Golden Gate honors graduates, celebrates 'acts of God'

by Katherine Chute, posted Monday, December 14, 2015 (4 years ago)

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) -- Family and friends packed the chapel at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary Dec. 11 as they celebrated with graduates the last commencement service to be held on the northern California campus.

The seminary's spring commencement will be held at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael, Calif.

Seventy-six graduates from 15 states and five countries received certificates, master's and doctoral degrees during the winter commencement service.

Graduation ceremonies have not been held on campus since the 1990s, because the Broadus Hall Chapel was not large enough to hold those attending the event. For this special service, an overflow room provided additional seating space for attendees.

"We decided to hold graduation here one last time because we wanted to remember all that God has accomplished in this place," said Jeff Iorg, seminary president. "Around this campus, there are various memorials to past acts of God that have occurred here."

He reminded graduates that Joshua 4 talks about memorials, specifically the stones that were set up by the Israelites to memorialize the entire nation crossing the Jordan River.

"We erect memorials to celebrate what God has done," he said, "but if we view them properly, we must see that they promise what God will do. The memorials remind us not only what God has done but what He will keep doing. Memorials speak of God's past acts and point us to His future activity."

Iorg said the seminary is not making a transition for the sake of real estate development "but because our mission is what matters most. Our mission is training leaders, and it means more than our institutional legacy."

He said the seminary's best years are in the future.

"God has worked in our past as a school and as individuals," he told the graduates. "We have memory of that, and we celebrate it. My challenge for you is to receive what's happening tonight not as the ultimate celebration in your life but as a memorial moment where you say 'God sustained me, God helped me -- not for my glory but for His -- to do things that will be memorialized and celebrated for God's glory.' "

Iorg told graduates to trust God in their ministries.

"Use all [you have learned] for your good and His glory, but recognize even tonight that God must work through you."

Jesse Peters, a master of divinity graduate from Oklahoma, gave the student testimony about his experience at Golden Gate Seminary. He said he decided to move to California after gaining awareness in college that he was too dependent on others to define his relationship to God.

"I came to a place I knew nothing about, a place where I would be completely and helplessly dependent on my faith," he said. "It was about learning to leave behind everything I had leaned on in my life. Seminary has truly changed me."

He told fellow graduates, "Our challenge is to take all the wisdom and the knowledge that professors have shared with us and keep going, keep growing and continue to be the men and women that God called us to be."

Iorg presented the William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award to Claybon Lea Jr., an area pastor who received the doctor of philosophy degree. The award is the seminary's highest honor and was inaugurated by former President William O. Crews Jr. in 1995 to honor significant leadership.

Kathie Chute is director of communications for Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, with campuses currently in Mill Valley and Brea, Calif., and in Denver, Phoenix and the Pacific Northwest.
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