MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) — Class began promptly as Shera Melick, associate professor of educational leadership, asked her students to take their seats. She expressed her joy in teaching them, prayed over them, and then began the last in-classroom session she would conduct at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
Changes are in store at the seminary, with the relocation of its main campus from the San Francisco area to Southern California. Some are bittersweet, such as last year’s decision by longtime faculty members Shera and Rick Melick to retire.
“It has been very good to finish together at the seminary,” Rick said. “Our calling has not been to any one ministry. It has been to serve the Lord wherever and however He wishes.”
Rick, a Georgia native, was pursuing a master of divinity degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois when he met Shera, a registered nurse from California who was using extra scholarship money to study the Bible and Christian education. Before their marriage in 1968, Rick felt called to be a pastor and Shera was making plans to be a medical missionary.
An academic dean, however, offered Rick a faculty contract after his Ph.D. seminars at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, which he accepted after much prayer.
“That was a total surprise and a radical change of direction,” Rick recounted. He subsequently served in higher education as a professor, academic vice president or a president of six different institutions, including one school in Leuven, Belgium.
Shera stayed at home with their children in the first part of their marriage and also worked as a nurse in intensive care and critical care units for 10 years. She then pursued master’s and doctorate degrees in education, leading to 37 years of teaching and educational administration, two decades of which were at the collegiate or seminary level.
Bill Crews, former president of Golden Gate Seminary, invited Rick to teach for one year by presidential appointment. Although other opportunities were offered to both Melicks during the year, they felt compelled to stay at the seminary. In the fall of 1996, Rick was elected to the faculty by the board of trustees. Shera began teaching Christian education as an adjunct faculty member in January 1998 and became full-time in 2001.
Rick began work to reopen the Ph.D. program, a step he felt was important to the seminary and to evangelical education in the region.
“There is no evangelical Ph.D. program north of the Los Angeles basin through Canada, and east to Fort Worth or Kansas City,” he said. “There are some very good evangelical seminaries, but they do not have Ph.D. programs. I wanted the program to develop competent professors and well-informed, capable pastors who can address the complex social and religious environments of the West in particular.”
Golden Gate Seminary now offers a Ph.D. in both biblical studies and theology.
Shera began teaching in the Christian education department, which offered the master of arts in Christian education degree. Changing needs of the churches resulted in a new approach to Christian education, and the department became the educational leadership department and the degree changed to the master of arts in educational leadership (MAEL).
“This ‘user-friendly’ degree focused on developing leadership skills for the education and teaching ministries of the church,” Shera explained. “Recently, our educational leadership faculty realized that students were requesting more online classes. We did a study of student needs and, in response, developed the online MAEL degree. Online students enjoy a quality degree taught at the same level and by the same faculty.”
As busy professors engaged in ministry, the Melicks had plenty of demands on their time. Rick served as both pastor and interim pastor after arriving at the seminary, and the couple wrote a textbook together, “Teaching That Transforms,” which was published in 2010. In addition, they have three married children all in full-time Christian ministry with their spouses, along with eight grandchildren ranging from ages 2 to 20.
“The key is organization and commitment,” Rick said. “We both keep the priorities of 1) our relationship to our Lord; 2) our commitment to our family; and 3) our professional callings…. We check regularly to make sure these priorities are in place in that order. One of our goals in marriage was to serve the Lord together, and these 18 years at Golden Gate Seminary have given us that opportunity.”
Marin County, where the seminary has been located in the San Francisco area, proved to be a challenging but fruitful place for them to minister.
“We hear that less than 2 percent of the people go to any church, and the environment is decidedly anti-Christian,” Rick said. “We soon learned, however, that we enjoyed personal witness more than almost any place we have been. We often find we are the first to tell people the true story of Jesus. Personal witness has been pleasant and enjoyable.”
The Melicks moved to a home on the river in Mountain Home, Ark., after starting their retirement last spring. However, they were intent on staying busy.
“Shera and I both teach online, and the seminary has asked me to teach in the Ph.D. program,” Rick said. “I also have three writing contracts. I will continue ministry in churches. We would like to travel together, spend a lot of time with family, learn some fun new skills that have been on the back burner and enjoy life together.”
Even though they aren’t making the move to Golden Gate’s new Southern California campus in the city of Ontario, the Melicks support the decision to relocate.
“It is a bold move to establish a unique seminary. We are very impressed with Dr. [Jeff] Iorg’s leadership and vision for it,” Rick said. “As for the Ph.D. program, I think it will mean a major increase in students. I think it will enhance our program and vision.”