Celebration Focuses on New Theme of "Sharing the Gospel, Sharing Ourselves"
"Fuller Theological Seminary officially began 61 years ago today, on October 1, 1947,"stated President Richard J. Mouw in his opening comments at the seminary’s Festival of Beginnings ceremony, held the morning of Wednesday, October 1, 2008.
The entire Fuller community joined together for this annual celebration marking the beginning of a new academic year. The morning’s events began with a worship service at First Congregational Church in Pasadena, filled nearly to capacity with students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends. The service was followed by a reception on Fuller’s central mall with refreshments, opportunities for fellowship, and live music provided by Fuller student and saxophonist Ron Brown.
The Festival of Beginnings introduced Fuller’s campuswide theme for the 2008-2009 year: "Sharing the Gospel, Sharing Ourselves." Dr. Mouw spoke at the worship service specifically on "Gospel Boldness and Theological Education," based on Romans 1:8-16.
In these times of polarization and attitudes of "us versus them" exhibited by many in the evangelical community, "what can a seminary do to tone down the harsh rhetoric?" asked Mouw in opening his sermon. From Fuller’s beginnings, its founders spoke of their hope to form leaders who would be influential in the public square, Mouw noted—but today, we need to carefully "think new thoughts" about what that means, he said.
"We must be bold in living out our commitment to the gospel," Mouw said, referring to Paul’s words in Romans 1:16, "but our boldness—our ‘unashamedness’—has to be of the right sort." When Paul says we should not be ashamed, "he is not saying we should be shameless," stressed Mouw.
Instead, the kind of "holy boldness" for which we should strive "is to be a truth teller," he emphasized, with theological education "that trains us in what the Apostle Paul calls ‘truthful speech.’" Being a truth teller means we engage in dialogue with those with whom we disagree to make sure we have understood them, Mouw went on, and it means having the courage to admit what we do not know: to have "the freedom," he quoted pastor and Fuller alumnus Rob Bell as saying, "to live with the questions without having to have all the answers."
"Boldness does not mean arrogance," declared Mouw. Rather, "we need to pay special attention to Father Henri Nouwen’s call to be agents of God’s gentle guidance"—with a gentleness that points people to a Savior who cares for them in all their needs.