The Future of Fuller:

The Way Forward

The Future of Fuller

The Way Forward

Dear Fuller Community and Friends,

Over the last month, I’ve sent several letters describing the whirlwind of disruption that has upended graduate seminary education in the last few years, and the ways we have tried to shift those g-forces to the advantage of Fuller’s core mission.  I’m writing now to tell you about a key decision that has just been made (one that, amazingly, was first considered 50 years ago). After a long and careful process, our Board of Trustees has made the decision that, for the vibrant future of Fuller’s mission, we will sell our campus in Pasadena and move to a new location.  Our home for the last 70 years will make our home for the next 70 years possible. That’s where this letter is going—from that bittersweet decision to what I now see as an inspired way forward.

Let me go back to a time earlier in our deliberations, when the trustees gathered late one night on the mall of the Pasadena campus, recalling memories that stretched back almost to the beginning.  My own thoughts wandered to my years as a student, long before it was imaginable that I might serve as president during a time of such radical transformation. Emotions ran a dizzying gamut from nostalgia to anticipation as we prayed, thanking God for all the faithful years of life lived—and scriptures studied—together on our campus.  Could it be, we wondered, that the endowment to empower the future was buried in the ground we were standing on?

In the last few years we have been through meticulous financial excavation, budget scrutiny, and painful cuts as we’ve navigated an increasingly challenging and disrupted higher education landscape.  Belt-tightening alone, though, is not enough for the level of change occurring. Trustees, senior leadership, faculty, staff, students, and friends of Fuller spent months in due diligence and fasting and prayer, convinced that theological education is just as necessary for this new era as ever, but knowing we must take bold risks and have a bold vision in order to transform.  It is unsettling, yet it is also essential. Still, we have taken careful time to come to a decision, holding rumors and speculation and even our own impatience at bay.

As with all stories of transformation, God has been leading.  Yes, it has required boldness from our trustees, humility and imagination from our faculty, dogged loyalty from our staff and administrators, honest dialogue with our students, and prayerful trust from our alumni to innovate for a new day: but it is God who has redeemed a difficult season with possibilities so hopeful and unexpected that plans to leave our longtime campus in Pasadena now hold rebirth as much as farewell.

If such a transition were to happen, we asked, where might we go—since maintaining our accreditation requires us to be in California and we’ve committed to stay within commuting distance?  We established more than a dozen stringent criteria as we considered every possible kind of configuration and location in Southern California. Each suggestion starting with, “Did you think of . . .” we can answer with, “Yes, yes we did.” Ultimately, through the extensive labor of some of Fuller’s most skilled and influential advisors and trustees, we have decided to begin our next season 27 miles east in Pomona.  There is a lovely, unexpected story of how it came to be Fuller’s new home, but let it be enough for now to say that our beginnings in Pomona may look much like our start so many years ago in Pasadena. While leaving will be difficult for many of us, myself included, I am confident that this is the right move to carry us into the decades to come. The sale and move will provide:

  • a sizable increase to our endowment, putting Fuller on firmer ground for the next century
  • the elimination of all debt
  • a significantly lower cost of living for faculty, staff, and students
  • seed funding for state-of-the-art facilities designed for both traditional and embedded learning and smarter centralized administration

We believe this decision—along with other necessary bold moves—will address concerns about financial sustainability for Fuller, allowing us to actually invest in the future of theological education at a time of industry-wide disruption so great that many seminaries are closing.  It will also empower Fuller to offer deep biblical scholarship in new ways for a different day. In the meantime, I assure you that our commitment to providing rigorous theological, psychological, and intercultural studies remains unchanged.

For the next three years, we gratefully remain in Pasadena: we are committed to leaving well by treating this place and its people with love and celebration.  We have been blessed with a rich inheritance; now is the time to use it to expand the mission established by our founder, Charles Fuller, decades ago. Meanwhile, we will be designing and building a new campus for the next era of theological education and spiritual formation.  

