BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Minorities joining the majority culture is not diversity, Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg told messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention June 12. Instead, "true diversity is embracing different cultures and incorporating their perspectives in daily operations.
"Gateway Seminary has been – for more than 30 years – the most diverse ministry entity in the SBC," Iorg said, noting that more than half of Gateway's students are non-Anglos, with that commitment to diversity also reflected in the seminary's staff and faculty. About 30 percent of the student body are women.
"We are a better school because of the richness of the cultural layers which create the Gateway family," Iorg said. "Southern Baptists, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by becoming a pluralistic denomination which embraces different cultural expressions in creating our denominational tapestry."
Iorg reported that the seminary's accrediting agency had given the seminary a full 10-year reaccreditation, the maximum allowed under their policies. They also issued seven written commendations, which included mention of Gateway's high quality online program that they described as exhibiting the best practices in distance education.
"Our online program is considered a world-class example of how to do it right," Iorg said. "We were among the first group of seminaries approved to offer the master of divinity degree fully online. We are now offering all five of our master's degrees fully online."
Instead of considering itself a physical organization with a digital presence, Gateway is gradually seeing itself more as a digital organization with physical locations, Iorg said.
"The global move to prioritizing digital presence over physical locations seems to be marching inexorably forward. We are trying to stay in step with these changes, while also emphasizing in-person instruction as an important delivery model," he said.
Iorg told messengers that Gateway Seminary is partnering with the 12 western state Baptist conventions, the Baptist Foundation of California and the Northwest Baptist Foundation in a joint effort named the Call Project to elevate the emphasis on being called to ministry leadership.
"For the next five years, these state conventions will prioritize 'calling' in every event that includes high school or college students," Iorg said. "They will distribute materials, host breakout sessions, share sermon resources and otherwise promote the subject of 'call.' This is a long-term investment in developing leaders for the future. While we are focusing in the West, we welcome any other states to contact us about being involved in this project."
Iorg thanked Southern Baptists for their steadfast support since adopting the seminary in 1950.
"Thank you for your Cooperative Program gifts, for sending students and for praying for us," he said. "Seventy-five years after our founding, we are celebrating all God has done through us. The most important accomplishment – which we will celebrate soon – will be sending our 10,000th graduate to expand God's Kingdom around the world. We have grown from a prayer meeting with six deacons and their wives who founded our institution to 10,000 graduates. To God be the glory!"
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.