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Special Report: 50th Anniversary of Baptist Seminary in retrospective — celebration Spring, 2009
The 50th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (Mill Valley, California) celebrated this last part of Spring, 2009, ushered in memories and celebration of a Homecoming on the Mill Valley, Campus. Two highlights of the May 28 and 29, 2009 days included opening a time capsule and homecoming by elder graduates who appeared in Gold Robes.
In a public statement, the seminary remarks: “This place declares the Glory of God to all the nations,” said President Jeff Iorg as he stood before the open time capsule, speaking to alumni, students, faculty and staff. “Is there another explanation for the Seminary’s success other than God’s power and glory?”
President Iorg held up and marveled at the remarkably well-preserved items which had been sitting in the copper shoebox-sized box, nestled in the administration building’s cornerstone since 1959. Items included the Seminary bylaws, the Baptist Faith and Message, pages from the SBC minutes of 1950 showing action of the Convention accepting Golden Gate as a Southern Baptist seminary, copies of the first and 15th anniversary issues of the alumni magazine The Gateway, photos of the three Seminary presidents (Isam B. Hodges 1944-1946, Benjamin O. Herring 1946-1952, and Harold K. Graves 1952-1977), the first and the 1959 academic catalog of classes, the student-faculty directory and faculty group photo.
In an interview by email, Dr. Rodrick Durst, answered questions as part of a restrospective at this time of the 50th Anniversary. Dr. Durst has served as faculty and administration at Golden Gate since 1991. He also served eleven years as the Vice President of Academic Affairs and, prior to that, three years as the Director of the Southern California Campus.
The seminary says of the professor, “Dr. Durst loves the classroom. He teaches theology and history from a leadership formation perspective. His passion is for developing life-changing ways of communicating and teaching Christian truth for transformation, retention and rapid reproduction.”
How has the campus changed in its history, a broad question. A broad answer is good.
In my thirty-five year association with Golden Gate, I have seen the campus change dramatically in terms of color, constituency and delivery modes. Its student color demographic was 90% plus Caucasian in the 1970’s and is 50% Caucasian today, with the other half being African American, Korean, Chinese, and Hispanic. Korean students discovered Golden Gate in the eighties due to its Bay Area location, affordable tuition and biblical conservatism. They have been a significant presence for the last quarter of a century.
The first seminary President was influenced by the seminary’s roots. “Who will open the western seminary?” Those words from former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president L. R. Scarborough in a chapel speech in 1924 were forever etched into the mind of Isam B. Hodges, then a student at Southwestern.
In an announcement the Seminary notes: “Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary opened the doors to its Northern California campus in Mill Valley fifty years ago, in September 1959, after six years of planning and construction. The 148-acres of former dairy land called Strawberry Point became home to the first Southern Baptist seminary in the west, and today the five-campus system is known as the 10th largest seminary in the United States.”
Continuing our retrospective, Dr. Durst answered a second question by email.
Tell us, please, how many Baptist churches are there in the west.
There were few Baptist churches in the west in 1959 when the Mill Valley campus opened. Now there are over 2,000 Southern Baptist churches in California alone. This western constituency rapidly began to reflect the west after the great post-war Southern migrations ceased in the early sixties. Today our constituent churches reflect the west, if not the Pacific Rim, and not the so-called Bible belt. In 1959, Mill Valley was the sole campus of Golden Gate, which was and is mandated by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to provide ministerial leadership to SBC churches in the western half of the U.S. To better achieve that mandate, the Northern California campus has intentionally multiplied and sacrificed resources to open campuses in Los Angeles (1973), Vancouver, WA (1981), Phoenix, AZ (1995) and Denver, CO (1996).
The seminary catalog tells readers: “Golden Gate’s mission is shaping effective Christian leaders to accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission through the churches of the West and the world. At Golden Gate, students share unparalleled opportunities to participate hands-on in the real world of ministry and mission in North America and across the globe.”
Further statements on the seminary purpose for this retrospective add: “Joining the Golden Gate family means becoming part of a community of people committed to sharing the message of Jesus Christ in creative, practical, life-transforming ways.
“Every year, we train more than 1,900 men and women at our five campuses and multiple Contextualized Leadership Development centers across the West. We pray that Golden Gate Seminary can become your partner as you seek to fulfill God’s call in your life.” The seminary President says as part of its statement of purpose from its catalog.
One current student remarks of her time at the seminary: “I was drawn to Golden Gate because of my desire to have a greater spiritual impact on the lives of others. I am passionate about reaching lost people and I believe training from Golden Gate will help me to become a better minister. Golden Gate does not just train church leaders, but effective leaders for Christ.” (From the seminary website.)
