MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–A pilot who has flown three U.S. presidents in Air Force One was among 88 graduates at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s winter commencement ceremony at First Baptist Church in San Francisco.
The graduates, representing 17 states and eight countries, received diplomas, master’s and doctoral degrees. The seminary conferred 50 diplomas in Christian ministries and eight diplomas in theology to students from its 64 Contextualized Leadership Development (CLD) centers across the country, which are operated in partnership with local churches, associations and state conventions.
One of those CLD graduates was Gary Lowe of Utah, who received a diploma in Christian ministries. Before he started serving as a bivocational pastor, Lowe had a distinguished career in the U.S. Air Force. His service included eight years as a pilot in the 89th Military Airlift Wing, Presidential Support, home of Air Force One. His duties included transporting the president of the United States. Lowe flew three presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
“Day in and day out, I had a front row seat to history,” Lowe, 58, said. In addition to his current pastoral service, Lowe is director of aviation and chief pilot for Sinclair Companies. He said his CLD diploma is the first step in God’s leading toward full-time ministry.
“There are so many resources available in the CLD program which benefit the layman to access seminary-level knowledge,” Lowe said. “It’s a spectacular program.”
The seminary’s highest student award, the William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award, was given to Richard Johnstone, a doctor of ministry graduate from the Northern California campus.
“Rich is a recognized leader among California Southern Baptists. His doctoral project was outstanding,” Golden Gate President Jeff Iorg said. “He typifies the kind of effective leader Golden Gate is committed to producing for churches across the West and around the world.”
Johnstone also received the Will Edd & Lila Fae Langford Award, which is given to the candidate whose D.Min. project exemplifies excellence in design, implementation, evaluation and impact.
Johnstone is director of missions for the Mid-Valley Southern Baptist Association in Fresno, Calif. In accepting the awards, Johnstone expressed appreciation for “the opportunity this program gave me to integrate both theory and practice in an actual ministry setting.” Johnstone’s son Ethan also is a Golden Gate student at the Southern California campus.
Two graduating students shared the story of their journeys toward receiving their degrees at the Dec. 10 commencement. Maggie Arbino, who received a master of theological studies degree, told the crowd how she was “blessed to have attended classes at Golden Gate Seminary since 1987, almost all of my adult life.” Arbino’s husband, Gary Arbino, is a Golden Gate professor of archeology and Old Testament.
Douglas Tiemann, who received a master of divinity degree, honored the faculty by describing how he had grown more confident during his time at Golden Gate: “My professors live their faith, and they have helped strengthen mine.” Tiemann and his wife Reann both participated in commencement exercises, with her earning the master of theological studies degree.
Iorg based his charge to the graduates on a group of characters in the Christmas story — the shepherds. “These men are examples of everyday people who responded obediently to God’s direction,” Iorg said, asking the graduates, “How is our seminary’s mission of shaping leaders who expand God’s Kingdom around the world going to be accomplished through you?”
Iorg answered the question by noting, “When everyday Christians respond to revelation with prompt obedience and tell people about Jesus.”
Iorg encouraged the graduates to listen to God as He reveals Himself in Jesus, through the Bible and by the Spirit. He counseled, “Remember, delayed obedience is disobedience. I challenge you tonight to obey God — promptly, courageously, taking whatever risk is necessary to tell people about Jesus.”
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (www.ggbts.edu), a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention, operates five fully accredited campuses — in Northern California, Southern California, Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Colorado.
Phyllis Evans is director of communications at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.