Leadership Foundations Board Chair Jack Fortin was awarded an honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Divinity honoris causa) on May 19th during the 118th Annual New York Theological Seminary Commencement. We chatted with Jack about this high honor and his experience being recognized for a lifetime of achievements in ministry and theological thought. To watch Dr. Fortin’s sermon, click here.
This is a big deal to be given this honor. What was your feeling when NYTS approached you about this?
Dale Irvin, President of NYTS, is a Leadership Council member and a wonderful supporter and friend. We’ve had several conversations about life and work and meaning. Dale came to me one day and said, “We’d like to honor your work.” The honorary doctorate is really the honoring of a person’s life work and having your peers recognize it and that meant a lot to me. More importantly, institutionally, I believe God loves organizations as much as God loves people because people in organizations create more change than they do individuals. I told Dale I wanted to give myself not just to people but to institutions like Leadership Foundations which is biased for action and creates stronger communities which allow God’s mission to be carried out. Dale and I both wanted to connect our institutions and decided one of the ways to do that would be through this honor.
It is also a momentous occasion for Leadership Foundations to have its Board Chair validated in this way and to be on that stage.
One of my goals was to lift up the two organizations where I am giving my time and that share the values and direction of NYTS; Augsburg University and LF. They are not about building a bigger organization but they’re about impacting the community through their area of expertise and doing so in a collaborative manner, and I wanted to elevate that and reflect on the commissioning coming out of Augsburg and LF, and biblically justify the uniqueness of the two.
“What a fantastic time to be alive participating in and leading faith communities with all of the expressions found among us; knowing we can be a vehicle of transformation of life where cities will no longer be battlefields but will be playgrounds of safety and hope and shalom.”. Jack Fortin, from his sermon “Through Closed Doors…Sent“ NYTS Commencement Service May 19, 2018
What did you want to communicate to this 118th graduating class of NYTS?
I wanted to reflect the occasion and give a particular commission to the graduates. I wanted to acknowledge that you graduated from not just any old Seminary but one whose point of view is critical to the world today and to demonstrate that LF and Augsburg are two institutions that are living out the work that NYTS has uniquely trained you for. But there were also families there as well–brothers and cousins and sisters and I wanted to make sure that the Gospel was clear enough that they could understand the power of the Good News when it is delivered through action and reflection, not just reflection.
The Church where you delivered you sermon is full of history. The building was commissioned by John Rockefeller and MLK Jr, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and more who have spoken from the same pulpit. Was the historical relevance significant to you?
Oh yes. I was very aware of that. It was a phenomenal privilege in my career to speak from the same platform as these great leaders. But it was only after it was all over when I stepped back and really reflected on what had just happened, the way that God has used me, and how the experience strengthened my own fervor for the work that we are doing. Very humbling.
Dale introduced you and must have gone on for 5 minutes on your lifetime of achievements. I hope this is not a period at the end of your work.
I can never retire! My calling isn’t about my job. My calling is about my work and when I quit work, I die. Until I die, I will continue to do my work. This experience simply fires me up.