Another woman student says from the seminary website: “My seminary experience has been nothing short of life-changing. I am learning to delve deeply into the Scriptures, to wrestle with understanding them so that my proclamation is accurate and insightful and, most importantly, empowered by the Holy Spirit. I am also learning to wrestle with this thing we call the community of faith – learning to love my brothers and sisters in Christ as I love myself. I am learning to love those outside the Kingdom with grace and truth, loving them into the family. More than anything, seminary is enriching my own walk with Jesus and helping me be more like him.”
Here is a taste of the current leadership sense and training of students. Certainly, the seminary is centered on Jesus Christ. These characteristics are taught as part of Christian Formation and Education:
Leadership characteristics related to being a follower of JESUS:
1. Following Jesus — A Christian leader understands the biblical, theological, historical, personal, and experiential foundations of being a follower of Jesus.
2. Spiritual Disciplines — A Christian leader practices the spiritual disciplines of being a follower of Jesus.
3. Christ Commitment — A Christian leader demonstrates commitment to living as a follower of Jesus through knowing God through Jesus and knowing self.
4. Integrity — A Christian leader demonstrates integrity, meaning he or she consistently applies biblical
principles in character and actions.
5. Wisdom — A Christian leader demonstrates wisdom, meaning he or she follows God’s Spirit to apply biblical principles to complex life situations.
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is part of the emerging Church movement. Dr. Durst notes in the email interview:
In the same line of history, what aspect of the emerging Church movement is now prevalent in the teaching and ethos of the Seminary on its anniversary (50 year)?
Without losing focus on Christian grace and truth, classes are now taught with a distinct awareness of cultural diversity, generative creativity, and spiritual authenticity. Courses and chapels challenge students to move from being spectators to participants in their learning experience. All five senses and multiple learning styles are employed so that students can engage from their strength rather than be forced into one model or mode of learning. The classrooms and faculty computers are wired for the Internet. Many faculty are on Facebook or other social networks and use these to keep in touch with their students.
A great deal has notably changed in the 50 years of seminary life, and as a look back
A highlight of the festivities was honoring the Seminary’s “Golden Graduates” during commencement on May 29. Twenty-eight of those who graduated from the Berkeley and Oakland campuses from 1949-1959, donned golden robes and walked with the Class of 2009.”
During this time of retrospective, we asked Dr. Durst to give us perspective on the current seminary life. He did this in the interview by emails in two parts:
We’ve heard the term “Postmodernity” so many times. Will you comment?
If we can call the emerging culture “Postmodernity,” then that culture is moving away from the anthropocentric toward an ecological centricity, away from nationalism toward a global/local awareness, and away from trust in truths expressed propositionally toward truth conveyed in stories, especially stories in graphic formats. The emerging postmoderns are rather allergic to denominational structures but are rightly fascinated by spirituality. Spiritual formation is now core in the curriculum and students from this generation relish the challenge ancient spiritual disciplines bring to their inner authenticity.
A Walk in San Francisco: God, Bishop, Man, Church: Diocese of California Celebration–july 17, 1999 (a Meditation and Report; Some Notes )
Thursday, December 04, 2008
A Walk in San Francisco: God, Bishop, Man, Church:
Diocese of California Celebration–July 17, 1999
(a meditation and report; some notes on a public spiritual walk with observations and side comments)
By Peter Menkin
(written July 17, 1999)
Starting in the Morning
Some months (now years) have passed since the walk occurred, and a moment of reflection on the event makes me want to continue in prayer. I believe that there can be a silence in our emptying of our mind, in a Zen fashion. Doing this allows the Triune God to enter in, and it allows the archetype to whisper, and the speaking of our past lives to bring new impressions of reality to bring in our day.
When we gather together as a Church, or a Diocese, and walk among the Shepard, and are ourselves the people who as children of light seek to let that light come in, there is a Springtime of Easter where we can be receptive and allow the promise of his presence to bring us to that beating heart of our body to be Christ.
The morning is a difficult time, for we await the light, we await the waking of the world, the birds to sing, the everyday working life to begin its struggle and toil, its very labor as Job would in his exceptional relationship enter into another waking oblation in complaint, love, and observation with the Lord. This commentary, no stranger to the children of Abraham, is a Biblical time and I recommend the reading of Acts, and at this time of year for our Easter Luke.
