The program for ministry at maximum security prison San Quentin in Northern California, outside San Francisco, proves the maxim, minister where you are at the moment. For inmate Mark Baldwin, serving a life sentence, he will prove the maxim well for with his new diploma in ministry earned from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary based in the town Mill Valley, which is near the prison, will be ministering to fellow inmates for a long timelifelong.
The Certificate for Ministry earned by the recent June, 2010 graduate Mr. Baldwin in the Southern Baptist tradition, as the seminary is a Southern Baptist seminary, is part of a larger and national program that applies the same maxim throughout its teaching efforts reach, which is really more than national. It is worldwide. That maxim remains the same wherever students learn and go into ministry. Minister where you are at this time in your life, and in the many places where you may be a long time in their location or place of life.
In a conversation by phone with a Seminary spokeswoman, more details of the educational program called Contextual Leadership Development (CLD) was found. CLD finds its home base at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary just north of San Francisco at the Southern Baptist Seminary. The Spokeswoman offers these fast notes on the CLD centers:
is established under a cooperative agreement between Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and a local Southern Baptist Church, association or state convention
offers diploma programs in Christian ministries, theology, and church planting
offers classes in English, Korean, Spanish, Thai, Chinese, Hmong, Mien, Russian, and Haitian, depending upon the center location
is approved by the CLD National Office and the Office of Academic Affairs of Golden Gate Seminary
CLD home page on website: http://www.ggbts.edu/cld/default.aspx
She points out how Don Beall, employee of the Seminary for 5 years, has the job of running this innovative and successful program of ministry-in-place. This writer was told in that same phone conversation, "There are over 60 CLD centers in the United States. A CLD Center needs to be establishedIt is ethnic, but has evolved to be cultural and started out to meet the needs of ethnic people to meet the grasp of learning English to provide future ministers during their student days in the Seminary program with an education in their own language so they can have a ministry. There is a cultural relevant group for every people group in their respective country. It is currently taught in 17 States, and 11 languages."
In the specific ministry program at San Quentin prison, the four inmates who graduated with their certificate this June, 2010 will be supervised by Prison Chaplain Morris A. Curry, Jr. (an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Church). He is Pastor to all Protestant inmates at San Quentin Prison, and supervises the four graduates, and the one previously graduated inmate who is himself an ordained Southern Baptist Minister. (All are inmates.)
The relationship between Pastor Curry, the director of the national program Don Beall (an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Church), and the Seminary itself is close and genuine for they have a mutual simpatico that is driven in part by the cooperation and interest of the Seminary, as evidenced by the participation of the Seminary President in the worldwide CLD program, and specifically in what is seen as the Seminary's important educational program at San Quentin. So the Spokeswoman told this writer, "The President is very supportive and the Seminary considers it a major outreach. We have many students and graduates in the CLD program."
The San Quentin Prison program is the second such prison program of its kind in the United States, and the Seminary hopes to have a second of their own in another Prison. That would make three such programs.
The Seminary is dedicated to CLD, and prisons are a favorite among favorites because of San Quentin's proximity to the Seminarybut 20 minutes away.
"Don Beall was one of the first teachers at San Quentin in 2007. He's very involved in the other CLD centers because this one is special and it's all nearby the Seminary. (He has been teaching one semester, two times a week, and every fall for a long time.)" So the Spokeswoman explains to this writer in the interview by phone.
The following interview with Don Beall reveals the dedication of the leadership in the CLD program, displaying mostly that the dedication is Bible based, and tells us something of Don Beall's role. The interview by email was sent to this writer from Washington State, in the Western United States, when The Reverend Don Beall was on vacation this July, 2010.
1. What is your role, and how do you see this developing leadership and ministers? Peter, I serve as the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary Contextualized Leadership Development (CLD) National Director. I work with local CLD Directors and Registrars to provide orientation, make sure they receive adequate training, coordinate our cooperative agreement/partnership.
