Jeff Iorg Blog
The First of The Lasts
May 26 2015
After graduation last Friday, my wife remarked, “Tomorrow starts the first of the lasts.” Since we will not have summer school classes at the Northern California Campus next summer, she was right. We are now in the final cycle of activities at our campus in Mill Valley, California. We will soon start the final summer term, followed by summer break, then the faculty retreat…and before we know it, President’s Convocation kicking off the fall semester will be here. These events, and others like them, will happen the final time at our current location.
The Golden Gate family has been remarkably positive and unified through the relocation. We are all working two jobs – doing our “day job” while “moonlighting” to create two new campuses that will open next year. The mission-discipline of our entire team – trustees, faculty, staff, students, donors, alumni, and friends – is a powerful example of what happens when people put mission ahead of preference. But despite this focus, the process is still emotionally draining.
Moving resolutely forward does not mean we are not sad about leaving our historic campus. As I have said on multiple occasions, we have many regrets - but no doubts – we are doing the right thing. God’s overwhelming confirmation of the decision has been breathtaking and humbling. We have received more than $4 million in special gifts in the past 8 months to assist with relocation issues. We have received unprecedented cooperation from governing authorities to streamline completing our facilities. We continue to have large numbers of students apply for admissions – right now we are actually ahead of where we were last year – even though future students know we are moving!
Yet, despite these blessings and confidence we are on the right path, we still feel a deep sense of loss – both because we are moving from our campus and likely will soon adopt a new identity. To manage these emotions, we are openly addressing this grief process (see my Spring Convocation message for one example). We are planning multiple reunion-style closure events throughout the upcoming academic year. We have scheduled six special chapels to conclude the spring semester and facilitate spiritual closure and transition.
This week, we begin moving through the first of the lasts, which will be an emotional time for all of us. We are open about our grief, determined to maintain our unity, convinced we are following God’s leading, and trusting God for emotional strength. This will be a year of poignant memories…and a year to remember!
A very successful political consultant in the Bay Area, who has helped elect a number of local officials, was recently arrested and charged with multiple counts of child pornography. At his arraignment, the evidence presented reportedly included some particularly heinous depictions of sexual acts involving children.
The political fallout has been dramatic and immediate. Former clients, particularly those now in office, have rushed to outdo themselves with denials of any and all relationship with their former confidant. He is radioactive – political death to anyone associated with him.
While his purported actions are deplorable, watching politicians scramble to find the moral high ground on this issue has been frustrating at best, comical at worst. They are applying a double standard to his behavior which reveals the convoluted reasoning prevalent in making and enforcing laws these days.
In light of current reasoning, what legal defense should this alleged pedophile mount? How about these familiar sounding arguments: “My sexual orientation makes me a protected class citizen; therefore, expressing it is my civil right. My sexual orientation is an inborn trait; therefore expressing it is my natural right. My sexual orientation cannot be regulated by the state. What happens in private is my business, not anyone else’s.”
Most people would scoff at these facetious arguments. They would cite children’s lack of maturity enabling them to consent to sexual activity, their need to be protected from exploitive adults, the physical harm of sexual activity to children, and the illegality of such behavior in our culture. They would be right on all counts. These cultural mores and laws, however, have been based on the foundation of Judeo-Christian moral authority, upon which so much of our legal system rests (or at least rested in the past).
This moral foundation has been rejected in our culture. The new moral standard is what is culturally popular - and then made legal by legislative action or court decisions. We now define morality by what is legal and legality by what is popular. Polling has replaced principled discernment in national decision-making.
The conviction sexual activity involving children is wrong is not based on cultural disdain for it, but on timeless moral standards. Political leaders can’t have it both ways. They should not change some laws to reflect current cultural mores and then claim some kind of moral authority to uphold other laws when it’s politically expedient.
Governing by principle based on unchanging moral convictions – not popular opinion - is essential for democracy to survive. Let’s hope we figure this out again before it’s too late.
May 11 2015
Last week, I wrote about the main reason we are moving our primary campus to Ontario, California – people! The coming population explosion in the Inland Empire means our seminary will be in the heart of the most significant opportunity for church growth, church starting, and ministry expansion in the western United States. Our mission revolves around people and we are going where the people are and will be in even larger numbers in the future.
An ancillary reason we are moving is money. That may seem crass to you, but I am being honest. By relocating our campus, we have significantly improved our financial status and future. We have eliminated millions of dollars of deferred maintenance and the need to remodel outdated facilities. We have also dramatically increased our endowment, giving us much greater financial strength and stability for the future. We have also made it possible to pay living wages in California and enable employees to purchase homes and secure their family’s long-term financial stability.
Having additional resources doesn’t mean we aren’t still responsible to be frugal and disciplined in spending. While we are building high quality facilities for the future, we have to make sure we build only what we need to fulfill our mission – not satisfy our egos or create monuments to our ingenuity. These types of facilities, in the long run, cost more than ever-imagined because of upkeep, maintenance, and deferred maintenance expenses. Short-term so-called “blessings” become long-term nooses, choking the life out of ministry organizations by sapping money needed for more direct mission-focused activity.
Ministry decisions must always be made based on our mission. But, ministry leaders often struggle with facing the financial realities of ministry in our modern setting. God expects us to truly count the cost, make wise financial decisions (including saving and investing appropriately), and discipline spending to what really matters to our mission. It sounds easy, but it’s one of the most challenging aspects of leading any church or ministry organization – and it only gets harder the larger and more affluent the ministry becomes.
We are relocating for our mission. We will accomplish it more effectively by making financial decisions determined by the mission. Money matters - never more than mission - but very much so in the context of accomplishing the mission effectively.
Golden Gate Seminary is relocating its primary campus to Ontario, California – leaving one of the most beautiful geographic settings in the world for an urbanized, desert location east of Los Angeles referred to as the Inland Empire. Why?
The answer is one word – people.
When faced with the option of relocating the seminary anywhere in the United States, we chose a location in the fastest growing area in the American West. Recently updated population projections for 2050 indicate more than 2.2 million more people will move into Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. In addition, more than 1.6 million more people will move into Los Angeles County and another 466,000 more into Orange County. This means almost 4.4 million more people will move within a 50 mile radius of our new campus in the next 35 years.
We are moving to the Inland Empire because it will be the epicenter of population growth in the next 35 years in the western United States. More new people will move into this four county area than in any western state (with the possible exception of Arizona) in the same time frame. Population growth equals ministry opportunities. We are moving the seminary to the center of the greatest opportunity for church planting, multicultural ministry development, church growth, and ministry expansion in the American West.
In the past, seminaries have followed one of two primary models in shaping their ministries and choosing their locations. Some are retreat centers – following a monastic model and creating separated communities for concentrated spiritual formation. Others are academic centers – often connected to larger educational institutions for intense scholarly preparation. We have chosen a different model – a missional model – convinced students prepare best as ministry leaders (both spiritually and academically) while immersed among the very people they will be leading after graduation.
Golden Gate has a well-earned reputation for training people to be on mission with the gospel. Our decision to go where the most people will be is a natural expression of our missional passion and convictions. We are planting our new primary campus in a corporate office park, at the junction point of three major freeways, and next to an airport. We have made this choice – intentionally and strategically – because we are determined to be where the action is. More than 4 million new people are coming and we intend to train leaders to reach as many of them as possible with the gospel!