Pastor and theologian Mark Labberton was named as Fuller Theological Seminary's new president on Tuesday, chosen unanimously by the school's Board of Trustees. Labberton will begin his term on July 1 while replacing current president Richard J. Mouw, who announced his retirement last May.
"I feel an incredible sense of joy and hope to be given this opportunity," said Labberton. "Thanks to Rich Mouw's generous, gracious, and irenic leadership, Fuller is well positioned to influence how the gospel is communicated, understood, and embodied in the world."
Announcing the decision by the trustees of the seminary located in Pasadena, Calif., Board Chair Clifford L. Penner said, "Along with my fellow trustees, I am delighted to welcome Mark Labberton to the presidency of Fuller Seminary. We are excited and inspired by the outstanding qualities and accomplishments he brings to this position. He is a scholar and academic leader, pastor for more than 25 years, accomplished author, and leading voice in many international ministries. Mark brings strong spiritual leadership, a wide range of experiences, and the vision to guide Fuller into a new era of global leadership in seminary education. As a Fuller alumnus (MDiv) and professor, he fully comprehends Fuller's rich and diverse legacy."
Labberton told The Christian Post on Tuesday that he welcomes prayers for his new role as president, as he seeks to foster "careful understanding, deep and diverse community, courageous and wise decision making, and effective creativity to address the challenges facing seminary education."
He added, "Fuller, like any academic campus, has a tension between an academic life and an integrated set of spiritual practices. My hope would be that we can just continue to move Fuller in a direction that's not just about academic learning, but about the integration of the experience of God with the knowledge in ways that are not inseparable but are actually demanding of both elements. So it's not about putting mind over heart, or heart over mind, but acknowledging the inseparability of both things in community with one another."
Mouw, who will return to Fuller in a faculty role following a study leave during the 2013-14 academic year, says: "Mark Labberton is an excellent choice to be the next president of Fuller. I know him to be a very gifted Christian leader who will be able to take Fuller into an exciting new future."
Labberton has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Whitman College, a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller, and a PhD in theology from the University of Cambridge, England. In 2009, Labberton joined Fuller's faculty as the Lloyd John Ogilvie Associate Professor of Preaching and director of the Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching.
Prior to coming to Fuller, Labberton served for 16 years as senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California. Before that, he was senior pastor at Wayne Presbyterian Church in Wayne, Pa. Labberton co-founded the Christian International Scholarship Foundation (now ScholarLeaders International), which funds the theological education of Christian leaders from the Majority World.
He has also worked closely with John Stott Ministries (now Langham Partnership), which provides books, scholarships, and seminars for Majority World pastors. He continues to contribute to the mission of the global church as a senior fellow of the International Justice Mission.
A frequent lecturer and preacher at conferences, in congregations, and at academic gatherings, Labberton has authored First Things: A Theology of the World, the Church, the Pastor, and the Sermon (2013); The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus (2010), and The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God's Call to Justice (2007).
While admitting that the outlook in global politics, the economy, and even within the church looks bleak, he also said there are "tremendous reasons for hope" for students. He said that a positive outlook begins with recognizing a new era in human history and requiring "courage, creativity, and a re-awakening of a spiritual and theological awakening."
"What we are trying to do at Fuller is shape empowered wise Christian men and women and leaders who are going to go out and live and lead and preach in ways that will be marked by the empowered wisdom of God, who will in turn affect their communities with lives that are lived on those same terms," he explained.