Wondering is good, but the quiet of the Sunday is really the joy of measure that brings us closer to ascend and discern, to be and to contemplate. May we find someone who is suffering and in need, who is a good soul, and a genuinely gifted person as the Tibetan Nun in China who suffers so greatly at the hands of her torturers. To be in prayer and solitude with her is the silence that is the Zen moment. There is to know another who is a great distance, and to walk with them in the spirit on a journey that is an immensity of the times and in the world. I ask your prayers. God grant us grace to walk among the creatures that we have been given, and to maintain our selves in stability, in the love of our Lord, as we come to know the inevitability of the mystery of the resurrection. This we do when we walk together as Church, as Christian, in seeking our God, and knowing God who is a great and wonderful thing as a force for entry the narrow way. Oh, light, bring us this morning. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad in it.
What’s Right In the World
There is a comfort in knowing the presence of God, and eventually one may find that this kind of willingness to travel with a restful attempt to remain in the presence of the almighty is refreshing. The most unusual thing about this Saturday walk with clergy and church members was it reminded me of the importance to be aware in preparation for Sunday. If it hadn’t been for the others along the way, I would have had a very much difficult time climbing the hill to the Cathedral.
By our all climbing that hill together, like followers, like disciples, like strugglers, like penitents, like lovers, and as friends, my own journey was made easier. How glad I was along with the others for those who shepherded us on to worship. This Saturday morning of July 17, 1999 the entire group of people who attend the Episcopal Church in my area of San Francisco, started gathering in the morning for a walk up California Street. I arrived early from a sense of desire to participate in an early morning time in the City. One of the nearer towns to the Cathedral, where our journey in pilgrimage together was taking us, is in Mill Valley in Marin County.
Others came from Contra Costa County, and some from South of San Francisco like Christ’s Church located near Stanford University. Our Saviour was the group I started looking for in the morning, and was happy to find a Reverend Gwen, a Deacon, who also arrived early to begin sheparding us along. She had a map showing the way up the California Street Hill, and our places to gather together for the walk. There was a woman Priest named Gloria who was on one corner of the congruent point of arrival.
Beginning at a Crosswords
We began at a crossroads. She was dressed in a long coat, since the morning was cool and the fog had lifted. The Reverend Gloria speaks Spanish. Across from her, to the West towards the Ocean side of the Bay, was another small gathering of Church members. They held the first lone banner, to be joined by others with banners to lead their small groups. Love called us. So it does as we listen when we walk for that bidding of love, the love that is offered to us in friends and others.
There is a treasure for us to be enjoyed in a walk, by ourselves in solitude or with others as I am describing to you here. By the time the morning had risen for us to greet the arrival of the leaders, we were pretty well organized and happy to continue up the walk. Later the St. Gregory’s Church community waved us along, refreshing us, as we sent the way through the middle of the street. They are a joyous group.
They walk in a bunch. The diversity of the Diocesan Episcopal Church USA group was described in a dispatch from the Church as: ” Let It Shine, the procession, which included Chinese dragons, bagpipers and a sea of church banners, numbered more than 2,500 people and stretched nearly four blocks.” So wrote Dennis Delman the Church magazine.
There were people of all nationalities and colors in our group, and there is no singleness in Christ, nor a barrier to him or in the walk I am describing here. San Francisco is a diverse group of families from many places in the world, as are the people who were gathered in friendship.
Presiding Bishop Led the Way
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church was accompanied by his wife, and The Honorable Frank T. Griswold had this to say about the occasion, that is true for us as a spiritual direction in taking a walk up the hill wherever we may be: “‘Be thankful,'” our reading from the Letter to the Colossians urges us, ‘and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.’ A spirit of gratitude opens the way for what is given to appear as gift, as the poet Stephen Mitche observes with regard to prayer.
Gratitude helps us to release our grasp on life: to be grateful is an act of non possession; it is a yielding of control which delivers us from the harsh and unforgiving judgments we so often direct against ourselves and others.” The way we journeyed along together, this large community gathering in its spiritual exercise of shepherding to a place of worship, was by approaching the excitement with an acceptance in faith for the coming entry to the Cathedral.
This preparation for a feast inside, continued us along in a companionship of desire to be together, and to join in saying the very words that we as a community believed would bring us closer in faith, and know in love the source of the being that is the Triune God. We can bring this into our body, incarnate this for the good of our soul.
Italicized Comments: Expectations
Sometimes in retrospect, looking back just those short few weeks ago from today, I consider that the amazing coincidence of fate that brought so many together in joy for the festivities of banners, excitement, and experience to live in a more liturgical and spiritual manner together was joyful.
