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Finances, ‘firsts’ get attention at Golden Gate trustee meeting

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Trustees of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary took steps to strengthen a mixed financial situation and elected the first Hispanic professor of biblical studies ever hired by a Southern Baptist seminary during their fall meeting Oct. 12-13 in Mill Valley, Calif.
President William O. “Bill” Crews said increased enrollment and strong Cooperative Program support by Southern Baptist Convention churches combined to help the seminary end the 1997-98 fiscal year with a projected $32,000 surplus.
Trustees applauded the news and commended seminary administrators for achieving the year-end surplus.
Crews also told trustees the seminary received a windfall of more than $625,500 in September due to record CP giving during the past year.
“The bad news is that the capital needs portion of the budget will no longer exist after next year,” Crews said, referring to an action by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in September doing away with Cooperative Program capital improvement allocations for all six SBC seminaries.
Trustees approved spending $250,000 from the seminary’s final allocation of Cooperative Program capital funds to complete a library automation project designed to make the Golden Gate library card file accessible through the Internet.
Another $125,000 will be used to replace existing telephone cables with optical fiber lines and install digital telephone switching equipment. In addition, trustees authorized spending $100,000 to replace an obsolete fire alarm system at the seminary’s Mill Valley main complex.
Upgrades also are planned for the seminary chapel and classrooms, according to Jim Stephenson, vice president for business affairs.
“This is our last shot at capital money so we tried to make it our best shot,” Stephenson told trustees.
Crews reported record enrollment this fall at three of Golden Gate’s regional campuses, as well as a 12.5 percent enrollment gain — to 424 students — at the main seminary campus in Mill Valley.
Crews reminded trustees that funding the seminary receives from the Southern Baptist Convention is based on a formula that counts only a fraction of the students not enrolled at the main campus. Because more than 325 Golden Gate students are enrolled at four regional campuses, that formula has cost the seminary “$650,000 we ought to get,” Crews declared.
Still, Crews pledged to continue operating regional campuses despite the funding inequity and the fact that “other seminary presidents do not agree” with the approach.
“We do it not to be different, but we do it because it’s right,” Crews told trustees. “We ought to keep on doing it even if the rest of the world does not agree. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do.
“We pay for the privilege of doing it,” Crews added.
Golden Gate currently operates regional campuses in Brea, Calif.; Vancouver, Wash.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Denver. An additional teaching site in New Mexico is not operating during the current academic year.
Trustees received a report stating that the seminary’s operating budget for the current fiscal year has increased to $7.68 million, up almost a quarter of a million dollars from the $7.44 million figure approved last April.
Among expenditures in the revised budget, nearly half of the increase involves a projected one-time merit bonus averaging 3 percent for all GGBTS employees. However, the revised budget contains “no other provision for across-the-board salary increases,” according to the report.
By voting to hire Rudolph D. González as associate pastor of New Testament studies, trustees reduced the number of faculty vacancies by one-fourth at the seminary’s main campus. Golden Gate officials noted the action also was historic, since Gonzalez becomes the first Hispanic professor of biblical studies ever hired at a Southern Baptist seminary.
González, 45, was appointed guest professor of New Testament studies at Golden Gate earlier this spring after serving as assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at Criswell College in Dallas. He also has taught at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, and was a graduate research and teaching assistant at Baylor University, also in Waco.
From 1994-95, González was pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Mexicana in Dallas.
González holds graduate degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary. He currently is completing his Ph.D. degree in biblical studies and philosophy at Baylor.
David George, a pastor from Arlington, Texas, and chairman of the trustees’ instruction committee, commented on the historic election of González to the Golden Gate Seminary faculty.
“I think it’s important for you to know that he is of Mexican heritage, but we elected him because he is a solid New Testament scholar,” George said.
In what seminary officials believe to be another first, GGBTS moved a step closer to becoming the first Southern Baptist seminary to offer an entire masters degree program on the campus of a local church. Trustees approved plans to offer one-half of the master of arts in theological studies degree at Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
More than 50 students already have received MATS instruction in a pilot program at Saddleback. Classes currently are suspended, however, pending development of adequate library resources required to support the graduate-level courses, a seminary official reported.
Rick Melick, GGBTS provost, said the seminary expects to offer the entire degree at Saddleback once accrediting agencies approve the plan.
In other business, trustees:
— approved a draft report of a self-study conducted as part of the seminary’s application for accreditation renewal by two accrediting agencies.
— granted sabbatical leaves beginning in 1999 for three professors; Michael Thompson, one year, and Gary Pearson and Michael Martin, six months each.

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  • Mark A. Wyatt