Remembering Jack L. Stotts

1932-2008

Covenant Network Luncheon
PCUSA General Assembly
San Jose, California
June 23, 2008

Cynthia M. Campbell

I am deeply honored to be here today to give thanks to God for the life and ministry of our teacher, our leader, our friend – Jack Stotts. In the memorial service for Jack held at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago (where Jack served twice as interim pastor) Jack’s son Stuart and I – independently – drew upon the same metaphor to describe this remarkable man. He was always, we said, the “go to guy.” The “go to guy” is a the player you trust to find the shot and make it; the one you want to make sure is up when the game is on the line, because you know that if anyone can come through, he will. For son Stuart, that was his dad. For many of, the same was true.

Born in Dallas and educated at Trinity University, Jack graduated from McCormick Seminary in 1957. After earning the Ph.D. in Christian Ethics at Yale, he returned to McCormick to teach ethics in 1963. By 1974, he was Dean of Faculty. The next year, he was elected President. Ten years later, he was called as President of Austin Seminary. Both schools faced enormous challenges when Jack took office. Both schools needed a president who could listen as well as lead; who could inspire hope as well as confidence; who could reach out and build relationships with people who felt alienated. All of that he did, and more.

In 1983, when our new denomination was formed, a statement of faith was needed to give voice to our new identity. Once again, when the church needed a wise and proven leader with broad theological vision, it turned to Jack Stotts. We forget these 25 years later how diverse (almost divergent) the views were of those on the committee. But Jack was able to set a tone of respect and good humor and deep, abiding love for the church and (more importantly) for Jesus Christ.

Jack was a dear friend and loyal supporter of the Covenant Network. He was the speaker for our first-ever luncheon and keynoted two of our conferences. In fact, his own life was one of the best examples of the values to which we aspire – just and generous.

Jack would say that the “Brief Statement of Faith” was truly a group effort, and it was. But his own faith is deeply embedded in it, and nowhere is that seen more clearly than in the word “trust” which shapes that beautiful document.  The Statement begins: “In life and in death we belong to God.” Because of that belonging, we trust in Jesus Christ, fully human, fully God; and in God, whom Jesus called Abba, Father; and in the Holy Spirit, everywhere the giver and renewer of life. Because the One in whom we trust can be counted on never to let us down and never to let us go, we live and work and love with confidence and with deep and daily gratitude.

Thanks be to God for the life of Jack Stotts — our teacher, our leader, our friend. Amen.

Cynthia M. Campbell, President
McCormick Theological Seminary

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