The Heart and Vision of Jack Stotts
Rev. Jack Stotts was a child of NorthPark Presbyterian Church, but I met Jack when he was President of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and I was a student. Jack was amazingly generous with his time. I was just a first year know-it-all, but he allowed me to eat pancakes with he and his wife Virginia at Kirby Lane a couple of times. He even let me follow him around for a whole week, so I could learn from him. During that week I witnessed a man who truly cares for the common good. Dealing with students' drama, professors' egos, and whole host of competing interests, Jack never took his eyes off caring for the common good. His heart and his vision were absorbed by what is good for the whole. I will never forget this, and Jack lived that way throughout his life.
Jack graduated from McCormick Seminary in 1957. After earning his Ph.D. in Christian Ethics at Yale, he returned to McCormick to teach Ethics in 1963. By 1974, he was Dean of Faculty and was subsequently elected President. Ten years later, he was called as to Austin Seminary. Both schools faced enormous challenges when Jack took office. Both schools needed an active leader who could listen as well as lead for the common good; who could inspire hope as well as confidence; who could reach out and build relationships with people who felt alienated. All of that Jack did, and more.
In 1983, when the Southern and Northern Presbyterian churches came back together, a statement of faith was necessary to give voice to our new identity. Once again, when the church needed a wise and proven leader with a care for the common good, it turned to Jack Stotts.
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 this 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 to never to let us down and never to let us go, we live and work and love with confidence and deep and daily gratitude.
I will forever be grateful to Jack Stotts.
Rev. Brent Barry is the lead pastor of NorthPark Presbyterian Church. Brent and NorthPark have a deep commitment to working with the poor and hungry in Dallas, helping those with Alzheimer’s disease, and reaching across religious and cultural lines to do their part to bring Dallas together as one.