President's Report to Messengers at 2011 SBC Annual Meeting

Good afternoon, Southern Baptists, and welcome to the West! We know it’s a long trip for many of you and we appreciate your effort to meet with the Western part of the family.

Golden Gate is your seminary with responsibility for training leaders in the Western United States. We currently have more than 2,100 students, meeting on five campuses, in cyberspace, and at dozens of CLD learning centers. Because there are few Christians and even fewer Baptists in the West - a seminary of our size and strength would probably not be possible without your support. Thanks for your Cooperative Program gifts, your prayers, and for sending us students. We are profoundly grateful for your partnership.

Since you’re in our region, I want to devote my report to helping you better understand the strategy and scope of our work. Golden Gate uses some unique approaches to meet the special challenges and opportunities in the West. Get this key statement about our strategy: Golden Gate is a seminary-system, not a seminary campus. We operate fully-accredited campuses – not extension centers - in five of the largest cities in the West. What’s the difference between an extension center and a regional campus? Extension centers teach a few classes. Our campuses deliver entire degree programs – culminating in five graduation ceremonies every spring.

Much of our strategy is driven by our geographic assignment. The West is a vast territory that mandates a multi-campus, systemic approach to cover the region. Our primary administrative campus is near San Francisco. We also have campuses near Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, and yes, right here in Phoenix.

Look at the map with me and you will better understand why we have chosen this strategy. First, you can see our campuses encircle the West – somewhat like the other five SBC seminaries encircle the South.

Second, we need five campuses because the West is a big place. If you were to drive and visit all five of our campuses, you would cover 3,569 miles. If you made a similar trip to visit the other five SBC seminaries, you would only log 3,056 miles. Our five campuses are more than 500 hundred miles farther apart than the other five SBC seminaries are from each other. The west truly is a big place!

Third, we operate five campuses because the West is so diverse. While people have the same basic needs everywhere, they express those needs quite differently in different locales. A five campus system makes cultural adaptation more possible in a wide variety of ministry settings.

When you consider our system approach, in contrast to a standard “campus” approach, you probably have some questions about quality and efficiency. We have addressed those issues to be sure we deliver excellence at every location.

We have one academic dean, one faculty, one set of degree objectives, one set of course templates, and one academic policy guidebook. We are one seminary at many locations. While we have residential faculty at all five locations, we administrate them as one faculty. Through faculty meetings when we all fly to a common location, electronic-conferencing and discussion forums, and the good old telephone – we network our faculty as if they were all housed on one hallway.

One other significant way we assure quality among the campuses is by sharing faculty. Each year, some professors are assigned to travel – teaching at both their home campus as well as a secondary campus. Many of our core faculty – including the President - also teaches in our online learning program. This means students have the opportunity to take classes from almost the entire faculty as professors rotate to various campuses or teach in cyberspace. During our recent ten-year accreditation review, one of the strengths pointed out about Golden Gate is the academic strength and educational quality of our multi-campus system.

Another unique aspect of our system approach is the variety of delivery schedules for our classes. We use something called “block scheduling” – which means most semester-length classes only meet once a week. We also use a variety of other class schedules including intensive classes that meet for one week or for a series of weekends, as well as hybrid-classes that combine a few days of face-to-face instruction with online delivery. And, of course, we have a growing number of students who are taking fully online courses through our eCampus.

Let me expand for a moment on the whole issue of online learning. Golden Gate is committed to the highest quality in our online learning program. Good online classes are not one-dimensional video repeats of live lectures. The online classroom is an entirely new learning venue. It requires different assignments, different ways to measure progress, and different methodologies to insure learning outcomes are met. We require live weekly interaction between students and teachers in every online class. We limit online classes to 25 students so everyone gets personal attention. We evaluate online learning as thoroughly as we do our face-to-face program. We are committed to a cutting-edge program, not a short-cut program that turns into a degree mill.

While our national accrediting agency does not permit seminary degrees to be offered totally online and our denomination does not yet support online work through our seminary funding formula, we are still pressing ahead with this approach. We believe online learning, with live multi-point teaching sites will be normal educational practice by the end of this decade. We are committed to being on the cutting-edge of training every student in every location by every legitimate means possible.

Another distinctive of our strategy is our close partnerships with state conventions in the West. Joining me on the platform today are the executives directors from several western state conventions. These men are our good friends, loyal supporters, and strategic ministry partners. For almost 20 years, Western State executives and Golden Gate senior staff have had an annual strategic planning retreat to coordinate our efforts. Most of our seminary’s strategy has been developed in response to requests from state convention leaders who depend on us to train leaders for their churches and ministries.

Thank you Western state leaders for being our partners. Thank you Southern Baptists for helping make our work possible. We realize we are “not your father’s seminary.” We have been on the cutting edge – geographically and methodologically for a long time. We have had a multi-campus system since 1972. We taught our first online class in 1998. We have often been swimming upstream against funding challenges and detractors who dismiss our strategy, but we have persevered because we believe it was and is the right approach for our half of the country.

We are excited about the future as we launch a new degree program – the Master of Intercultural Ministry – this Fall. We are also working on enlarging our burgeoning PHD program and our extensive work in the Korean community. Golden Gate is thriving and we celebrate the progress God is making possible through us.

Southern Baptists adopted Golden Gate Seminary in 1950. Thank you for making us part of the family. We are committed to our denominational mission of accelerating the fulfillment of the Great Commission. We are doing our part by shaping leaders who expand God’s kingdom around the world. Southern Baptists, you can trust our product – we are biblical. You can join our focus – we are missional. You can celebrate our significance – we are global.

Watch the video archive of the entire Annual Meeting. To watch the President's report, select "Tuesday Afternoon" and scroll down.