President's Report at Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in New Orleans
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, began his report by telling the messengers, "We are delighted to be on the program just before what I hope will be an historic moment for the Southern Baptist Convention. I am speaking, of course, of the election of Dr. Fred Luter as our next president. We are particularly thrilled because Golden Gate is a diverse, multicultural community and we welcome the possibility of this momentous occasion."
Iorg explained how Golden Gate has long been on the leading edge of multicultural ministry among Southern Baptists, and has been called the most multicultural seminary in the United States.
"For many years, Anglo students have comprised only about half of our student body. The other half is Asians, African-Americans, Hispanics and peoples from the nations of the world. This diversity is also reflected in our faculty and staff. If you add in our CLD [Contextualized Leadership Development] students studying in more than 13 different languages, we are even more diverse," Iorg said.
Golden Gate in 1987 became the first Southern Baptist seminary to elect an African-American faculty member, Leroy Gainey, Iorg said. "We were the first to elect an African American [trustee] chairman, Dr. E.W. McCall, who served with distinction. Dr. David Gill, a former trustee of Golden Gate and now a faculty member, was the first Korean elected as a vice president of this convention. Golden Gate was the first Southern Baptist seminary to require an intercultural communication class for every master of divinity graduate, and we've done that for well over a decade. We are proud to model and lead multicultural ministry for Southern Baptists."
Multicultural ministry is often seen as welcoming a church of a different color or language into your association, Iorg said, noting that "many of you have moved beyond this to welcome members from different races into your churches. But here is the hidden assumption we must overcome. Many Southern Baptists welcome diversity as long as the minorities join the majority's way of doing things. As long as the worship style, the organizational plan and the financial decisions remain the way the majority wants them -- all are welcome."
He said Golden Gate has moved to another level. "We have embraced what it means to live and work in a multicultural environment. This shows up in everything from the ethnic food served at presidential events to the varieties of worship styles featured in chapel, to the normalcy of interracial and multicultural marriages on our campuses," Iorg said. "The demographic changes in North America will ultimately mandate these changes across our denomination if we are to reflect the communities we are trying to reach, particularly in urban areas. The Golden Gate family will tell you -- it's a great choice to make and we challenge you to follow our example."
Iorg focused on two endowment gifts Golden Gate received. In the 1990s David and Faith Kim created a fund to support intercultural education and missional training at Golden Gate, and for 15 years they have contributed all the earnings from that fund to the seminary. Golden Gate named the David and Faith Kim School of Global Missions in their honor. While they intended to give the fund to Golden Gate as part of their estate plan, the couple gave the fund to the seminary upon Faith Kim's retirement, Iorg said, making it the largest single gift Golden Gate ever received.
"This gift added $3.25 million to our endowment and will sustain this part of our training into the indefinite future. We thank God for this gift," he said.
Within a few days of the Kims' gift, the seminary received another major endowment gift from the estate of Cecil and Josephine Osborne. When Josephine died, Golden Gate received an immediate $1.4 million and will receive about $600,000 more when the estate obligations are resolved.
"These two gifts added $4,650,000 to our endowment. When finalized, the total gifts will exceed $5 million," Iorg said.
Golden Gate Seminary continues to expand its academic programs to meet the training needs for global ministry leaders. The Osborne gift, along with another $200,000 gift received last October, has funded the launch of a master of Christian counseling degree, with the first classes set for this fall. This is the most often-requested degree by prospective students. As part of this new department, the seminary is also launching a concentration in chaplaincy.
Golden Gate also is expanding its doctor of divinity program to include theology as a major field. "When we launched our Ph.D. program in 2007," he said, "we focused on biblical studies -- Old and New Testaments. We have filled our program to capacity every year since we started. By adding theology, we can increase the number of students permitted in the program as well as broaden the program's impact. We have already admitted a full cadre of theology students for this fall."
The seminary is significantly expanding its ministry in the Korean community, Iorg said. Many of Golden Gate's Korean students have not been able to meet the graduate school prerequisite of English-language proficiency.
"To meet their need, we are starting a new Korean-English bilingual program with the entire M.Div. delivered in Korean," he said. "We have employed additional faculty and will admit the first of these students this fall."
Golden Gate is also rapidly expanding its online program. "Beginning tomorrow, our national accrediting agency, the Association of Theological Schools, will have its biannual meeting," Iorg said. "They will probably amend the accreditation standards to permit offering fully online degrees. If they do, we will be at the forefront when those changes are adopted. Golden Gate already offers extensive online coursework and will offer fully online degrees as soon as they are permitted by national accrediting standards."
While there is much to celebrate about what is happening at Golden Gate, there are also challenges, Iorg said.
"On a daily basis, we work in the largest and most unchurched urban centers in the American West. The spiritual strain on our team is real and constant. Pray for our faculty, staff and students to maintain biblical fidelity, moral purity and spiritual vitality when so many oppose or abandon those values," he said.
Golden Gate's biggest challenge is the legal and political struggle to develop the Northern California campus property, Iorg said.
"The issues are too complicated to detail in this brief report, but the bottom line is this: We are trying to reshape our primary campus for the 21st century. We are facing daunting opposition to any further development in our area," Iorg said. "The opposition is well-funded, politically connected and philosophically opposed to our plans. We have an outstanding legal and land planning team working on our behalf. Our trustees are fully briefed on our options and are guiding us wisely to know when to negotiate and when to stand our ground. We need your prayerful support. God knows our need and He knows what's best for our long-term future. Pray for his will to be done no matter the obstacles."
Iorg concluded by thanking messengers for supporting Golden Gate over the years.
"Thank you for your Cooperative Program gifts, for sending students our way and for countless prayers you have offered on our behalf.
"Thank you for standing with us as we fulfill our mission of shaping leaders who expand God's Kingdom around the world," Iorg said.