MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) -- An Olympic swimmer, a church planting couple and a former high-tech engineer were among 67 students who received degrees during Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary's winter commencement.
Paul Kingsman, a 46-year-old New Zealand Olympic medalist, received a master of theological studies degree. In addition to his bronze medal for the backstroke in the 1988 Olympic Games, Kingsman also earned four Commonwealth Games medals and 12 New Zealand national senior titles during his swimming career.
Kingsman currently is the teaching pastor at aCross Marin Christian Fellowship in Novato, Calif., and an adviser, speaker and executive coach in the financial services industry.
Kingsman's studies at Golden Gate spanned eight years. "I count it as an exceptional education. I had the opportunity to learn from people who have made it their life's work," he said.
After attending his first class, Introduction to New Testament taught by Rick Melick, Kingsman said he knew "this is what I wanted to do, to complete my seminary education at Golden Gate." (Melick is distinguished professor of New Testament at the seminary.)
Nicolas and Azucena Pacheco, a church planting couple from Oakland, Calif., both earned diplomas from the seminary's Contextualized Leadership Development program (CLD). Nicolas received a diploma in theology and Azucena received a diploma in Christian ministries.
Nicolas works 50 hours a week in the collections department of a financial corporation and Azucena is a domestic violence counselor.
While working on their diplomas the past two years, the Pachecos planted a Spanish-speaking church in one of Oakland's most dangerous neighborhoods, founded four missions in Mexico and established a ministry to prostitutes. The couple has young three daughters.
Raymond Hsu, a New Testament professor at China Evangelical Seminary North America, received a doctor of philosophy degree. Originally from Taiwan, Hsu has lived with his wife and family in San Diego for the past 20 years. He retired from a high-tech job as an electrical engineer in 2010 to become a fulltime seminary student.
Hsu, 49, Hsu said Golden Gate's doctoral program "was perfect because I could easily commute without having to relocate." He also noted how "God prepared me for seminary and my dissertation work with my background in technology and analysis."
Graduates came from the seminary's five campuses, as well as from several of its CLD centers across the country. The graduates represented 11 states and six countries. Nine types of degrees were awarded: doctor of ministry, doctor of philosophy, master of divinity, master of arts in educational leadership, master of missiology, master of theological studies, master of theology, and diplomas in Christian ministries and theology. The Dec. 13 commencement was held at Dominican University of California in San Rafael.
GGBTS President Jeff Iorg, in his commencement message, voiced a message of hope to the graduates.
"We are a hope-filled movement. Our hope is not based on a spiritual pep talk or emotional fakery," Iorg said. "We have hope -- for meaningful life now and eternal life later -- resting in the God we serve and His accomplishments."
The message of hope, Iorg noted, is interwoven throughout the Christian message: "faith, hope, and love." He encouraged the graduates and guests to "discover tonight, during this Christmas season, fresh hope for the future and renew our commitment to share our hope with every person in the world."
Referring to various truths in Scripture, Iorg described five sources of hope.
-- hope because Jesus Christ has overcome death through the resurrection and the promise of His return.
-- hope because the Holy Spirit is at work through His people, and the power of the Holy Spirit will sustain.
-- hope because the Bible, as God's Word, is true.
-- hope because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
-- hope that can be shared with the nations.
"I challenge you, graduates, to continue to find in the Scriptures the hope of the Gospel," Iorg said. "There is hope tonight because you are Gospel-centered. You have found the hope of the Gospel and you have hope because of what Jesus Christ has accomplished in your life. After all, Jesus is the hope of the nations."
Golden Gate 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. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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