Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Big Changes Coming In California

The congregations who make up the Southern Baptist Convention own and operate six seminaries.  Three of them (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Wake Forest, NC; and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Fort Worth, TX) are distinctly within what we would call the Bible Belt.  Even Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Kansas City, MO is well within "traditional" Baptist territory. 

Two of the SBC Seminaries (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) are located in coastal communities, with their main campuses located in areas that are decidedly NOT traditional bastions of the Baptist faith.  Although NOBTS is obviously in the southern United States, anyone who is familiar with South Louisiana can testify to the dense Roman Catholic population and the Roman Catholic Church's powerful influence in that state from its formative past through the present day.  After all, Louisiana is the only state in the Union with Parishes instead of Counties!

Golden Gate Seminary is located out on the "left coast" with it's main campus at Mill Valley CA, (San Francisco bay area) and extension centers in Brea CA, Scottsdale AZ, Vancouver WA, and Centennial CO. Not exactly hotbeds of Baptist heritage. Like NOBTS, Golden Gate's funding through the SBC Cooperative Program is somewhat less than the other four seminaries due to the fact that the formula for that funding is based primarily on the number of on campus students.  Much of these two seminaries student bodies are spread across their various extension centers.  I have always viewed these two seminaries as being located in real American mission fields.

It was announced yesterday that Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is selling their Mill Valley campus and relocating the main campus to the Los Angeles area in Southern California. Some might view this as a questionable move, since one of the most prestigious seminaries in America (BIOLA) is already located in that area.  Others see this move as a wise choice, due to various challenges that have faced the Trustees and administration of GGBTS.  All would agree that this is a MAJOR change an is a tremendous step of faith.  Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of GGBTS made the announcement public yesterday.

I am blessed to be serving in my second term as a Trustee of NOBTS.  I can only imagine the prayer and discussions that preceded the GGBTS Trustees in making this monumental decision. Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS sent us each an email yesterday telling us about the upcoming change at Golden Gate and suggested that we share the information with our congregations and other SBC churches in our states.  Dr. Kelley, who understands many of the challenges facing Dr. Iorg, obviously thinks this is a wise move.  Here is the text of Dr. Kelley's email:

“Today Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Theological Seminary, announced the signing of a purchase agreement to sell the property of Golden Gate. The final act of sale is not expected before July. The seminary will continue to have campuses in Northern and Southern California, but in different locations to be announced later. The seminary will remain in its present location for two years while necessary arrangements are made. It is a brilliant tactical move that will allow Golden Gate to continue its ministry to Baptists in the West from a much stronger position. The Providence of God is on brilliant display in the conclusion of so complex a sale. We congratulate Dr. Iorg for his visionary leadership in finding a way to secure and enhance the California heritage of Golden Gate for many years to come. This will always be remembered as one of the greatest days in the history of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.” - Dr. Chuck Kelley, President, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Later yesterday afternoon Baptist Press released an article going into detail on the major change coming at Golden Gate.  If you do not subscribe to Baptist Press, you can read that article by clicking on this link.

Big changes have already come to all of our SBC Seminaries in particular and to theological education in general. Online courses have been around for a long time.  Now major accrediting agencies are approving the granting of degrees totally delivered online.  The times are changing, and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is making a major change.

The leaders of GGBTS obviously feel that this is the direction of God for them.  This pastor prays for great success in this move, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  As that great philosopher, Dorothy, once said to her little dog, Toto, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"  Well folks, we're not.  There are few Baptists who relish change.  I personally abhor change just for the sake of change.  However, when it comes to methods, locations, ideas, and principles concerning the work of the Kingdom we truly serve - we'd better be listening to the Holy Spirit, and be ready to be obedient, even if it means making some BIG changes!


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