Pacific Northwest Campus Marks 30 Years

The Pacific Northwest Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary marked 30 years of training leaders in the region Aug. 31 with a convocation that recalled its beginnings and affirmed a continued partnership with the Northwest Baptist Convention.

The celebration at the Northwest Baptist Center in Vancouver, Wash., drew about 200 participants, including Northwest leaders who were among the regional campus’ first students.

“From the beginning this effort has been a passionate, like-minded partnership between the Seminary and the Northwest Baptist Convention,” said Mark Bradley, new campus director and a PNWC graduate. He noted more than 50 students are enrolled this academic year, up from 30 students the previous year.

Former PNWC director Clint Ashley said the turnout of alumni and friends to celebrate three decades of ministry was especially meaningful. “Today, God has given me a visual of what can happen when God’s people come together to accomplish something,” he said.

Rickey Scott, pastor of Riviera Baptist Church in Eugene, Ore., for more than a quarter-century and one of the early students of the campus when it was located in downtown Portland, noted the importance of his experience. “It gave me some sharp tools to serve in an assignment for 25 years,” said Scott. “I’ve learned the difference between what’s worth dying for and what’s not.”

Bill Crews, NWBC executive director and former president of Golden Gate, noted convention leaders understood early on that developing leaders “from Northwest in the Northwest” would be critical for reaching people with the gospel message. “From the earliest days of Baptist life in the Northwest there was recognition that there would need to be leaders trained locally,” said Crews. “We needed to have not only those who migrated from other places to the Northwest but we needed to train leaders from the Northwest.”

In the desire to find a way to help finance the formation of a seminary campus, Crews recalled the convention in 1999 “put their money where their mouth was” and dedicated all of the Sylvia Wilson Mission Offering gifts to support of the campus. “Northwest Baptist churches gave three times what they had ever given before … and that became the basis of teaching classes here in the Northwest,” he said. Since then Northwest Baptists have given $3.8 million to the work of the regional campus, according to Crews.

“No other state convention I know of has come anywhere close to giving that kind of support,” said Crews. “We believe in that dream and we are committed to that dream. It’s been true in the past, its true today and it will be even more true in the future.”

The Seminary is crucial to the convention’s hopes of doubling the number of NWBC churches, Crews said, from about 450-plus now to more than 900 during the next decade. “We still are only touching a small part of the Northwest so we believe in the future we are going to have to have new churches,” he noted. “It means that we’ll need many more effective leaders than we have today and that’s why this campus is important to us. We believe in what this campus is about and we look forward to what God’s going to do in the future.”

Seminary president Jeff Iorg told participants the school is “reaching a level of maturity and strength that will mark its ministry in the future.” With students enrolled at the residential campus near San Francisco and the four regional campuses in the western United States, Golden Gate is among the largest evangelical seminaries in the nation, he noted. “We celebrate what God has done so far but we also look forward to celebrating the future,” he said.

Along with others at the event, Iorg affirmed the importance of the seminary’s role in educating leaders in the Northwest. “The campus was created because we believe in contextualized training as close to the local church as possible and as closely to the place students will be serving as possible,” he said. “We believe in training indigenous leaders.”

He noted the way seminary education is provided is undergoing change. “The methods of delivery are changing so rapidly it’s almost impossible to keep up with reading about them much less doing them,” he said. “The methods we use will continue to change to stay as effective as possible in the 21st century, but the reasons we are here will not change. “The mission of (God’s) kingdom is not going to change,” he added. “The scope of the kingdom is global and that’s not going to change.”

Tom Hixson, president of the Northwest Baptist Foundation, said the Seminary, the Convention and the Foundation form an important partnership for Northwest Baptist churches. “We view ourselves, the three of us, as partners working together for a common good,” Hixson remarked. “God is working with us as we work together as a united team up here in the Northwest.”

Over these last 30 years, the Foundation has awarded $385,000 in scholarships to students attending the PNWC and another $225,000 has been loaned to students, Hixson reported. “Not all of us are going to be called to go to seminary, but all of us can be generous with what we have to help support students while they’re here,” Hixson said.

Written by Cameron Crabtree, editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness