David Emmanuel Goatley will become the sixth president of Fuller Seminary in January 2023.
The seminary announced the board of trustees’ decision in a Sept. 12 press release, noting that Goatley would be the first Black president of the California-based seminary and that he would succeed Mark Labberton who has served as president since 2013.
Goatley is currently employed at Duke University, serving as associate dean for Academic and Vocational Formation, Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams, Jr. Research Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry, and director of the Office of Black Church Studies at Duke University Divinity School. He served previously as the executive secretary-treasurer of Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Society and currently is the program director of Lott Carey’s Thriving in Ministry program.
“I rejoice that the Lord has called me to join this community of theological education and vocational formation at Fuller Seminary. It is a distinct honor to be part of this family and to succeed distinguished predecessors in service as the sixth president,” Goatley said in the seminary’s press release. “Innovation and imagination are no strangers at Fuller, and I am thrilled to follow the Spirit’s lead into a new era of teaching, learning, and serving the church and the world.”
Goatley worked closely with Cliff Vaughn, media producer at Good Faith Media, to produce the Lott Carey podcast “Pilgrimages of Striving and Thriving,” highlighting the ministry and witness of 36 Black Baptist ministers, including Goatley.
“Flourishing in ministry has to do with reproduction, not with duplication. I don’t think flourishing in ministry is about trying to crank out a bunch of ‘mini-me’s.’ Flourishing in ministry is related to organic reproduction, which means that some plant and others water, but God gives the increase,” he said in his podcast interview. “I like the idea of the tree that drops seeds that can then reproduce, not duplicate, but reproduce overtime.”
Facing financial difficulties in the late 2010s, the board of directors announced in May 2018 that the Pasadena campus would be sold, with the seminary’s main campus relocated to Pomona.
Due to challenges selling the property and high costs associated with building a new campus, the seminary decided in October 2019 to remain in Pasadena.
In September 2021, Fuller announced a strategic plan for the seminary’s future called “FULLER NEXT,” which involves a redesign of its curriculum (including adding new degrees and revamping its Master of Divinity program), as well as adding fully online options and hybrid learning models.
“This is a tough time to be a pastoral leader and to be a congregation. There’s a lot of segmentation, there’s a lot of polarization, there’s a lot of isolation,” Goatley said in a video message to Fuller’s constituents. “Some people believe that the church is the problem. I don’t believe the church is the problem. We have problems, but God has trusted us, and God is empowering us to be part of the solution.”
“Christian higher theological education is critical today, because churches need good leaders, and communities and the world needs good churches,” he said. “I was drawn to Fuller because of its history of forming leaders for good and faithful ministry in and through the church, and because of its commitment to the church around the world.”