary. His dream was to help develop many effective young preachers. He knew that over their lifetimes, all of his students would reach thousands more people for Christ than he could reach one congregation at a time. He remained in Cincinnati until the summer of 1978.
From 1978 until 1983 Dr. Karns was a professor and dean of students with the Rocky Mountain branch (in Longmont, CO) of Platte Valley Bible College (Scottsbluff, NE). He then joined the faculty of Manhattan (KS) Bible College, teaching there until he retired in 1992 at the age of 71. In 2010 a scholarship was established in his name at Manhattan Bible College specifically to aid students interested in pursuing a preaching ministry.
Frank and Arlene originally planned to spend their retirement years in central Florida. But they decided to temporarily help with a new congregation in Pensacola. Although Frank began preaching for Grace Christian Church on an interim basis, he stayed on full-time for nearly 20 years, while refusing to accept any salary. Even after he retired for the second time, he continued to serve Grace Christian as a Sunday school teacher, elder, occasional preacher, and general secretary until shortly before his death.
Throughout his life, Frank has had the respect and admiration of teachers, ministerial and academic colleagues, students, congregants, and family members who have valued his advice, encouragement, love, and friendship all through the years.
He loved music, photography, writing, traveling, driving his Datsun 280Z sports car, and, of course, his family, and serving the Lord. And now he has gone home to the loving arms of God. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Frank Karns was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Robert Karns; his sister, LaVern Karns; and his beloved wife of 73 years, Arlene. He is survived by his seven children – Judy Mueller, Cheri Sparks, Jacqui Napolitano, Steve Karns, David Karns, Becky Jones and Philip Karns – and their spouses; 16 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild.
A memorial service/celebration of life will be held on Jan. 2, 2021 at 1:00 pm at Grace Christian Church, 9921 Chemstrand Road, Pensacola, FL. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Memorial Fund at Grace Christian Church.