Golden Gate graduate count reaches 8,000

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) -- Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary reached the 8,000-graduate mark during its May commencement exercises.

Liz Myers of Oregon became the first woman to receive a Ph.D. degree from the seminary, which operates two campuses in California along with one in the Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Colorado.

At the Northern California campus in Mill Valley, Robert Spencer Sims of Mississippi, who earned a master of missiology degree, was recognized as the 8,000th graduate of the seminary.

Myers, 55, resigned from a 25-year engineering career to attend seminary. The mother of two was selected as an emerging scholar by the Institute for Biblical Research and invited to present a paper at its annual meeting in November. Myers' dissertation is a study of literary parallels of 1 Peter and Hebrews, setting forth a method for using statistical probability to analyze the use of traditional material in the biblical books.

Another graduate, Charles Sun, 52, who received an M.Div, holds a Ph.D. in engineering and had worked 20-plus years as a computer software engineer before retiring to attend Golden Gate's Rocky Mountain campus. He also serves as minister at Chinese Christian Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. The 300-member church has two congregations, one which speaks Chinese, the other English. This spring the church sent Sun, a Taiwanese-born father of two, to Provo, Utah, to plant Provo Chinese Christian Fellowship.

M.Div. graduate Matthew Morton, a 35-year-old major in the Army National Guard in Colorado, was chosen to speak at commencement at the Rocky Mountain campus. He is a father of two who also serves as a college pastor at First Baptist Church of Black Forest in Colorado Springs.

Morton described a key moment during his seminary education. "I will carry the lesson of tension with me for the rest of my days in ministry, work, family and in my life," he said, recounting how a professor noted during a theology class that God strikes the perfect tension between grace and holiness.

"That moment quite simply changed my life, so I had it tattooed on my wrists as an everyday reminder that I have to live in the tension of grace and holiness," Morton said. "I don't want to be a grace abuser and I don't want to be a legalist."

The tattoo on Matt's right wrist is the Hebrew word for grace, accompanied by the Ichthus symbol, the fish that represents Christianity. On his right wrist is the Hebrew word for holy and an image of three nails. In addition to being personal reminders, Morton said the tattoos have provided opportunities for evangelistic encounters.

Golden Gate President Jeff Iorg, in his commencement address at each campus, offered words of challenge about what it means to represent Jesus Christ to the world. Referencing 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, Iorg charged the graduates to "walk out of this room as the sweet aroma of Jesus Christ."

Explaining how a powerful sense of smell is the backdrop to apostle Paul's words, Iorg described the Roman practice of returning conquerors parading their captives through the streets which had been spread with perfume. "The perfume was an aroma of victory to the victors, but that same sweet smell was the aroma of death to the captives, knowing they were walking their last steps before execution."

Continuing that imagery, Iorg told the graduates, "You are the aroma of Jesus Christ -- the aroma of the good news of His death, burial and His resurrection for a world that is marching in a procession toward execution and needs the sweet aroma of Jesus in their path."

Referencing 2 Corinthians 2:15, Iorg said, "You are a fragrance of life to those being saved, but you are also an odor of death to those who will reject the Gospel. You will be the same person to both, those who are being saved and those who are perishing. But some will receive you as the sweet aroma of Jesus and some as the odor of death."

Iorg concluded his message to the graduates with this charge: "We send you out tonight as the sweet aroma of Jesus, in a victory parade celebrating His death, His burial and His resurrection -- being the sweet aroma to all people everywhere in every way possible, knowing that some will receive you as the fragrance of life and some will reject you as the odor of death. Nevertheless, without discouragement, giving the Gospel away freely, without regard to personal benefit or gain and making sure that your message is sincere, without dilution, without distortion. Go and do those things, representing Golden Gate Seminary yes, but more importantly, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel which we serve."

The seminary's highest student award, the William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award, was given to two master of divinity graduates: James Clayton Lanford of the Northern California campus and Gregory Lee Teel of the Rocky Mountain campus.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention, operating five fully-accredited campuses in Northern California, Southern California, Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Colorado. For more information, visit www.ggbts.edu.


Phyllis Evans is director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.