Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Seminary, brings to his leadership a deep awareness of the urgency of the gospel of Jesus Christ—and a passion for the vital role that Fuller Seminary plays in the enactment of that gospel. For Labberton, this urgency is informed by a sense of the critical and unique contribution Fuller is called to make to the global church at this moment in time.
Freedom and joy are concepts Labberton has intentionally infused into his presidency, committing to lead with openness and a spirit of gratitude. With his long history in pastoral ministry, he brings relational warmth and an authentic concern for the individual. It’s no surprise, then, that in his first year as president Labberton has developed a vision for preparing Christian leaders holistically for their callings, nurturing each student’s personal, spiritual, academic, and global formation.
A Washington State native raised in a home that disdained religion, Labberton embraced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ on the threshold of his undergraduate years at Whitman College. After earning his bachelor’s degree he came to Fuller for his MDiv, a time he calls “a tremendously influential season” in his life. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and began what was to become three decades of pastoral ministry—along the way meeting and marrying his life partner, Janet Morrison Labberton.
Labberton had served for 16 years as senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California, when he joined Fuller’s faculty, in 2009, as Lloyd John Ogilvie Associate Professor of Preaching and director of the newly established Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching. In early 2013 he received the call to the presidency, succeeding Richard J. Mouw on his retirement, and on July 1, 2013, stepped into service as Fuller Seminary’s fifth president.
As rich as his pastoral experience has been, Labberton has brought more than that to his leadership role. “My interest in ministry has always been defined by the needs and realities of the world,” he says, and an intentional awareness of God's work in the global church has led him to deep friendships with leaders in the Majority World. In 1982 he cofounded the Christian International Scholarship Foundation (CISF) to help fund the advanced theological education of those Majority World leaders, and served on the CISF board for 17 years. He has also been chair of John Stott Ministries (which provides books, scholarships, and seminars for Majority World pastors), co-chair of the John Stott Ministries Global Initiative Fund, and senior fellow of the International Justice Mission. Labberton has been a popular and well-traveled speaker for years, and has taught at New College Berkeley for Advanced Christian Studies.
In addition to publishing articles in such periodicals as Christianity Today and Radix (for which he also serves as a contributing editor), Labberton has authored the books The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus (2010), The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God's Call to Justice (2007). Yet the work he considers most significant—and that speaks directly to his vision for the future work of Fuller Seminary—is his newest book, Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, to be released fall 2014. In it he addresses, profoundly and directly, what it means in a broken and hurting world to practice our shared Christian vocation of following Jesus.
Areas of Expertise, Research, Writing, and Teaching
Preaching, hermeneutics, leadership, worship, social justice