Our work together will always be located where the hunger for learning and theological scholarship meet.  In a few years, when we celebrate our 75th anniversary, we will also celebrate a new era of ministry, grounded in a new city, and extending wherever we are as Fuller—anywhere in the world.

Seeing and anticipating God’s faithfulness,

Mark Labberton, President

Dear Fuller Community and Friends,

Over the last month, I’ve sent several letters describing the whirlwind of disruption that has upended graduate seminary education in the last few years, and the ways we have tried to shift those g-forces to the advantage of Fuller’s core mission.  I’m writing now to tell you about a key decision that has just been made (one that, amazingly, was first considered 50 years ago). After a long and careful process, our Board of Trustees has made the decision that, for the vibrant future of Fuller’s mission, we will sell our campus in Pasadena and move to a new location.  Our home for the last 70 years will make our home for the next 70 years possible. That’s where this letter is going—from that bittersweet decision to what I now see as an inspired way forward.

Let me go back to a time earlier in our deliberations, when the trustees gathered late one night on the mall of the Pasadena campus, recalling memories that stretched back almost to the beginning.  My own thoughts wandered to my years as a student, long before it was imaginable that I might serve as president during a time of such radical transformation. Emotions ran a dizzying gamut from nostalgia to anticipation as we prayed, thanking God for all the faithful years of life lived—and scriptures studied—together on our campus.  Could it be, we wondered, that the endowment to empower the future was buried in the ground we were standing on?

In the last few years we have been through meticulous financial excavation, budget scrutiny, and painful cuts as we’ve navigated an increasingly challenging and disrupted higher education landscape.  Belt-tightening alone, though, is not enough for the level of change occurring. Trustees, senior leadership, faculty, staff, students, and friends of Fuller spent months in due diligence and fasting and prayer, convinced that theological education is just as necessary for this new era as ever, but knowing we must take bold risks and have a bold vision in order to transform.  It is unsettling, yet it is also essential. Still, we have taken careful time to come to a decision, holding rumors and speculation and even our own impatience at bay.

As with all stories of transformation, God has been leading.  Yes, it has required boldness from our trustees, humility and imagination from our faculty, dogged loyalty from our staff and administrators, honest dialogue with our students, and prayerful trust from our alumni to innovate for a new day: but it is God who has redeemed a difficult season with possibilities so hopeful and unexpected that plans to leave our longtime campus in Pasadena now hold rebirth as much as farewell.

If such a transition were to happen, we asked, where might we go—since maintaining our accreditation requires us to be in California and we’ve committed to stay within commuting distance?  We established more than a dozen stringent criteria as we considered every possible kind of configuration and location in Southern California. Each suggestion starting with, “Did you think of . . .” we can answer with, “Yes, yes we did.” Ultimately, through the extensive labor of some of Fuller’s most skilled and influential advisors and trustees, we have decided to begin our next season 27 miles east in Pomona.  There is a lovely, unexpected story of how it came to be Fuller’s new home, but let it be enough for now to say that our beginnings in Pomona may look much like our start so many years ago in Pasadena. While leaving will be difficult for many of us, myself included, I am confident that this is the right move to carry us into the decades to come. The sale and move will provide:

  • a sizable increase to our endowment, putting Fuller on firmer ground for the next century
  • the elimination of all debt
  • a significantly lower cost of living for faculty, staff, and students
  • seed funding for state-of-the-art facilities designed for both traditional and embedded learning and smarter centralized administration

We believe this decision—along with other necessary bold moves—will address concerns about financial sustainability for Fuller, allowing us to actually invest in the future of theological education at a time of industry-wide disruption so great that many seminaries are closing.  It will also empower Fuller to offer deep biblical scholarship in new ways for a different day. In the meantime, I assure you that our commitment to providing rigorous theological, psychological, and intercultural studies remains unchanged.

For the next three years, we gratefully remain in Pasadena: we are committed to leaving well by treating this place and its people with love and celebration.  We have been blessed with a rich inheritance; now is the time to use it to expand the mission established by our founder, Charles Fuller, decades ago. Meanwhile, we will be designing and building a new campus for the next era of theological education and spiritual formation.  

