DISRUPTION

September 10, 2019

FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY PREPARES TO MOVE 

In Trust Magazine, Spring 2019

Winner of Award of Merit, News Story by the Associated Church Press (ACP), the oldest association of professional religion journalists in North America. 

by Alex Newman


There's a small box at the edge of the sidewalk in front of an impressive Arts and Crafts building in the middle of Pasadena, California. It’s stacked full of Fuller magazines. Even from a distance you can see the word DISRUPTION on the cover in 200-point Century Bold, against a stark white background. A bird in upward flight replaces one of the letters.

 

 

It’s hard to imagine disruption in such a peaceful place, a grassy mall lined with ficus and palm trees that was created by Fuller Theological Seminary in 2004. The campus master plan emphasizes that “Fuller continues to be a welcoming thoroughfare for nearby businesses, tourists, and new Pasadena residents.”

 

 

The disruption refers to the massive change about to take place at Fuller, which is one of the five largest accredited theological schools in North America. The seminary is leaving Pasadena, with its historic Spanish Revival houses and its high-end shops and restaurants, and moving 25 miles east to Pomona, a less affluent community working to overcome a longstanding reputation for crime and corruption.

 

Disruption in this case is a double entendre — moving from one’s home of 70 years certainly will disrupt lives — but it also speaks to a facet of the seminary’s mission, which is to spur Christians to be disruptive agents in a world riven by disagreements about power, race, nationalism, and economics.

 

In a 2018 address on the crisis of evangelicalism, president Mark Labberton threw down the gauntlet: There is “egregious collusion between evangelicals and worldly power,” he said. But Labberton’s conclusion was one of hope. “Jesus Christ gathers us here for real work. May it be a work of grace that moves us to repentance, leading to personal and systemic change. May it move us deeper into the life and heart of God.”

 

 

PRACTICAL RATIONALE AND CHALLENGES

 

While Fuller’s move may have spiritual implications, the precipitating factor has been more practical. Fuller has no urgent reason to move; the seminary has a healthy endowment and a head-count enrollment of 2,78