SBC Life Articles

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

Starting with this issue, SBC LIFE will look at one of our Convention's six seminaries and interview its president.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary was founded by local churches and pastors in 1944 to educate Christian leaders and ministers for the masses in California. Its influence and ministry has since grown beyond the Golden State to become a vital force in Southern Baptist missions endeavors in the western United States and in the Pacific Rim.

"Shaping effective Christian leaders for the churches of tomorrow lies at the heart of Golden Gate Seminary's mission," said William O. Crews, president of Golden Gate Seminary. "It is the mission that fortified our founding and it is the vision that compels us today."

Throughout its history, Golden Gate Seminary — the only SBC agency in the West — has seen its theological education ministry in light of the mission field of the West and the need to shape leaders for churches and ministries that are unique to multiple cultures and people groups. Graduates of Golden Gate have helped to organize hundreds of churches and ministries in multiple languages and styles throughout the West and across the globe.

Leadership Development

Because of urgent leadership needs in local churches today, President Crews recently launched a special initiative to accelerate the development and implementation of a new "leadership development paradigm" for theological education in the 21st century. "We are giving even more serious and concentrated focus to our mission of providing the very best leaders we can to the churches we serve," said the President.

With the creative energies of the seminary's faculty, staff, and a team of church leaders outside the immediate seminary family, Crews anticipates having a basic structure in place by the 1999-2000 academic year for giving even greater emphasis to leadership development in the seminary's programs and activities.

"Our desire is that every student who graduates from Golden Gate Seminary be 'thoroughly furnished' for a lifetime of effective ministry," said seminary provost Richard Melick, referring to the II Timothy 3:17 scripture passage. "We are doing more in the area of leadership development than many seminaries in North America, but we are building on the programs we have in place now to ensure integration, quality, and effectiveness in theological education for Christian leaders in the 21st century."

Crews regularly encourages the seminary family to "dream with creativity and vision" regarding the way seminaries can best accomplish their task in the new millennium. "With the changing global environment and the significant eternal needs of the multitudes around us, we cannot be content to merely fine-tune what exists," he said. "Just as we have at several turning points in the history of this institution, we must be willing to do what is right for our churches and for our world, even if it means stretching our methods for providing quality theological education in new and dramatically different directions. Our students and our churches always deserve our attention to their future."

Focused on the Local Church

As it advances into the new millennium, Crews said Golden Gate Seminary expects to grow and thrive because of three basic values: accountability to churches, availability to churches, and adaptability to churches.

"Nothing is more basic, no value more essential, than our relationship with local churches," Crews noted. "Golden Gate was birthed in a church, by the churches, for the churches. Our strong conviction is that Golden Gate Seminary cannot, does not, and will not exist apart from a healthy relationship with the local church."

The restructured Church Planting Internship program is one example of the seminary's commitment to local ministries. It "returns to the New Testament model" by anchoring church planting efforts in healthy sponsoring churches. "We are moving beyond just mentoring students in the process to also include the mentoring of churches to start healthy, lasting churches," said Sam Williams, professor of leadership and director of the program. "We are committed to helping churches start various kinds of churches to reach diverse communities, blending biblical principles with both faithful missiological thinking and strategic methodological insights."

Crews says seminary resources — students, faculty, finances and campuses — should be focused on helping churches, associations, and mission agencies intensify church starting efforts.

"A renewed spirit of church planting has captured our attention," said Crews. "From our vantage point at the edge of the Pacific Rim, we are looking at an opportunity of world-size dimension."

During the period of field testing the new program, seminary students have participated in the starting of seventeen churches, whose present attendance ranges from 1,200 to 1,400 on a given Sunday morning. And one of those churches has already participated in the starting of nine other churches.

"It is important to not only start churches, but to be part of a church planting movement," added Williams. The program this fall will extend to the seminary's Pacific Northwest Campus in Vancouver, Wash., and the Arizona Regional Campus in Phoenix.

While it equips tomorrow's leaders to reach people through new church starts, Golden Gate Seminary is also equipping students to help existing churches renew their sense of mission urgency, evangelistic zeal and ministry outreach. "Regardless of size, style or perceived significance, every ministry for our Lord deserves quality leadership," said Crews.

New Degree Programs

Golden Gate will begin two new degree programs this fall to help assist churches with the myriad leadership needs that exist in local congregational settings.