The power of the living word, so aptly and well said as a love to the lips in breathing just the clean air itself in this morning climb was preparation for us enough. When taking a walk, remember as others and I do, that this is a preparation for worship in your own Church. That God would be with someone alone, though, later, is another matter. God is with us, and this is the message that I want to leave with you as I recount what it is to take a walk in the country or the city. Look for him. I tell you this because it is not only what we brought in joy and anticipation, but in the expectation that we would return to our homes, families, and later in worship to our own Churches of the communion that made us happily able to walk.
So we came, friends, carrying in and enjoyment of banners and yes crosses, willing to carry them together with the clergy among and before and behind us.
Walking with God and Man
When I returned home, and in the days following I practiced reflecting on the way that I walk. When one walks with God, does one wonder as one walks, does one look for beauty and think of the glory of God, does one examine the earth and know that it is a soil of forgiveness and charity?
How does one walk, in the breathing silence that is the living presence of the Almighty?
Pondering these matters, I considered the Bible a source of the joy in which I might come to know a way that is Christ, and how I could remain more fruitful in a care for others. What is this manner that we or I can do with a friend in the expectation that God is in his willingness, and we are able in the necessity of our virtue to offer a simple prayer of pleasure in the living that he offers us. Ponder we did, I am sure, as the many who were there did, as a friend did who made the journey and was so specially blessed to be brought home refreshed, though drained. Another friend had been a singer in the Choir, and this for her was probably a remaining hymn for us as a living testament to the condition that this kind of prayerful or spiritual desire can offer by the experience we shared.
Peace was a theme of this celebration, and how aptly this message is given by the very nature of the worship. Even
Commentary and report on election of Lesbian Bishop in Episcopal Church USA by Peter Menkin
by Peter Menkin
Los Angeles, California Episcopalians have elected a Lesbian as Bishop Suffragen who may be installed after approval by the larger Episcopal Church, USA. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the 77 million member Anglican Communion has expressed dismay over the election, and in understated words says he and Anglicans in general are waiting to see if The Rev. Mary Glasspool, who was elected a suffragan (assistant) bishop by the Diocese of Los Angeles on Saturday (Dec. 5)–and who, Glasspool, 55, has been with her partner since 1988, according to a biography she provided to the diocese, will be officially installed.
That probable eventuality will further the rift in the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which Episcopalians are a part, and mark the further separation and departure of the American wing of that Communion in its serious move away from what is called both Biblical authority, and mutual covenant by agreement between the Churches of the Communion. Many surmise, an internal result of the “liberalization” of American Anglicanism by the Episcopal Church, USA, will continue the mainstream Church’s loss of members. Various religious and secular news services have noted the decline and controversy over the last few years, and recently Religion News Service ran a copyrighted article outlining the decline in denomination numbers as it presently stands and continues by trend. They do not link a cause and effect between the acceptance and election of Gay and Lesbian clergy to the office of Bishop in this particular article cited. But this decline is considered in common usage a strong consideration for the declining numbers of Episcopalians. Religion News Service says: Domestic membership in the Episcopal Church dropped by 3 percent in 2008, continuing a decline in which the denomination has lost almost 200,000 American members since 2004, according to Episcopal researchers. The Episcopal Church now counts slightly more than 2 million members in about 7,000 U.S. parishes. Church leaders say they are pleased, however, that the denomination is growing in its non-domestic dioceses, particularly in Haiti and Latin America, where the church counted about 168,000 members in 470 parishes last year. Still, the church is “swimming against some difficult cultural tides,” Matilda Kistler, who heads a state-of-the-church committee in the denomination’s House of Deputies, said in a statement. “We find ourselves facing a society that is gravitating toward secularism,” Kistler said. “We also believe that the church-going segment of the public is aging significantly, though the committee will be seeking more definitive data to ascertain if that is so.” Kistler acknowledged that “internal conflicts within the Episcopal Church have also distracted from the message of hope our clergy and lay leaders seek to share.” The Diocese of California (San Francisco Bay Area) led by The Rt. Reverend Marc Andrus supports the inclusion of Gay and Lesbian clergy in the Church and in the same line vocally support with strong opinion and deeds election of Gay and Lesbian Bishop candidates. Bishop Marc Andrus is not a homosexual. In addition to the restrained but oppositional statement of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the election of the Lesbian Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles, an Anglican organization has recently criticized and been seriously concerned, even alarmed, by this recent development that may cause impaired Communion or other negative relations within the Anglican Communion with the Episcopal Church USA. The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop The Rt. Reverend Katherine Jefferts Schori has indicated she favors and