SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has received approval from its primary accrediting body to offer full degree programs at the seminary’s Arizona Regional Campus in Phoenix and up to two-thirds of a full degree program at the Rocky Mountain Campus near Denver.
The Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools notified Golden Gate Seminary officials of its decision June 15. The affirmative ATS decision follows action taken early June at a special called meeting of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention to restructure the convention’s operations and provide additional annual funding for the Arizona Regional Campus.
The seminary plans to offer the full master of divinity and master of arts in theological studies degrees at the Arizona Regional Campus and the additional courses at the Rocky Mountain Campus during this next academic year.
Seminary President William O. Crews described the ATS action as “a strong affirmation of the vision God has given to Golden Gate Seminary since its beginning — to train leaders in the context of the ministry to which they are called and in which they have established meaningful, life-impacting relationships.”
“We look forward in the coming months to placing new faculty and added resources in Arizona for the full benefit of our students and the churches of the state convention,” Crews said. “Our partnership with Arizona leaders has been strong and we’re eager to work with them in the future as we educate a new generation of Christian leaders for planting and growing churches in the state.”
Golden Gate’s Arizona campus opened in 1995 after convention leaders invited the seminary to begin providing theological education designed to provide new generations of leaders for the convention’s churches and ministries. At least 130 students have taken courses at the Arizona campus thus far.
Mark McClellan, director of the regional campus, noted, “We’ve been working hard these past several years to take these steps forward in providing the needed education in Arizona that helps the convention move to the next level in its ministry. Our pastors and church leaders in Arizona will benefit greatly from the partnership between Golden Gate and the convention as we join hands to strengthen the good work already being done in the state. Together, we’re providing a growing number of students with the strong biblical and theological foundations and practical preparation necessary to lead churches. This provision will accelerate our capacity to serve our churches and convention in their mission.”
Instrumental to the seminary’s growth and development in Arizona, seminary officials said, has been Steve Bass, executive director of the convention.
“As a convention of churches, we seek to be intentional and purpose-driven in our efforts to reach Arizona for Christ through church planting, ministry growth and missions development,” Bass said. “Golden Gate is a major partner in all of that as God raises up the next generation of kingdom servants and leaders. We’re excited about moving forward together in training these leaders from diverse backgrounds and callings for strong, long-term ministry.”
In the coming weeks, the regional campus is moving from its current location to a facility shared with the Arizona convention offices. That kind of facilities sharing, seminary officials said, enables students to establish ongoing relationships with other convention leaders and church leaders during the formative stages of their ministry.
That kind of arrangement with the state convention also exists with the Colorado Baptist General Convention in Englewood, Colo., where the seminary received ATS approval to begin offering up to two-thirds of the master of divinity program. Also established in 1995, the Rocky Mountain Campus has up to now just offered courses leading to half of the degree. More than 120 students have taken courses at the Denver campus thus far.
“This approval from our accrediting agency strengthens our determination in pressing forward to fully implement the vision of contextualized education in the West,” said Steve Veteto, new director of the Rocky Mountain Campus. “Many of our students and many of our churches will benefit from the additional course work we can now offer. We’re excited about what this means for ministry development in Colorado and the outlying western states.”
Colorado convention Executive director Mark Edlund expressed gratitude about the new development.
“Colorado’s vision for a statewide rapid church planting movement is dependent on leadership training,” Edlund said. “An exponential growth in the number of churches will be accompanied by an exponential growth in the number of church leaders. Therefore, Colorado’s commitment to seminary education in our state is high on the list of priorities. The word from ATS that we can increase the training provided by the Rocky Mountain Campus comes as an affirmation of our direction and a strong encouragement to continue working toward the day when a full menu of training and ministry degrees can be offered to our students.”
During the recent Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans, Crews told messengers that “contextualization is in the ‘genetic makeup’ of Golden Gate Seminary and we thank you for allowing us the privilege of doing what God has called us to do.”
Paramount in Golden Gate’s delivery of theological education through regional campuses in the “strategic mission centers of the West” is Crews’ firm belief that “seminary ought to exist for the churches.”
“We try to get as close to the local church as we can,” Crews said. “The contextualization of theological education is at the heart of why we exist as an institution. Golden Gate was established by people in the western United States who realized that if the job of the Great Commission was going to get done [in the West], they would need training in the West.”
Full degree programs are already offered at the seminary’s three other campuses: a residential campus in Mill Valley, Calif., near San Francisco; a Southern California regional campus in the Orange County city of Brea; and a Pacific Northwest regional campus in Vancouver, Wash.
Acknowledging the complexities of administering a multi-campus system, Crews said, “We do it because that’s who we are. We want to deliver the full programs to those who are called in a given context and ought to be trained in a given context.”
Seminary provost Richard Melick noted the ATS approvals come at a significant time in the life of Golden Gate: “This is a further affirmation of the strength and quality of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.” The approval from the accreditation body, he added, “comes in concert with our growing strength as a system of campuses.”
Based on applications and admissions thus far, Melick said increased enrollment at all five of the seminary’s campuses this upcoming fall is expected. He also noted student housing on the residential campus in Mill Valley has already been filled for the fall term.