Our work together will always be located where the hunger for learning and theological scholarship meet.  In a few years, when we celebrate our 75th anniversary, we will also celebrate a new era of ministry, grounded in a new city, and extending wherever we are as Fuller—anywhere in the world.

Seeing and anticipating God’s faithfulness,

Mark Labberton, President

FAQ

Reflections from the Fuller Community

“The graduate theological education I received at Fuller was absolutely life-changing. It prepared me for ministry as a speaker, author, thought leader, and professor of Reconciliation Studies. I am confident that Fuller will continue to prepare men and women from every tribe and nation to address the complex issues facing our world.”

—Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil
Associate Professor and Director of Reconciliation Studies
Seattle Pacific University

“As I travel and relate to leaders throughout North America and the majority world, my conviction has only strengthened regarding Fuller Seminary—it truly is one of the world’s premier institutions in developing leaders for the church. Fuller not only forms students with the truths, values, and character of Christ, but it embodies these things as an institution. I am excited about Fuller’s future, as it continually innovates to launch future generations of leaders and effective Christlike witnesses in a fast-changing and increasingly globalized world.”

—Tom Lin, President/CEO
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
Fuller trustee and alumnus

“My first exposure to Fuller was as a visiting professor while I was a faculty member at Calvin College. On one of my visits, the president of Fuller at the time—David Allan Hubbard—spoke about the 'beyond' of Fuller. Fuller existed beyond the mission of academia, beyond the limits of a graduate education. Fuller exists to advance the mission of God across the world. That was when I knew Fuller was a community I wanted to be a part of, and have loved serving for over 30 years. Fuller's relocation is to continue the legacy of beyond.”

—Richard J. Mouw
Professor of Faith and Public Life and President Emeritus (1993–2013)

“When I was invited to come to California to join the Fuller faculty, I knew that it was a body of unequaled evangelical scholarship with a mission to shape ministers and missionaries and theologians for the 21st century. I didn't realize how important the work is that Fuller also does in resourcing people to be therapists or musicians or movie-makers who are not merely Christian on Sundays, but who want their Monday to Saturday vocations to be shaped by the Scriptures. I am thrilled to be engaged in this important work.”

—John Goldingay, PhD
David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament Emeritus

“As CEO of one of the great high-tech innovative companies, I live daily in the need to innovate or die. Fuller has constantly sought to bring an innovative spirit and deep theological scholarship as it equips influencers of all kinds. Fuller has always known how to adapt to shifting needs without losing its biblical grounding—shaping the kinds of courageous, innovative, and faithful evangelical leaders we’re going to need more than ever.”

—Pat Gelsinger
CEO of VMware

“Fuller’s educational ministry centers not only on academic excellence but also obedient discipleship, evident in the ways its programs and centers engage with issues pertinent to the church, culture, and society. What's more, because of its commitment to God’s kingdom, Fuller relates to younger and smaller seminaries from around the world with both generosity and humility.”

–Elizabeth Sendek
President, Biblical Seminary of Colombia
Medellin, Colombia

Past Letters to the Fuller Community

President Labberton’s letter above is the third in a series of communications he has sent to the Fuller community in recent weeks. Click the links below to access his first two letters. Given the historic significance of our decision to relocate, we wanted to alert the seminary community to our process of discernment and our readiness to strategically embrace the challenges and opportunities before us in this era of disruption.

Resources

A Vision to Transform the Seminary Experience

With Brehm Center Director Mako Fujimura, Mark Labberton discusses Fuller's vision to transform the seminary experience

+ Watch Now

Embedded, Online Education at Fuller

Tommy Lister, Executive Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning, discusses the distinctives of Fuller's online programs

+ Watch Now

Creating Beauty in Exile

Dr. Labberton reflects on what it means to live a faithful life in a culture shaped by fear and violence

+ Watch Now

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