will help to bring the Lesbian clergy woman to final instillation, in the name of God and Church. This is an unusual and historic act of change and some think diminished faith as Christian Church by the Americans, though the American wing of the Anglican Communion believes they are in the forefront of “ordained” good in their support of an election of homosexuals who are sexually active, and even in what they find as favored and “blessed” active homosexual permanent relationships. Both New and Old Testament Biblical readings have been discounted by the American Church. One argument in favor of The Reverend Mary Glasspool is she has served well in every capacity, and except for her Lesbianism, and active sexual relations as a homosexual, is fully qualified to be a Suffragen Bishop. The question becomes, does her Lesbian sexual practice bar her from being a Bishop. Many Episcopalians in San Francisco’s Bay Area, and good people, think her sexual proclivities are not a bar, and it is an act of social justice to elect her a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. As Religion News Service reports in its instance of early Anglican Church reaction to the election: An international Anglican commission on Tuesday (Dec. 8) urged Episcopalians to exercise “gracious restraint” by not confirming the election of a lesbian as a bishop in Los Angeles. …In the coming months, more than 100 bishops and standing committees from Episcopal dioceses across the country will vote on whether to give “consents,” or confirmation, to Glasspool’s election. If she receives confirmation, Glasspool will become the second openly gay bishop elected by the Episcopal Church. On Tuesday, a 21-member international Anglican committee recently established to promote unity in the communion said they discussed Glasspool’s election during their meeting in England Dec. 1-8 and “expressed the fervent hope that `gracious restraint’ would be exercised by the Episcopal Church in this instance.” The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order includes one American, the Rev. Katherine Grieb of Virginia Theological Seminary. Neither Williams nor the commission has the power to stop Glasspool’s confirmation, however. The election of the first openly gay bishop, New Hampshire’s V. Gene Robinson, in 2003 has caused widespread dissent in the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church as its U.S. branch. To quell the uproar, Anglican bishops, including the spiritual leader of the communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, have asked for a “period of gracious restraint” on consecrating any more gay bishops. Daniel Burke of Religion News Service has been active in following this story and George Conger of Religious Intelligence, a London based website owned by The Church of England Newspaper has been following this story and the larger stories connected with the controversial issue. It is interesting to note that The Reverend Mary Glasspool is strongly committed to fulfilling the role of Bishop and being consecrated and installed as same. Daniel Burke writes in another of his copyrighted reports for Religion News Service of her stand in the matter, and reports on her words regarding her desires to fulfill the pride and historic role for a homosexual to be made a Bishop in the Episcopal Church, USA: Since becoming the first lesbian to be elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church on Saturday (Dec. 5), the Rev. Mary Glasspool has been hailed as a gay rights pioneer and maligned as the straw that will finally break the back of the Anglican Communion. Glasspool “wavered two or three times” before agreeing to be nominated as an assistant bishop in Los Angeles, she said in an interview Wednesday. But friends and spiritual counselors reminded her to follow her own preaching. “Look, you believe in the Holy spirit,” she said they told her. “You’ve always said the Holy Spirit is in charge. Your job is to follow where it leads.” …The spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has all but told Episcopalians not to vote to confirm Glasspool’s election. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the communion, but could lose its place over Glasspool, Williams warned. “He clearly was saying something like that,” Glasspool said. “And again, I’ve done what I could do to allow myself to be available to God’s call, and the people of Los Angeles have spoken and voiced their trust in me and my potential leadership.” Before Glasspool can be consecrated a bishop, a majority of the more than 100 Episcopal bishops and dioceses must confirm her election within the next several months. Robinson predicted Thursday that process will be “a little more difficult” than when he was confirmed by delegates to the church’s triennial General Convention in Minneapolis. Part of the statement by The Reverend Mary Glasspool prior to her election indicates her strong argument that sexuality is tied to and part of her faith journey, that homosexuality as part of her coming of age worked well and is justified as part of God’s gift to her, and a strength in her candidacy for Bishop and life in ministry as ordained Clergy in the Episcopal Church, USA. The beginning of her statement that asks, “Provide a description of your walk with God in Christ that brought you to this moment of discerning a call to the episcopate in our diocese…” reads: And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14b, RSV)
I was born in February 1954, on a rainy Tuesday (Tuesday’s child is full of grace) in Staten Island Hospital, New York, where my father was Rector of St. Simon’s Episcopal Church and Vicar of All Saints’. Both my parents grew up in the Episcopal Church, and each modeled a profound faith in God that was given to me as gift while I grew up. We moved to Goshen, N.Y., in April of 1954 where my father was Rector of St. James’ Church for the next 35 years until his death in 1989. As with most children, I suspect, God was more transcendent than immanent, more other than