Jeff Iorg Blog
Best Comments So Far
Apr 14 2014
By now, most everyone connected with Golden Gate knows we are in the process of selling our campus in Mill Valley, California and relocating our primary campus to Southern California. Hundreds of people have responded to the news in person, by email, and over the phone. Here are three of my favorite comments. The support for the decision has been very positive – for which we are very grateful.
First, a graduate wrote a blog entitled, “The Sending Place is Sent.” He described his meaningful memories of attending seminary on the Mill Valley campus. But he lauded the seminary for having the courage to face the limitations and diminishing value of the current site, and choosing to make a hard decision based on our mission.
Second, a student told me, “I’m mad about the seminary moving. Not mad about the move, but the timing. This is going to be the most exciting thing ever done by any seminary. I’m graduating in May and I’ll miss out on making history.” We need to sign that student up for another degree!
Finally, a former trustee who served on our Board in the 1980’s wrote, “I was on the Board 30 years ago. This was the right decision then and it’s the right decision now. Thank God you finally got it done.”
Moving from this beautiful location is hard on many of us. We have significant emotional connections to life-shaping events that happened here. Deep within the Golden Gate family, however, is a passionate commitment to our mission. We recognize the educational world has changed and we must continue to change. We are taking a huge step to meet those challenges. We press on!
As we announced last week, Golden Gate Seminary has reached an agreement to sell all our property in Mill Valley, California. We are building a new primary campus in Southern California, a new regional campus to serve the Bay Area, and putting a significant amount of money into endowment – all as a result of this decision. We will also remain fully operational in our current campuses for two more years while the transition is accomplished.
The response by the Golden Gate family has been sober, determined, and positive. The breadth of the positive support has surprised me – and I’m very optimistic about such things! I have spoken personally to a large number of faculty, staff, students, donors, graduates, and friends of the seminary in the past week. Over and over they have told me, “You made the right decision” even while processing their grief over the loss of our current location and all it has meant to us.
In my ten years at Golden Gate, this has been a consistent theme. When faced with daunting obstacles and fresh challenges to our mission, we pull together and accomplish what seems impossible. Now we are taking on the biggest project in our history, and maybe in the history of seminary education in America. We are moving one of the ten largest seminaries in the world 400 miles down the road, while remaining fully operational over the next two years. Some would say it can’t be done. We say, with God’s help, we’ll get it done!
My favorite comment about the relocation came from a student who said, “I’m mad about all this. Not mad we’re moving, just mad I’m graduating in May and won’t be here to help make history!” That’s the attitude that makes Golden Gate people so special. If you’ve heard we are moving and you’re not sure if you should enroll as a new student – think again. We’re making history out here on the West Coast. Don’t miss it.
Moving Toward the Future
Apr 01 2014
For the past four years, we have been involved in a difficult process related to development of our campus in Mill Valley, California. We have engaged top planning firms, real estate specialists, financial analysts, legal counsel, and political consultants to help us with this process. Despite these skilled professionals – and much prayer – we have been stymied.
Sometimes, God allows obstacles like these to teach us perseverance. Other times, he erects barriers to re-direct us. For the past four years, we have interpreted the challenges we have faced as obstacles to overcome. We have now changed our perspective and believe they are signposts telling us to go another direction.
Developing this new perspective began with a reaffirmation of our mission. Over the past few months, our executive leaders and Board of Trustees have refocused on how the current situation relates to fulfilling our mission. Our mission is clear: Shaping leaders who expand God’s kingdom around the world. Our mission isn’t land development. It’s not campus preservation. Our mission is shaping leaders. Whatever we do in the future must be driven by that clearly defined mission.
The question before us then, is this: “What land development option best fulfills our mission and vision in the 21st century?”
The next definitive step forward in answering this question has been taken. We have signed an agreement to sell all Seminary-owned property in Mill Valley, California. The sale was approved by the Board of Trustees by a unanimous vote. We are now in a period of due diligence and hope to close the sale later this summer.
When the sale closes, we will lease the property for our continued use through July 2016. This means the Seminary will continue to use its Mill Valley location for the rest of this academic year, plus two additional academic years. Then, we will be moving into a new future with new facilities in new locations.
The Seminary will ultimately relocate its primary campus to Southern California. Both church and population demographic projections for the next 40 years indicate the primary campus for the Western United States should be in this location. The seminary will also open a new regional campus for commuter students in the San Francisco Bay Area.
One way to look at this change is this: We are reversing the roles of our California campuses. The primary campus will be in Southern California with a regional campus in the Bay Area – although both will be new campuses in new locations.
During this transition we will maintain our academic programs and standards currently in place. Current residential students at the Mill Valley Campus will have the balance of this academic year, plus two more full years to complete their degree programs at the current location. We will work with every student who can’t finish on that timetable to assure they can complete their program as seamlessly as possible. All other students (Northern California commuters, regional campus students, online students, non-residential doctoral students, CLD students) should experience no disruption in their academic programs during the transition.
Employees will also be impacted during this transition. This is an inevitable outcome of major organizational change. Those changes won’t be finalized for some months as our employees continue to work at all five of our campuses for the next two years.
In making this change, we are walking away from a beautiful location, but not from our mission. We are leaving behind a dilapidated campus, a resource-draining political and legal conflict, and financial challenges which are getting more and more difficult to manage in this location. But this decision is not about what we are leaving behind. It’s about the future we are headed toward.
We are sacrificing short-term comfort for long-term fulfillment of our mission. We are positioning ourselves strategically, geographically, and financially to impact the Western United States and the world like never before.
We will all pay a personal cost for fulfilling our mission and vision this way. It will, at times, be scary and unnerving. Nevertheless, as we have said countless times at Golden Gate, “The mission matters most.” Like perhaps no seminary in recent history, we are standing behind that declaration with our actions today.
We ask you to pray for us and stand with us as we go boldly into the future. We have prepared a video as well as answers to frequently asked questions which can be found at www.ggtbs.edu.
A Good Saturday
Mar 24 2014
I spent this last Saturday with some special people – pastors and other leaders from small and rural churches across Northern California. They live and work in relative anonymity, except of course to the people they love and serve. To those people, these leaders are heroes. They are their spiritual guides, mentors, and examples. These pastors, along with their leadership teams, are vital kingdom workers.
An important part of our denominational strategy is focusing on church planting in cities. I affirm that priority. That’s where most people live so that’s where most of our leaders and finances need to deployed. But that doesn’t mean other ministry settings are unimportant or can be ignored. Millions of people still live in rural areas and small towns. Effective churches must be built to meet their needs. New churches in underserved communities are still needed. A truly national strategy includes everyone – from megacities to the places yet to install their first blinking light.
One of the reasons I enjoy speaking to and sharing ministry with these leaders is how “down-to-earth” they are. They live and work in communities where secrets are few, character still matters, and how you treat people determines your credibility. There’s no image to uphold, just reality to be lived. I like that. While so many people today, including some religious leaders, are interested in establishing a social media identity - these leaders are more interested in living transparently with people they see at the local café or the high school football game. They remind me, and all of us, that real relationships – not the virtual kind – are the fertile ground of transformational ministry.
It was a good Saturday. Made me glad to be a church leader and privileged to minister to other church leaders!