MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Five married couples were among the 101 graduates who received degrees at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s commencement ceremony Dec. 12 at First Baptist Church in San Francisco.
The graduates, from 14 states and seven countries, studied at the seminary’s five campuses as well as several of its regional contextualized leadership development centers. Degrees included the doctor of ministry; master of divinity; master of theological studies; master of arts in educational leadership; diploma in theology; diploma in theology – contextualized leadership development (CLD); and diploma in Christian ministries – CLD.
Jeff Iorg, the seminary’s president, reminded the graduates to trust in God during their ministries even when they don’t feel worthy or confident.
“God uses people you might not expect in ways you might not expect to accomplish His goals,” he said. “God uses inconsistent people, forgiven and restored people, unknown people and anonymous people. Sometimes God chooses and uses unexpected people to accomplish His work — people just like us.”
Iorg urged the graduates to keep in mind that “God wants to use you to get the Gospel to the nations. He has chosen you and continues to shape you as a leader so you might accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission.”
The William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award, the seminary’s highest student honor, was given to Ryan Blackwell, a master of divinity graduate from the Northern California Campus.
“Ryan is an outstanding young leader with remarkable potential for future pastoral effectiveness,” Iorg said. “He has proven himself, both in the seminary community and in local church service, to be worthy of this award.”
Two graduating students shared the story of their experiences at Golden Gate. Blackwell returned to the podium to explain how he learned over the past three years to trust God as his provider for his job, his home and his family.
“Whenever I felt inadequate and ill-equipped, God spoke to me,” Ryan said. “He told me, ‘You can trust me. I will give you what you need.’ It is a testimony of how God uses things in ways we don’t think are possible.”
Gift Suison, who received a master of arts in educational leadership, described how “God repositioned me in my faith through theological training, community and my relationship with Christ.” She said she continues “to be faithful and obedient to carry out what God wants me to do each day.”
Through its 49 contextualized leadership development centers across the country, operated in partnership with local churches, associations and state conventions, the seminary conferred 53 diplomas in Christian ministries and 11 diplomas in theology. This year the first Haitian CLD graduates were recognized. “It never ceases to amaze me how many language groups we are touching with our work,” Iorg said. “God has truly made us a seminary for the nations.”
Phyllis Evans is director of communications at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.