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5/28/97 2 commencement ceremonies conducted by Golden Gate

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Assurance of God’s call to ministry is a source of strength during difficult times, seminary President William O. Crews told graduates of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, Calif.
“Of all the things God has brought into my life, nothing has been more solidifying than his call on my life,” Crews declared. “You brought God’s call with you to seminary and I hope we’ve done everything we can to help affirm it in your life.”
The former California pastor spoke to 96 graduates representing 16 states and seven foreign countries during the main campus’ commencement ceremonies May 23 at the Marin (Calif.) Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium.
Sixteen other graduates participated in commencement ceremonies of the seminary’s southern California (Brea) campus a week earlier at nearby Rose Drive Baptist Church, Yorba Linda. Graduates represented seven states and four other countries and earned 14 master of divinity and two master of arts in Christian education degrees. One of the students also earned a diploma in theology.
Another 10 students who completed their studies at the Brea campus participated in Mill Valley commencement. Golden Gate, with other regional campuses in Phoenix; Vancouver, Wash.; and Denver, is one of six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and the only SBC agency in the western United States.
Addressing the main campus graduates, Crews said, “We are here tonight because God has worked in your hearts,” adding such assurance should be “embraced as a strength. Remain faithful to that call.”
Southern Baptist Convention President Tom Elliff, pastor of the First Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., urged the graduates to remain sensitive to God throughout their ministry.
“I want to make an appeal to you — harden not your hearts. It happens all too easily,” Elliff said. “Don’t ever assume you can come to God in your own way, on your own terms, in your own time. You come to God on his terms or you don’t come to him at all.”
Citing Psalm 95, Elliff said God wants men and women to walk closely with him.
“This world will not be changed by the vehicle of men and women who profess to be Christians but who are insensitive to the heart of God,” he warned. “It is God who is calling you and it comes down to this issue: yes or no.”
Too often, Elliff said, ministers neglect their personal relationship with the Lord. “Don’t get so busy doing the work of God that you miss time to spend with the God who is the master of the business,” he implored.
Doctor of ministry graduate Nelson Wilhelm, a director of missions in Fort Smith, Ark., praised the degree program for helping increase his effectiveness in ministry.
“The rest of my life will be vastly different because of the doctor of ministry program,” Wilhelm said. “It provided a platform for doing things for God that I would have been unable to do otherwise.” Sharing his testimony, he called the experience a “joyful journey” of the “practical kind of education that lays alongside not only the academic studies but the work I do in ministry.”
Master of divinity graduate Sandra Johnson, who has been helping to start a church in Oakland, Calif., recalled God using her friendships in seminary for “reshaping” inner character.
“God used people — ordinary people — to help a young zealous believer like me learn about … unity, humility, self-sacrifice, healing,” she said, looking over the graduating class. “This is an end of an era, but we find solace in that God is making unique, one-of-a-kind sculptures that one day will mirror his Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.”
At the Brea ceremony, Sam Simmons, director of the southern California campus and associate professor of missions and Christian leadership, told the graduates their participation in the regional campus’ third annual commencement ceremonies “goes beyond your personal accomplishments and sacrifice … to make a statement about the future of seminary education.” It represents, Simmons said, “four Ws” of seminary education:
— The why of seminary education. “The ultimate reason our seminary exists is to contribute to the building of God’s kingdom through the training of ministers,” Simmons declared. “Each of you was involved in ministry while in seminary and will leave here tonight to continue your ministry commitments to the God who called you.”
— The where of seminary education. “Seminary education may be provided contextually where people are in ministry,” Simmons said. “You didn’t need to move away to a traditional ‘main campus.’ You were able to continue your ministry pilgrimage while receiving your seminary education.”
— The who of seminary education. “As a graduating class, you represent a mosaic of ethnic, national and racial backgrounds,” Simmons noted. “Some of you are our first graduates of the bilingual (master of divinity) track for Korean students.” Plans are under way to expand the program to assist Hispanic, Chinese and Vietnamese students, he added.
— The what of seminary education. “Your graduation here in this local church reminds us that seminaries are partners with the local church,” Simmons said. “This church family has embraced this graduation event as a ministry to you and the seminary family instead of it being simply a convenient place to hold graduation.”
Graduates at each ceremony also received a New American Standard Bible from the Lockman Foundation of La Habra, Calif.

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  • Cameron Crabtree