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GATE’s Origins, Purpose, and Values



GATE exists to enable Majority World theological educators to equip church leaders in ways that are appropriately contextual, genuinely transformational, and biblically grounded.



In Budapest, Hungary, in 2003, a gathering of about thirty pastors and seminary leaders dialogued with a team of educators from the United States.  The consensus among the East Europeans was that current theological education is not adequately equipping pastors to meet the needs of the church, to address the problems of culture, nor to speak relevantly to the emerging generation.  The meeting was summarized by Nik Nedelchev, then President of Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute and currently President of the European Evangelical Alliance.  Nedelchev said, "We imported the best theological education models from the West and they are not doing the job of training our pastors."  Although Nedelchev states graphically the experience of these East Europeans, the problem is not regional; it exists throughout the Majority World. 


History and Strategy

GATE originated as a team of four educators: Duane Elmer (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Ralph Enlow (Association for Biblical Higher Education), Robert Ferris (Columbia International University, Emeritus), and John Lillis (Bethel Seminary, San Diego).  All are theologically trained, have earned doctorates in education, hold teaching and leadership positions in theological schools, and have extensive cross-cultural experience.  Moreover, all are dedicated to apprenticing Majority World educators who will extend GATE training in their own regions. 

In 2012, three new associates were added to the team.  John Jusu (Africa Christian University, Nairobi, and Overseas Council Africa Regional Director) is from Sierra Leone, Joanna Feliciano Soberano (Asian Theological Seminary, Manila) is a Filipina, and Gary Griffith (United World Mission Theological Education Initiative) is an American who lived and taught in Bulgaria for 18 years. 

In 2013 a "Training the Trainers" (T3) program was initiated to develop regionally-based GATE associates, beginning the process with eleven trainees in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2013 and adding seventeen in East Africa and the Philippines in 2014.

GATE's strategy is to introduce "best practice" educational models and methods and to lead majority world educators to reflect theologically on these strategies and current practice.  This is accomplished through a series of workshops which are characterized by:

  • Four-year commitment from influential theological schools to participate in annual, three-day faculty development workshops, increasing the probability of long-term sustainable change;
  • Participation by a critical mass of faculty and administrators from each school, increasing the probability of change in the institutional culture;
  • Participation by multiple faculties, engendering greater fellowship and cooperation among evangelical theological educators; and,
  • A workshop format which models a dynamic blend of presentation and learning tasks, leading to personal and institutional transformation.


Transformational Education

It is necessary to define “Transformational Education” since the term is used variously in educational literature.  As used by GATE, “Transformational Education” is not a technology a teacher can apply; a teacher does not have the ability to transform a student.  Transformation is a work of the Holy Spirit as a learner, by grace, chooses to embrace and obey (i.e., act on) God’s truth.  What an institution and a teacher can do is to create an environment—through personal modeling, through curricular and course design, and through in-class and out-of-class interaction—that encourages learners to integrate God’s truth into their fundamental perspectives, core values, relational patterns, and habits of life, thereby opening themselves to God’s transforming power.  Institutions and teachers that create such environments can be described as engaged in transformational education.  When learners are transformed by God’s grace, this transformation impacts every aspect of life and is lived out in community.


Success Indicators

  • At the end of each workshop, participants set individual and institutional goals for the year ahead;
  • Participants implement new ideas and methods and attest to positive effects in their context;
  • Demand for workshops increases as people observe benefits for equipping ministry leaders;
  • Participants express ownership, recognizing that changes are self-determined rather than externally imposed;
  • Participants affirm that working with peers from other schools breaks down barriers and builds camaraderie;
  • Majority World educators have been and continue to be identified as GATE associates.

Since 2004, the GATE team has provided the four-year workshop curriculum for more than 650 faculty participants from more than 100 seminaries and Bible colleges at locations in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.