MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) — Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has signed a purchase agreement for a new primary campus site in Southern California east of Los Angeles near the Ontario International Airport.
In announcing the formal purchase and sale agreement (PSA) to the seminary community, Jeff Iorg, Golden Gate president, said, “We have chosen a facility to meet the needs of students in the 21st century. We will soon have a high-quality educational delivery center with excellent facilities for fulfilling our mission of shaping leaders in the future.”
Iorg also announced that the seminary will ask that a new name — Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention — be approved by the convention.
The new site includes a six-story building, an adjacent ready-to-build lot and more than 700 parking places in the city of Ontario, part of Southern California’s Inland Empire region. The building was constructed in 2009 and has remained vacant due to the economic downturn. The building’s exterior is finished and all mechanical systems have been installed, but its interior is unfinished. The adjacent lot is already legally entitled for a future building.
The six-story building encompasses approximately 153,000 square feet, while a future building, at 75,000 square feet, can be constructed for such uses as a chapel, library, offices or classrooms. By comparison, the seminary’s core campus buildings in Mill Valley, Calif., are only 121,000 square feet. Thus, the new Southern California building is about 20 percent larger than the seminary’s current facilities, with room on the new site to nearly double the size of the current facilities.
“Our new campus will be very different than our former campus. It is a much more efficient use of space and resources,” Iorg said. “A seminary for the 21st century needs space for students, faculty, library, worship and administration. We will soon have state-of-the-art facilities for all these purposes, plus the most advanced educational technology available.”
In contrasting the seminary’s new model with other campus models, Iorg raised the question, “What about other buildings like gyms, swimming pools, exercise rooms and childcare centers? While there is nothing wrong with having them, they are not necessary for accomplishing our mission. When millions of people have not yet heard the name of Jesus, our school must model frugality and simplicity to prioritize resources for global missions. Our tuition must be kept low so students can graduate without seminary-created debt. Our future resources must be focused on people and programs — not facilities.
“Our national convention has challenged every church, association and state convention to economize and spend more money on direct mission activity,” Iorg added. “We have an opportunity to model doing this as a national entity and we must seize the moment.”
While the new campus plan also does not include on-site student housing, Iorg indicated it is still a priority. “Not using a traditional model does not mean we will not facilitate student housing. It simply means the housing won’t be at a traditional campus location,” he said. “Our goal is facilitating student enrollment and degree completion. We will meet that goal in ways that fulfill our mission. When it comes to recreation, housing and similar activities, we want students to be in the community close to the churches — learning to live on mission as part of their total training program with us.”
The seminary currently is finalizing plans to secure use permits, finish the building’s interior and prepare for relocation by June 2016. “We have a reasonable timetable for this project and will be ready to move within the two-year window allotted for our transition,” Iorg said.
Regarding the upcoming request for a name change, Iorg acknowledged the strength of the seminary’s current name but indicated the seminary’s board of trustees had determined requesting the new name ultimately is the best course of action.
“The name Golden Gate Seminary connects us with a beautiful bridge and rich heritage in the San Francisco Bay Area. Under that name, we have sent more than 8,000 graduates across America and around the world. Our current name has served us well and helped define our identity,” Iorg said. “We have a growing sense, however, that bearing a name so closely associated with an iconic landmark won’t serve us as well when our primary campus is in the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles.”
In commenting on the reasons for selecting the proposed name of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, Iorg said, “The new name connects to our heritage, frees us from geographic designations, allows for developing a more global identity, and acknowledges our Baptist distinctive.”
Iorg also underscored aspects of the seminary that will carry forward under the new name. “Gateway Seminary will build on the foundation established over the past 70 years and on the strengths of Golden Gate Seminary. We will remain biblical, missional and global. We will retain our passion for multi-cultural ministry and church-focused training. We will still operate five campuses, multiple CLD [Contextualized Leadership Development] centers and a growing online program. While our name is changing, our core values and commitments are not.”
Iorg also reminded the seminary community this will be a slow process. “We are now taking the initial legal steps toward becoming Gateway Seminary. We are making sure we can carry forward our assets, preserve future bequests and develop an appropriate online identity,” he said. “We will continue to operate as Golden Gate Seminary until June 2016. After that, if the SBC approves, we will build on the foundation of Golden Gate to establish our identity as Gateway Seminary.”