[SLIDESHOW=42609,42610,42611]MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) — Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, charged the seminary’s graduating class May 20 to “talk about the Gospel, live a transformed life, work quietly where you serve and give God the glory.”
The commencement service, one of five ceremonies across five campuses, signaled the end of closing events for the seminary as it looks toward a name change to Gateway Seminary at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in St. Louis, as well as a move for the main campus from Mill Valley, Calif., 400 miles to the south to Ontario, Calif.
Iorg presented diplomas to 146 northern California campus students during graduation exercises. A total of 262 Golden Gate Seminary graduates were recognized this Spring.
“Our seminary is involved in a major transition, one of the most significant events any seminary has ever experienced,” Iorg said. “This is a great day of celebration and accomplishment. God is doing so much more than we can take credit for. As president, it’s like I’m steering a boat on a river, but the river of God’s purposes is carrying us along in ways exceeding our leadership. ”
He reminded graduates that a major success like graduation is often accompanied by a profound sense of inadequacy.
“We know how little we have done and how much God has done on our behalf,” he said. “My prayer is that you will leave here celebrating your accomplishment, not to magnify Golden Gate Seminary or yourself — but to bring glory to God.”
Iorg told graduates that his first pastorate was at a small church on a dirt road. “I remember praying to God and promising Him that I would preach like I was preaching to 10,000 people. I would give everything I had for this opportunity to preach the Gospel. I preached week after week to hundreds, working quietly, not to promote my own name but to give the glory to God. Now I preach week after week — often to thousands. If you will go where God leads and pour your heart and soul into that work, God will be glorified and give you even broader opportunities for ministry.”
Iorg noted that the evening’s commencement ceremony included the largest graduating class in the seminary’s history, with many students accelerating their studies to graduate under the Golden Gate Seminary name.
“You can feel the excitement and energy for this graduation,” said Jaclyn Brito, a 2015 Golden Gate Seminary graduate. “Last year, students were excited, too, but not to this level.”
One student said after briefly working as a missionary after college, she realized she was totally unprepared for a lifetime of missionary service.
“I began to see my need for theological education,” the student said. “I didn’t want to get my theological education at the expense of getting practical experience, but that’s exactly why I chose Golden Gate. Golden Gate Seminary provides that educational foundation along with actual hands-on multicultural experience so that we can make the Gospel relevant to the nations.”
For example, she recounted how recently she and her husband were prayerwalking when a woman invited them into her home. Three hours later, the woman and her husband accepted Jesus as their Savior.
“I feel that I am prepared now,” the student said. “We are here tonight in caps and gowns, ready to take the Gospel to the nations.”
Steven Simpson, who received a master of divinity degree, served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years before pursuing a theological education. He attended the seminary with funds from the G.I. Bill and has been a pastor for 12 years.
“I can speak boldly about the Gospel of Christ, because I understand the heritage we have,” he said. “I just want the faculty to know that you should be encouraged, because you’re preparing young men and women to go out into the world to share the Gospel.”
Iorg presented the William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award to Brice Butler, who received a doctor of ministry degree.
“We have chosen to present this award based on the work he has done but also the work he will do as a strategic leader in Marin County, where the seminary has ministered for so many years,” Iorg said.
Earlier in the day, alumni and friends said their final goodbyes to the Strawberry Point location that has served as the main campus since 1959. The seminary will close the Mill Valley campus on June 3 and will open in Ontario, Calif., on July 5.
An alumni luncheon was sold out as people gathered to share their memories of the main campus. Some traveled from as far as Florida, South Carolina and even South Asia to attend the event.
Iorg honored Andrew Flagg with a 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award. Flagg, who holds master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Golden Gate Seminary, served 26 years with his wife Connie as Southern Baptist missionaries to Mexico. He played a key role in developing a relationship between the seminary and Mexico City.
“I am so honored to receive this earthly reward,” Flagg said. “Our rewards in heaven are even better.”
Flagg will serve as director of theological field education for the second of the seminary’s new campuses, which is expected to open in Fremont, Calif., in January 2017 after beginning fall classes in Mill Valley.
“It’s hard to imagine that we’ve come this far in two years,” Iorg told alumni. “We are poised for the greatest era of seminary training in the West. The Golden Gate family coming together has made it all worthwhile.”