Jeff Iorg Blog
You may have heard about the recent brouhaha in Houston concerning the subpoenas issued for four pastors and another ministry leader to produce their sermons in opposition to the LGBT-promoting law called the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Baptists have united with other groups to strenuously oppose this infringement on pastoral communication. While First Amendment issues demand this strong response, here are some additional thoughts on what they mean.
First, thank God that there are at least five Christian leaders in Houston who are standing strong and speaking out against destructive redefinitions of gender, sexuality, and marriage! They must be perceived as really dangerous if political leaders are attacking them in this way. Good job, men. Keep it up. May God increase your tribe!
Second, the power of preaching is underscored by these subpoenas. Politicians know pastors have a weekly opportunity to declare Truth, motivate their followers, and catalyze social movements. Sadly, some pastors have forgotten this. They are wasting time on “five steps to a happy life” rather than seriously communicating timeless Truth and calling people to act on it. People outside the church seem to value preaching (and its fearful impact) more than many inside the church. These subpoenas remind us politicians should be intimidated by the preacher with a legitimate message from God.
Third, these subpoenas motivate those of us who preach to weigh our words carefully and be ready to stand behind them. We are moving toward a new era in American history when preachers will be vilified for preaching historic Christian positions on gender, sexuality, and marriage. My perspective is this will improve preaching, and separate the proverbial men from the boys. Preacher, there won’t be any middle ground on these issues. You will either preach the Bible’s message on these issues, or you won’t. For the sake of your hearers, make the right choice!
The politicians will run for cover and make hollow apologies for these subpoenas – this time. While the subpoenas will likely be withdrawn, their reasons for being issued aren’t going away soon.
A Hearty Bunch
Sep 30 2014
Students at Golden Gate are a hearty bunch. They enroll in challenging coursework, while doing effective ministry, often while building young families, and while making ends meet financially in ways both creative and inspiring. So, I guess I should not be surprised by some recent enrollment data – but I am.
This semester, we enrolled 305 new students in all our programs system-wide. That’s a good number – particularly when you realize these 305 new students enrolled in a school they know is in the midst of a significant relocation! Here is the really astounding fact. This fall, we have enrolled 34 more new students than we did last year.
Yes, you read that right. We have more new students enrolled in the fall semester after we announced we are relocating than we had in the previous fall semester. I have actually had students tell me they enrolled because of the relocation. One student said, “I could have gone to seminary in other places; but here, I can go to seminary and watch history being made.”
One of the reasons we are able to stay strong while we are relocating is our diversified delivery systems. We have long taught at multiple campuses, now including a burgeoning online campus, so we are accustomed to flexibility. Both students and faculty are comfortable with different learning venues and methods. And, while many students are taking advantage of those options, many more are still coming to the campus in Mill Valley to sit in classrooms – knowing those classrooms will soon be on the move.
Once again, the students here amaze me. They are the best part of being a seminary president. It’s a privilege to serve them, train them, and yes, be humbled by seeing them make sacrifices to prepare for future ministry.
Jimmy Carter’s Comments
Sep 25 2014
Former President Jimmy Carter, in a recent speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan, made two important points – one of which was ridiculous and the other quite correct, but not rightly applied.
In the first case, Mr. Carter affirmed gay civil rights and same-sex marriage by saying Jesus Christ never discriminated against anyone. As a Sunday School teacher for most of his adult life, it seems Mr. Carter would know a little more about Jesus than that.
Jesus had clear moral standards which he communicated on numerous occasions (like the woman at the well, the greedy young ruler, the woman caught in adultery, the arrogant Pharisees, etc.). Mr. Carter, and those who share his views, reduces Jesus to a sweet non-confrontationalist who just loved everyone. Jesus did love everyone, unconditionally, even enough to confront their destructive behavior. So, on this point, Mr. Carter’s biblical interpretations are shaped by current culture – not the other way around.
Mr. Carter’s second point is more salient. He advocates for autonomy of local Baptist churches and the necessity of government staying out of their decisions. He is right on that point but he does not finish the thought. Baptist churches and Baptist denominational bodies are both autonomous, meaning they determine their membership. When a church decides a person no longer represents its convictions or a denominational body decides the same thing about a church, separation is permissible and inevitable. That’s not discrimination or even theologically complicated; it’s just common sense.
Jimmy Carter is a wonderful humanitarian who has used his post-presidential years to do much good for many people. For that, he deserves our appreciation. But on these issues his compromising and convoluted message will ultimately do more harm than good.
Sep 15 2014
Over the past few months, the Golden Gate community has been dealing with the sale of our Northern California property and the pending relocation of our primary campus. This is more than just a property deal. The seminary is changing in dramatic ways – its operational structure, administrative processes, and public identity. It’s difficult to imagine a school going through more changes - and transitions - than we are going through right now.
The impact on the people involved, and their response, has been of great concern. We knew people would move through the stages of the grief process – shock, anger, denial, bargaining, exploration, and adjustment. We knew students would be disjointed, employees unsettled, graduates disappointed, and supporters concerned about the future. How all this is working itself out is turning into a remarkable, even supernatural, demonstration of unity.
The seminary family has responded with resolute focus and determination. Emotions have been kept in check, expressed appropriately as all of us feel deeply about the process. Prayerful discernment has been evident in both the questions raised and the conclusions reached as information has been assimilated. The response by students has been particularly impressive. Some students have thanked me for allowing them to go through the huge change as a learning process for them. Surprisingly, dozens of new students enrolled this semester at the Northern California campus for their first term – knowing full well the seminary is moving. One new student told me he specifically came to Golden Gate because we were moving and he didn’t want to miss the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Real unity is not faking agreement. Real unity is honestly facing organizational issues, personal impact, spiritual motivations, mixed responses, and intermingled agendas. Real unity is facing all the messiness of a complicated situation and deciding to stand together, believing shared mission eclipses personal needs. Real unity is an expression of spiritual maturity – and it’s humbling to be part of it.
Right now we are enjoying unity which can only be attributed to God’s blessing. The Golden Gate team believes we are on the right track. God has validated our relocation decision in numerous ways. Stay tuned – we will be making another major announcement in chapel at the Northern California Campus this Thursday. God has blessed us with a huge confirmation we are rightly pursuing his mission for our school. See you Thursday if you are in the area – or watch social media for the big news.