The audience held hands as Leroy Gainey, chair of Gateway Seminary’s educational leadership department, leads in a dedication prayer at Gateway Seminary‚Äôs new Bay Area campus.
Photo by Kyle Drake

Gateway Seminary dedicated a new campus in the San Francisco Bay Area April 8, fulfilling a promise that the institution would not abandon its presence there.

But the story behind the new facility in Fremont, Calif., has two parts: one from the perspective of the Southern Baptist seminary — formerly known as Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary — and the other on the side of a church that was declining but wanted to continue its commitment to missions.

“When we decided the seminary relocation would go forward, one of the most difficult parts of the decision was the feeling we were abandoning the Bay Area,” said Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg, who saw the seminary also dedicate its new main campus in Ontario, Calif., in October.

“We see the need in this area, so leaving was not desirable to us,” he noted. “When we knew we were selling the property in Mill Valley, we also knew we wanted to build a new campus in the Bay Area.”

He said that a list of requirements for a new facility included a location in the Fremont area between the 680 and 880 freeways, situated on a major thoroughfare and near a rail transit station. He and other staff members looked at possibilities over a six-month period — but buildings that fit the criteria were very expensive.

One day in October 2014 Iorg’s phone rang, and an area pastor said, “I wonder if I can talk to you for a moment about the Bay Area campus. I have heard that the Seminary purchased property in Fremont for that purpose.” Iorg assured him that was not true. The pastor replied, “Well, I’m glad to hear that, because our church would like to give you our property.”

When Iorg brought up the property on Google maps, he said, “Looming in front of me was property located between the 680 and 880 freeway on a major thoroughfare, near a rail transit station,” he said. “I asked him, ‘Are you sure this is the property you’re telling me the church wants to give the seminary?’ And the pastor replied ‘yes.'”

So Iorg and Gary Groat, vice president for business services, visited the church, inspected the property and then went to lunch to discuss it.

“Gary is a very analytical, realistic person,” Iorg said, “so I asked him — what am I missing? He replied, ‘You’re not missing anything. It’s a miracle.’

“We first heard from the pastor in October and by January, we owned the property, and had the opportunity to develop it to what you see it today,” Iorg said. “The gift was magnificent: a church that realized that possibly the best use of their resources was in the training of future leaders at a seminary on this property.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Katherine Chute