2. Will you speak to the nature of the San Quentin ministry as a ministry in place--its Biblical authority and basis? The Bible teaches us to visit those in prison and that "some of us used to be" which teaches us that God gives eternal life to all who call upon His name. Matthew 28: 19-20 commands us to teach those we come in contact with. Preparing men at San Quentin to serve the Lord through His church in prison and outside of prison is the task of all believers.
3. Where next might the Southern Baptist Church begin another prison ministry study program? We do not initiate setting up local CLD centers across North America but respond to local Southern Baptist Church (SBC)--churches, associations and state conventions who desire to provide theological training. We will evaluate each request with a face to face meeting with those interested.
4. How do you find the support of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in this study program and ministry? Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (GGBTS) provides training support and encouragement to the local CLD Director. Dr. Jerry Stubblefield (retired GGBTS Faculty member) and Pastor/Chaplain Morris Curry who serves as the San Quentin CLD Registrar. We help enlist instructors at San Quentin, provide Course Syllabus Templates and evaluate each instructor's syllabus to make sure what is being taught is the GGBTS course listed
5. If I recall right, you visit at San Quentin yourself. Tell us something about what you are doing with prisoners? I have volunteered to teach each CLD 1111 Ministry Foundations one semester two nights a week for 15 weeks. I also help advise the San Quentin students on their progress toward earning a Diploma in Christian Ministries or a Diploma in Theology.
The graduates of this June, 2010 ceremony, complete with sermon by Seminary President Reverend Doctor Jeff Iorg, was the same as a graduation given at the Southern Baptist Seminary proper. The graduates were Mark Baldwin of California, 50; Robert Butler of California, 51; David Cowan of Pennsylvania, 42; and Darrell Cortez Hartley of Missouri, 46.
Speaking from a podium in the Protestant Chapel, Seminary President Iorg told the graduates, "It takes time to tell about Jesus. I challenge you to show Jesus Christ." The Sermon spoke of the Holiness of the moment, and this writer thinks he meant by that the Holiness of the men's new ministry in place, and the Holiness of their graduation into ministry. This wonderful sermon was a form of blessing and commissioning.
In the Sermon, preaching Seminary President Iorg said Jesus went to the most strategic places possible. He looked to minister to the product of people's backgrounds, where they were, in the place where they live, and in the state of their lives. He said that for these new ministers, "The Church is San Quentin." He offered a blessing, and proclaimed, "Bless the Lord."
Donald Hart, a graduate of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is a teacher of men in the Protestant Chapel in San Quentin for the CLD program. He taught the four recent graduates, though did not teach the one previous graduate of the program. The Protestant Chapel is inside the Prison, of course.
This interview by phone with the writer was held with Donald Hart regarding his teaching ministry to inmates. Don says of the men, "They are very proud; it is one of the programs they put a lot of effort into."
Don has been teaching at San Quentin for two years.
How long have you been on the faculty of the Seminary?
Approved as an adjunct for the San Quentin project two years ago, I was a student at the Seminary finishing up my Theological Masters--passed the Masters of Divinity and focused on research and writing. It's between the Masters of Divinity and the Ph.D.
I did my undergraduate work at California Baptist University in Riverside, California.
Have you had experience in teaching prisoners prior to your San Quentin experience?
I had none. Actually, San Quentin was my first time in being involved with prison ministry. I think it was a combination of both; I did not know how prepared I was until I started. If someone wanted to be involved in this ministry, they have to have a passion for teaching for one. And along with the teaching is spiritual discipleship of the men. You also have to have the mindset that men in prison can be rehabilitated That God has a plan for them where they are at or where he wants to put them in the future.
What's the point of making ministers of men who are so far gone to the criminal side?
I think that as the men really grow in their understanding of God, their life can be lived for Christ. They can get a perspective on where they've been and what opportunities God can have for them. Men in prison have committed crimes and made fairly large mistakes in the way they lived life; I believe God has placed them in a unique position to minister to others in the same circumstance.
