Spring 2013 Commencement

A major serving in the Army National Guard, two engineers who retired to attend seminary, and the 8,000th graduate were among 231 students graduating at the five campuses of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in May 2013.

Matthew Morton (MDiv) is a 35-year-old major serving in the Army National Guard in Colorado. He is a father of two who also serves as a college pastor at First Baptist Church of Black Forest in Colorado Springs, CO. Chosen to speak at commencement, he described an important lesson he learned in seminary. “I will carry the lesson of tension with me for the rest of my days in ministry, work, family, and in my life.” He recalled how during a theology class a professor noted that God strikes the perfect tension between grace and holiness. “That moment quite simply changed my life, so I had it tattooed on my wrists as an everyday reminder that I have to live in the tension of grace and holiness. I don’t want to be a grace abuser and I don’t want to be a legalist.”

The tattoo on Matt’s right wrist is the Hebrew word for grace, accompanied by the Ichthus symbol, the fish that represents Christianity. On his right wrist is the Hebrew word for holy and an image of three nails. In addition to being personal reminders, the tattoos have provided opportunities for evangelistic encounters.

Liz Myers (PhD) resigned from her 25-year engineering career in order to attend seminary. The Oregon resident and mother of two is Golden Gate’s first woman PhD grad, and was selected by the Institute for Biblical Research to read her paper at the annual conference in November as the Emerging Scholarship in New Testament. Her dissertation is the study of literary parallels of 1st Peter and Hebrews. The 55-year-old Myers developed a new way of analyzing the use of traditional material in the biblical books, based on statistical probability.

Charles Sun (MDiv) holds a PhD in engineering, and worked for more than 20 years as a computer software engineer before retiring to attend Golden Gate’s Rocky Mountain campus. He also serves as minister at Chinese Christian Church in Salt Lake City, UT. This 300-member church has two congregations, one speaks English and the other Chinese. This spring the church sent this 52-year-old Taiwanese-born father of two to Provo, UT to plant Provo Chinese Christian Fellowship.

In his commencement address, President Jeff Iorg offered words of challenge about what it means to represent Jesus Christ to the world. Referencing 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, Iorg charged the graduates to “walk out of this room as the sweet aroma of Jesus Christ.”

Explaining how the powerful sense of smell is the backdrop upon which Paul wrote, Iorg described the Roman practice of returning conquerors parading their captors through the streets which had been spread with perfume. “The perfume was an aroma of victory to the victors, but that same sweet smell was the aroma of death to the captors, knowing they were walking their last steps before execution.”

Continuing that imagery, Iorg told the graduates, “You are the aroma of Jesus Christ – the aroma of the good news of his death, burial, and his resurrection for a world that is marching in a procession toward execution and needs the sweet aroma of Jesus in their path.”

Iorg referenced to 2 Corinthians 2:15, telling his listeners, “You are a fragrance of life to those being saved, but you are also an odor of death to those who will reject the gospel. You will be the same person to both, those who are being saved and those who are perishing. But some will receive you as the sweet aroma of Jesus and some as the odor of death.”

The president concluded his message to the graduates with this charge, “We send you out tonight as the sweet aroma of Jesus, in a victory parade celebrating his death, his burial, and his resurrection. Being the sweet aroma to all people everywhere in every way possible, knowing that some will receive you as the fragrance of life, and some will reject you as the odor of death. Nevertheless, without discouragement, giving the gospel away freely, without regard to personal benefit or gain and making sure that your message is sincere, without dilution, without distortion. Go and do those things, representing Golden Gate Seminary yes, but more importantly, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel which we serve.”

The Seminary’s highest student award, the William O. Crews Presidential Leadership Award, was given to two master of divinity graduates: James Clayton Lanford (California) of the Northern California campus and Gregory Lee Teel (Colorado), who attended the Rocky Mountain campus.

At the Northern California campus, Robert Spencer Sims (Mississippi), who earned a master of missiology degree, was recognized as the 8,000th graduate of the Seminary.