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Golden Gate trustees elect VP, look to avoid year-end deficit

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Financial concerns dominated the regular spring meeting of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary trustees May 1-2 in Mill Valley, Calif., with trustees hiring a vice president for institutional advancement and approving a $7.6 million budget for the 2000-01 fiscal year.

Golden Gate trustees also authorized President William O. “Bill” Crews to continue exploring a proposed “dual degree” program with Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Trustees elected Thomas O. Jones as Golden Gate’s new vice president for institutional advancement. Jones, 44, currently holds a similar post at Williams Baptist College, Walnut Ridge, Ark.

California trustee Gene Dodson voiced enthusiasm for Jones’ election. “He’s caught the spirit already for Golden Gate Seminary and he’s ready to go,” said Dodson, pastor of North Hill Baptist Church in Vallejo.

Arkansas trustee Benny Thompson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Garfield, suggested the seminary’s gain was Arkansas’ loss. “I don’t know that there could be a better reputation than [Jones] has in the state,” Thompson said. “I know there’s a lot of weeping and wailing and groaning in Arkansas” over Jones’ decision to accept the seminary post, he added.

Before returning to his native Arkansas in 1994, Jones was vice president for public affairs at California Baptist College in Riverside. He previously served as an associate vice president at Cal Baptist and as director of alumni and church relations for the California Southern Baptist Convention-owned institution.

Jones begins his new duties at GGBTS June 1.

The 2000-01 balanced operating budget approved by Golden Gate trustees is 2.4 percent larger than the 1999-00 revised budget now in effect. The new spending plan includes a 2 to 3 percent salary increase for all GGBTS employees effective Aug. 1.

Jim Stephenson, Golden Gate’s vice president for business affairs, told trustees tuition revenue has increased 12.5 percent during the current year due to enrollment growth. He said Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches also increased more than $180,000 over the previous year.

However, Stephenson noted that ending the current fiscal year without a deficit will require “the continued generosity of SBC churches” as well as careful management and increased gifts from Golden Gate Seminary supporters.

The 2000-01 budget eliminates the position of Golden Gate Seminary facility services manager, and reassigns duties within the student life office. Stephenson reported 1 percent of the basic budget is earmarked for technology upgrades and other capital needs. The new spending plan also provides additional technical and institutional advancement support resources.

Stephenson surprised trustees by recommending that his position be eliminated to streamline operations and cut administrative costs. Trustees reluctantly agreed, expressing “deep appreciation” for Stephenson’s “excellent service, expertise and willingness to do whatever needs to be done” to secure the seminary’s fiscal well-being.

Stephenson, who has completed 10 years of service at GGBTS, will remain as an assistant to the seminary comptroller and plans to complete work this year on a master of arts in theological studies degree.

Trustees voted “to help the seminary through a difficult financial period” by temporarily changing the spending rate from restricted endowment fund earnings for three years. The change allows spending up to 10 percent of the restricted endowment earnings as needed during the current fiscal year, instead of the 5 percent limit specified in existing policy. The spending limit will decrease to no more than 8 percent in 2000-01 and return to 5 percent the following year.

Members of the trustees’ instruction committee referred to the seminary’s budget situation as they voiced concern over the “failure to fill faculty positions … due to financial constraints.” David George, pastor of Lake Arlington Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas, spoke on behalf of the committee.

“We have perceived a trend that … as folks have retired or resigned, one of the ways we have balanced the budget is simply not to replace faculty,” George declared. “We don’t think that trend should continue. That’s something we need to reverse.”

Crews expressed optimism that a renewed focus on institutional advancement will help strengthen the institution’s financial condition, in part by increasing the number of endowed academic positions on the GGBTS faculty.

“I would hope that in the next five years we would be able to put in place gifts or planned gifts that would eventually endow at least five other chairs at Golden Gate Seminary,” Crews said. “I can think of no finer contribution to God’s kingdom than to leave behind a legacy that will live until Jesus comes again.”

In other business, trustees authorized further discussions aimed at developing a partnership between the seminary and Southern Baptists’ oldest university. Golden Gate officials already have begun talks with Union University in Jackson, Tenn., about offering twin master’s-level degrees in intercultural studies to students at both institutions.

Rick Melick, GGBTS provost, told trustees the partnership is contingent upon establishing “mutually satisfactory” agreements between the two Southern Baptist institutions. “We have worked through many of the details (but) there are some things that are still pending,” Melick said.

In other actions trustees:

— approved a half-year sabbatical for Jerry Stubblefield, professor of Christian education, beginning Jan. 1, 2001.

— granted promotions recommended by President Crews for 26 faculty members.

— Re-designated $140,000 in chapel building funds to complete funding for the renovation of the Broadus Chapel, projected to total $206,000. Trustees previously authorized $66,000 of Southern Baptist Convention capital needs funds for the chapel renovation project.

    About the Author

  • Mark A. Wyatt