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Golden Gate prepares for possible staff layoffs in wake of defunding

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Facing the prospect of drastically reduced Cooperative Program support from Texas Baptists, officials at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary are eyeing staff layoffs and other cost-cutting steps before the end of 2000.

Seminary trustees meeting at the Mill Valley, Calif. campus Oct. 10 authorized President William O. “Bill” Crews to begin immediately mapping out budget cuts “to reflect potential losses from the proposed actions by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.” The action refers to a proposal recently approved by the BGCT executive board to cut some $4.3 million from Texas Baptists’ support of six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.

Messengers from Texas Baptist churches will vote on the proposal at the BGCT annual meeting Oct. 31.

“If they were to somehow miraculously vote to leave their budget as is, it makes a lot of this immaterial,” Crews said in an interview with the California Southern Baptist. However, Crews added determinedly, “We can’t wait to find out what the impact of Texas is before we make our adjustments.”

Crews said Golden Gate Seminary’s share of Texas Baptists’ Cooperative Program gifts last year totaled $514,000. Under the BGCT proposal, that amount would shrink to less than $19,000 next year. Crews said the impact would be felt quickly.

“We will of necessity need to reduce our administrative and support staff in the terms of probably $130,000 to $140,000,” Crews said. “We don’t know who yet, and we will make that decision pretty quickly because I don’t want everybody to be held in limbo.”

Crews also said a planned pay raise for GGBTS faculty and staff likely would be replaced with a one-time bonus. Trustees approved the 3 percent step pay increase last April to begin Aug. 1. But Crews said a final decision on implementing the raise was held up until the trustees’ October meeting “to see if our student recruitment projections came up to certain standards” to fund the pay hike.

“In all likelihood that will be a part of the funds being deleted from the budget; it’s basically $140,000,” the seminary president said after a closed-session discussion with trustees.

“However, we will do something from another source of funds that will recognize our employees and will come in the form of a Christmas bonus that will basically be the equivalent of the raise they would have gotten,” Crews added. “We will try to meet the promise that we made to the staff but we will do it in another way — from another source of money, not the budget.”

In addition to cutting costs, Crews said Golden Gate Seminary would also consider lifting a cap on tuition fees for some students.

“Our fee structure allows anyone enrolled in more than nine credit hours of course work to pay a flat fee,” Crews explained. “We may take that cap off and that would increase some income from the students. That’s what the other seminaries are doing and it’s probably fair that we do it as well.”

Crews stressed that no faculty positions will be cut in the revised budget. “We’re already stretched, faculty-wise, and we cannot continue to deliver what we’re trying to deliver with less faculty than we have right now,” Crews said.

However, the seminary president said Golden Gate will delay hiring three or four new professors at the main campus and hold off filling several faculty slots at the institution’s regional campuses.

As if to affirm Crews’ determination to prevent faculty attrition, Golden Gate trustees voted to fill a key teaching vacancy at the seminary’s Mill Valley campus. Jay Young Noh was hired effective in the spring 2001 semester. Noh is a Ph.D. graduate of Trinity International University. He earned graduate degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and received a B.A. in sociology and the philosophy of religion from the University of Central Florida.

Noh has taught New Testament studies for North Park University, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southwest Baptist University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Noh replaces Rudy Gonzales, who resigned his GGBTS teaching post earlier this year to accept a position with the North American Mission Board.

In addition to recommending Noh’s election, President Crews also introduced the seminary’s new dean of student life. Mark Tichenor assumed his new duties at GGBTS in September. Tichenor served in a similar position at The Criswell College in Dallas the past six years. Previously, he and his wife, Sonya, ministered in Morocco, North Africa, through the International Service Corps of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.

Tichenor is a graduate of Houston Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He succeeds Bob Baker, former dean of student life, who began a full-time counseling practice in Mission Viejo this summer.

In other action, trustees approved a response to a motion from the 2000 SBC annual meeting. The motion, presented in Orlando last June and referred to all SBC entities, requested “Southern Baptist institutions and seminaries not to require employees to sign ‘The Baptist Faith and Message’ as a condition of employment.”

The response from GGBTS trustees notes that the seminary’s constitution states that the Baptist Faith and Message approved by the SBC expresses “the cardinal beliefs upon which the seminary is founded and in harmony with which it will operate.” The statement further declares that “to these principles, trustees, administrative officers, and faculty members must subscribe.”

After approving the response, six GGBTS board members attending their first meeting as trustees added their signatures to a document supporting the SBC statement of beliefs. The new members thus joined all of the institution’s current and former trustees in pledging to administer their trustee responsibility “in accordance with and not contrary to principles set forth in this confessional document.”

    About the Author

  • Mark A. Wyatt