Because of their past mistakes they are more fully able to minister to those who are in the same place before they go to prison. I believe that through their trials, their mistakes, they have a voice for reconciliation, or voice for understanding for those who are making the same mistakes: criminal activities, or drug use. Things that the person sitting in the pews may not fully comprehend.
One of the biggest things that strikes me, as God redeems the men; he redeems their actions to positive contributions in the future.
What other Church activities are you involved with in the Southern Baptist tradition?
I also work fulltime, and I am ministering in a Church in San Francisco part time. I work with the facilities department of the seminary. First Baptist Church, San Francisco. It's on Octavia and Waller, where Octavia hits market. We run about 250 to 300 people on a Sunday morning. We are in the process of growing. I work with small group ministry, overseeing them and in security, making the place a safer place to worship. The work with prisoners is a ministry, and it is a volunteer job as adjunct teaching position. All the teachers with the Seminary program at San Quentin are unpaid volunteers.
Phyllis Evans wrote in an article about the inmates earning a Seminary diploma (original article can be found here, http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?Id=33287. ),:
Most CLD graduates have the option of participating in commencement ceremonies at one of Golden Gate Seminary's five campuses. But for the San Quentin grads, the ceremony went to the prison. More than 150 inmates and guests attended the ceremony in the prison's Protestant chapel.
"These graduates are receiving the same experience as our other graduates," Jeff Iorg, the seminary's president, said. "The program is the same, the people on the podium are the same, the diploma is the same, and we expect the same kind of results from these graduates as from our other graduates.
"Some may wonder why such a program would be offered in prison, where many of the graduates will never be paroled," Iorg said. "Our mission is training leaders to expand God's Kingdom. The church is in San Quentin and needs leaders here, too."
Inmate Mark Baldwin, in his remarks from the podium, told those present and his teachers that jail is a journey. He said he's been incarcerated in three institutionsand now San Quentin. He spoke of how humbled he was by the program, his graduation, and entry into ministry. He mostly spoke of his thanks to this place in San Quentin (the Chapel), and offered his thanks for the support of his family, friends and fellow prisoners. He closed his remarks with, "Good night. God bless."
Local reporter for "The Marin Independent Journal" Christian Goepel said of inmate Baldwin, now minister Baldwin, "Baldwin has long taught Bible study and an apologetics class, which offers instruction along with defending the fundamentals of Christian faith. He is serving a life sentence, but said he will use what he learned on his long journey to promote ministry and help others in prison."
Inmate Robert Butler spoke of this graduation for him as a "defining moment in my life." Of the three African American, and one white graduates, all were pleased, honored and proud to be graduates of the Seminary, and now ready to enter into a lifetime of ministry to their fellow prisoners at San Quentin, or wherever incarcerated.
Photos by Terry Peck. Note writer and friend are shown exiting prison Protestant Chapel after graduation ceremonies.
Images: (1) Seminary President The Reverend Doctor Jeff P. Iorg with graduate Robert I. Butler, California; (2) The Reverend Morris A. Currry, Jr., Protestant Chaplain, San Quentin Garden Chapel. Pastor Curry worked 20 years as a volunteer at the prison, and has been Pastor on paid staff now for five years. ; (3) Pastor Curry. He is committed to the community through helping it to regain its moral base by promoting a value system based on Agape: "Consider others more important than yourself" (Philippians 2:3); (4) Darrell Cortez Hartley, at the laying on of hands in his robe. The Missouri born prisoner received his diploma in Christian Ministry at San Quentin Garden Chapel June 10, 2010 along with three other inmates; (5) The writer exiting San Quentin Garden Chapel which is inside the prison, a maximum security institution located in California's Marin County, north of San Francisco. Accompanying the writer is a friend who came to witness the graduation. There were few guests in attendance; (6) Laying on of hands, for the spirit of ministry was conferred by faculty of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, California--but 20 minutes from the prison.
Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.
Copyright Peter Menkin
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