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Bethel Seminary San Diego Celebrates 40 Years

Bethel Seminary San Diego has been in operation since 1977, with its newest addition completed in 2014.

There were 175 flashlights handed out at the Hilton San Diego Mission Valley Hotel on September 29. Placed on skirted tables, resting among glasses of sparkling cider and the discarded backings of paper nametags, they were part of a celebration banquet in honor of the Bethel Seminary San Diego (BSSD) 40th anniversary. Their purpose was symbolic: to remind guests of BSSD’s role in reflecting the light of Christ in its community and, through its countless graduates, around the world. Guests—students and alumni, staff and faculty, friends and family whose connections spanned decades—were encouraged to keep those lights as a reminder to pray for BSSD’s ongoing ministry.

A video montage captured a brief history of Bethel Seminary San Diego, tracking the growth of the site from its beginnings as “Bethel West” in 1977 inside a home-turned-office provided by College Avenue Baptist Church. At the time, the location was answering a need for accredited theological education in the San Diego area; professors from Bethel’s Minnesota campus traveled there for condensed weekend sessions with 17 credited students and eight non-credit students.

Several Bethel leaders, alumni, and faculty shared recollections of their years with BSSD. During a very special moment for the community, all four deans from the school’s history took the stage together. Founding Dean Clifford Anderson, Steven Voth, John Lillis, and current Dean Arnell Motz shared memories from their eras at Bethel. “Little is much when God is in it,” said Anderson, recalling the sacrifice many made to give, teach, or study at Bethel over the years.

“We all thrill at God’s quick miracles, but there is a different exhilaration watching God’s faithful ongoing blessing over an entire generation,” wrote Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, in honor of the evening. “Bethel Seminary San Diego has been touched by God for 40 years and I’ve seen it firsthand…excellent faculty, strategic location, and future promise. Congratulations to our Lord and congratulations to Bethel Seminary San Diego on this 40th Anniversary.”

President Jay Barnes praised the strong leadership of Bethel Seminary—and especially Bethel Seminary San Diego—over the years. He acknowledged the significance of the number 40 in the Bible and in Israel’s history. He said that at this time, there is rightfully a celebration of the past, but also an excitement for what’s to come. His prayer was that BSSD would continue to impact hearts and minds for generations to come.

Bethel Seminary San Diego has graduated 704 seminarians to date, with 188 students currently enrolled. Fifty percent of the fall 2017 student body at the San Diego location identify as students of color, reflecting the diverse community in which the seminary is located. In recent years, with the expansion of online Bethel Seminary offerings, BSSD has served an important role in furthering Bethel’s reach and reputation beyond its two campuses. 

View video of the BSSD 40th anniversary celebration banquet (including the video overview at 15:47) or explore programs at Bethel Seminary San Diego.

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