The Master of Arts in Theological Studies is a two-year degree designed to offer lay leaders and ministry volunteers the necessary blend of excellence in biblical studies and flexibility in curriculum choices so that they might serve more effectively in their local churches.

Through the course of the degree, students learn to: study and interpret the Bible with a view towards personal and community application; study Christian theology and its practical implications for life and ministry; grow in their relationship with God; effectively lead and serve in their church or other ministry setting; equip others for effective ministry.

The Master of Arts in Worship Leadership degree is the centerpiece of a restructuring within the seminary's Bill and Pat Dixon School of Church Music to connect more fully with the training needs of local churches in the western United States and with the growing ministry of worship in the life of churches today.

The worship leadership degree offers skill training in music, worship leadership, worship philosophy and theology, and church ministry. "This will take the student from the desk to the church," said Gary McCoy, professor of church music and director of the Dixon school. "We will enlarge their vision for worship as students are exposed to various styles and resources and leadership skills."

Calling the degree unique to Golden Gate, McCoy said a strong emphasis on a practicum in worship design and implementation will allow students to combine strong generalized ministry skills with the specialized craft of worship and music. Half of the fifty credit hours necessary for the degree are taken from a general studies core, while the other half is taken from a professional studies core in worship and church music.

Intercultural Ministry

The seminary dedicates this fall the new David and Faith Kim School of Intercultural Studies at Golden Gate for training in mission mobilization to reach diverse people groups across the United States and throughout the world. This is accomplished through degree programs such as the Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies, Master of Divinity with a concentration in African American studies, the Korean bilingual Master of Divinity track, and Master of Divinity in Missions.

The Master of Divinity concentration in African American studies, the first of its kind in Southern Baptist Convention seminaries, was developed by Christian education and intercultural studies professor Leroy Gainey, who also serves as pastor of the multicultural First Baptist Church in Vacaville, Calif.

"It is the challenge for seminaries in the 21st century to prepare men and women to meet the needs of a vastly diverse and global ministry environment," said Gainey. "Degrees such as this seek to bring remedies to changing communities by equipping leaders with tools, insight, understanding and sensitivity to be productive in the intercultural, primarily urban setting."

Gainey, who in 1987 became the first African American elected to an SBC seminary faculty, said the new concentration has three important priorities: academic excellence, social relevance and ministry effectiveness.

"Any Christian leader that is serious about ministry in the 21st century recognizes the diversity that is part of God's kingdom," he said. "Any student who wants to be part of what God is doing around the world today must be able to relate to multiple cultures regardless of where they serve."

Leaders of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board have affirmed the Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies and its accompanying two-year international field internship as an innovative degree program that meets the educational and experience requirements for entrance into the IMB career missionary appointment process.

Contextualized Studies

A generation ago, seminary students and church leaders needed more practical training in leadership practices, and Golden Gate Seminary faculty moved additional competency-based issues into the curriculum, said Crews. More recently, a new generation needed to study while serving within their communities of ongoing ministry. Thus, the seminary now delivers high quality theological education and leadership training in a number of strategic locations because education is more effective when students study in the context of their ministry relationships. More than 1,200 students study at the residential campus in Mill Valley, Calif.; at regional campuses in Brea, Calif.; Vancouver, Wash.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Denver, Colo.; and at Ethnic Leadership Development centers throughout the western United States.

"These men and women from around the globe are sharpening their leadership and ministry abilities for today's emerging churches," said Crews. "We must train leaders in and for their own cultural context."

Looking Ahead

Building upon foundations of spiritual commitment, biblical conviction and Great Commission passion, Crews said, Golden Gate leaders see seminary education as a vital part of meeting the urgent mission needs of the coming millennium.

"Students of Golden Gate Seminary are energized by the vision of vibrant churches and strategic ministries reaching all the peoples of the world," said Crews. "Seminary curriculum and programming are designed to help men and women give quality servant leadership to these endeavors.

"The world of ministry in the 21st century will be dramatically different from the generations before," said Crews. "Like Joshua and the Hebrew people standing on the banks of the Jordan River many generations ago, we intend to obey God and move across the river of the new millennium and thrive with the people of God as were serve His purpose for future generations."

    About the Author

  • Cameron Crabtree