A New Presbyterian Leader... At Fuller Seminary

Well, the white smoke drifted over Rome yesterday but on you could be forgiven if on Tuesday you thought you saw a tiny bit wafting over Pasadena as Fuller Theological Seminary announced that Teaching Elder Mark Labberton would become the fifth person to hold the position of President of the Seminary beginning on July 1.

Mark is a bit of an insider at Fuller holding an M.Div. from there as well as currently serving on the faculty as the Lloyd John Ogilvie Associate Professor of Preaching and Director of the Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching. (Not bad - going from Associate Professor to President. I presume the new job will come with a bump in status up to full prof.) TE Labberton has served as the pastor at Wayne Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley before joining the Fuller faculty. (And First Pres Berkeley has posted a nice little announcement on their web site as well as a letter he wrote to them about the new position.)

I am sure that many of you know that Fuller Seminary is a multidenominational institution and according to the Association of Theological Schools list of members in the Fall of 2011 they had 3708 students with a Full Time Equivalent (FTE) of 1772. That guide says that there are 88 full time faculty and including the part-time instructors the faculty FTE is about 203.

What many people don't appreciate is the very strong connection that Fuller has to Presbyterianism. Fuller was co-founded by Harold Ockenga who began his pastoral training at Princeton Theological Seminary but departed in the midst of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy and finished at the brand new Westminster Theological Seminary. After seminary he served a few different churches including two Presbyterian churches. In addition to being the co-founder he also served as the first president of Fuller and took up the post again a few years after he had stepped down from the first term.

Fast-forward to today when, according to the web page for Fuller's Office of Presbyterian Ministries, the largest denomination group on campus is the Presbyterians and more faculty, including the current President Richard Mouw, come from Presbyterian churches than any other tradition.

The FAQ page tells us that the number of Presbyterian students has averaged about 300 over the last ten years of which about 130 are in the M.Div. program. And they do point out that these students come from multiple Presbyterian branches.

Let's turn back to that ATS member list and look at a couple of PC(USA) seminaries. For comparison purposes the three seminaries with enrollments greater than 300 are Princeton with 539 and an FTE of 526, Columbia Theological Seminary with 387 and an FTE of 243, and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with 307 and an FTE of 222. To be fair, San Francisco Theological Seminary is just below the cut-off at 292 with an FTE of 151. For other schools with Presbyterian connections Covenant Theological Seminary has 689 students with an FTE of 391, Westminster (PA) has 630 students with an FET of 412 and Reformed Theological Seminary has 1135 students with an FTE of 593.

The comparison of the number enrolled with the FTE would be an interesting study - very close for Princeton and about 2:1 for SFTS, RTS and Fuller - but that is a topic for another day. The bottom line here is just to make the point that Fuller holds its own in Presbyterian circles right up there with denominational seminaries.  And yes, I have counted total students at the other seminaries so the total Presbyterians at Fuller are probably greater than the Presbyterian majority at the other PC(USA) seminaries and probably at most of the others as well. But having said that, I have heard multiple stories about how PC(USA) presbyteries are hesitant to accept Fuller grads because it is an independent school with an evangelical history. This must be an issue since the FAQ page has an answer to the question "My Presbytery knows little or nothing about Fuller Seminary. Is there a convenient way to help it understand what Fuller has to offer?"

So with that we want to extend our congratulations and best wishes to Rev. Labberton as he prepares to assume the office of President of Fuller Seminary. Our prayers are with you in this calling and we look forward to seeing more of you around our presbytery.
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  • 3/16/2013 3:07 PM Reformed Catholic wrote:
    FWIW ... I know of one inquirer who was told by her presbytery's CPM that to apply to any seminary other than a PC(USA) seminary would not be looked upon favorably.

    Having heard of evangelicals being derided by professors at PC(USA) schools, this person was looking at RTS, Gordon-Conwell or Fuller; but after that 'hint' a search for the most evangelical of those seminaries was made, and chose Pittsburgh.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/18/2013 12:29 PM Steve Salyards wrote:
      I know at least five individuals who had problems with their presbytery accepting Fuller for theological training. This includes a couple of them who pretty much finished their course work in one presbytery but transferred and coming under care of another presbytery much of that course work was not accepted.

      Reply to this
      1. 3/19/2013 8:10 AM Reformed Catholic wrote:
        Sad ... and people wonder why orthodox candidates and TEs are looking elsewhere since the 'inclusiveness' that is talked about does not include them.
        Reply to this
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