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Golden Gate to offer partial degrees in fall at Northwest, Arizona campuses

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary this fall will offer just two-thirds of the master of divinity degree and half the master of arts in Christian education degree at its Pacific Northwest Campus in Vancouver, Wash., after the Association of Theological Schools declined earlier this year to approve offering the full degrees at the regional campus.
At the seminary’s Arizona Regional Campus in Phoenix, which began in 1995 in partnership with the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention and has more than 70 enrolled, students this fall will be able to take just half the course requirements for the two degrees following similar decisions by ATS commissioners.
The seminary had been providing the full degrees at the two regional campuses without prior approval from ATS or the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the seminary’s two major accrediting bodies. When they discovered the oversight, seminary officials asked representatives of both ATS and WASC to visit the regional campuses late last year and approve the full degree programs.
The WASC commissioners approved the full degree offerings at the Pacific Northwest and Arizona campuses, but ATS commissioners approved only the partial degree offerings beginning this coming fall, asking for additional faculty and more support for library and research capabilities.
None of the ATS decisions affects the seminary’s overall accreditation.
“We are pleased to have received the requested approval from WASC to offer the full degrees and we are working in partnership with ATS officials and convention leaders to enhance the ministry of our regional campuses in such a way that ATS approves offering the full degree programs there in the very near future,” said William O. Crews, president of Golden Gate since 1986.
Crews already has met with Jeff Iorg, executive director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, and other leaders in the region. Plans to add more faculty, library support and computer resources are under way, Crews said, to meet the ATS qualifications for offering full degree programs on-site at the Pacific Northwest Campus. In fact, Golden Gate Seminary officials already submitted on April 15 a second “substantive
change application” for ATS approval for offering the full master of divinity degree there. A decision won’t be made by ATS commissioners, however, until their May 27 meeting.
In the meantime, students at the Vancouver-based campus may complete the rest of their course requirements at the seminary’s Mill Valley campus near San Francisco during summer intensive courses with “full matriculation scholarships,” according to Rodrick Durst, academic dean at Golden Gate and the seminary’s liaison officer with accrediting agencies. That is how the seminary provided theological education to students in the Northwest several years ago, he added. Students also have the option of completing the rest of the course work through a commission-approved arrangement with a sister ATS-accredited institution in the region.
Seminary officials are working with the individual students affected to fulfill all degree requirements in the most timely, convenient manner possible. Total enrollment at the Pacific Northwest Campus, begun in 1980, is 85.
“The value of the seminary’s partnership with Northwest Baptists is unquestioned as we have seen more and more students from the regional campus step into places of significant church leadership and ministry involvement,” said Crews, a former pastor in the Northwest.
He noted the delay in approval from ATS commissioners is part of the “healthy process” of delivering quality education for ministers and church leaders.
“Although we are disappointed in the short-term, we will be in an even stronger leadership position when this process is complete to offer the very best theological education available to future church leaders in the growing centers of mission in the West,” Crews said. “The ATS commission realizes Golden Gate is pioneering efforts to provide contextualized theological education to students in a variety of ministry settings because of our purpose and mission on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention and its ministries.”
Out of the more than 250 member schools of ATS, Golden Gate is one of only five providing full degree programs at regional campus or extension education sites. The seminary’s Southern California Campus in Brea, established in 1973, was approved by ATS in 1990 to offer the full master’s degree programs. More than 200 students are enrolled there.
“We are stepping boldly ahead of many seminaries in America and are asking ATS to move forward into new paradigms by trying to provide theological education as close to the local ministry setting as possible,” Crews said. “We are confident that as we continue to make improvements at each of our regional campuses that they will be approved to offer full degree programs on-site in the future.”
Seminary Provost Richard Melick Jr. said the seminary is encountering the challenge that comes from “daring to do something different” from most seminaries.
“Extension education sites and regional campuses like the Pacific Northwest Campus and the Arizona Campus will be a growing area for ATS and we are helping them understand their value and significance in the overall framework of theological education in North America,” Melick said. “ATS representatives have consistently affirmed the quality of our regional campus students, our faculty teaching there and the spiritual maturity and ministry involvement of our students.”
“We believe that in the very near future, with the support of the seminary family and Northwest Baptists, Golden Gate Seminary will be offering a full degree program at the Pacific Northwest Campus,” Crews added. “The best days of ministry at the Pacific Northwest Campus are yet ahead.”
Seminary leaders are formulating plans with Arizona convention leaders, including Steve Bass, executive director of the convention, and Bill May, director of the Arizona Church Growth Board, to place additional faculty and library resources at the Phoenix-based campus in order to ask ATS again for approval to offer two-thirds of the master of divinity degree on-site. Depending on how the timetable and plans are worked out, the seminary could re-apply to offer the program within the next six months. Later, seminary officials said, plans will be developed to offer the full master of divinity program in Arizona.
“Golden Gate’s ministry partnership with Arizona Baptists will prove to be one of those strategic efforts of Southern Baptists to provide the very best leadership possible for the churches of tomorrow,” Crews said. “We live in a day and age where we must all work together to accomplish the best God has for us.”
Both ATS and WASC gave approval, as requested by the seminary, to offer half the master of divinity at the Rocky Mountain campus in Denver, begun in 1996 in partnership with Colorado Baptists. Thirty students are currently enrolled there.

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  • Cameron Crabtree