Bakke Graduate University (BGU) is the place to learn the new realities of the global, urban world. A major reason is our network. BGU is connected to and building on a global, urban, theological network created over 30 years by Ray Bakke and others. That extensive network gives BGU unique access to the thinkers, leaders, and practitioners in the global Christian church.
As an independent, non-denominational school, Bakke Graduate University believes in the affirmations declared in the Lausanne Covenant: "We believe the gospel is God's good news for the whole world, and we are determined by His grace to obey Christ's commission to proclaim it to every person and to make disciples of every nation. We desire, therefore, to affirm our faith and our resolve, and to make public our covenant."
Bakke Graduate University strengthens leaders who steward resources with and for vulnerable people and places, by means of contextual, Christian-based education innovatively delivered throughout the urban world.
Bakke Graduate University (BGU) looks beyond itself to embody the commonly-held vision of an international network. BGU serves and is served by a global network of urban leaders and partners and our vision is shaped by this network and our partners. BGU's vision includes the following key components:
Emerging and Experienced Transformational Leaders
To strengthen current and future Christian leaders who are rooted in the timeless truths of Scripture, understand context and culture and proactively lead in the midst of today's global realities.
Whole Gospel, Whole Church, Whole World
To connect the work of international Christian leaders through commonly-held, foundational perspectives of Christian theology and practice including: God's heart for the vulnerable, the call to work for justice, the proclamation of the Gospel, the value of cities, and the necessity to personally live in deepening relational community.
To distribute resources - finances, leadership, authority, and insight - throughout the church worldwide. Many cultures that are financially-rich are relationship-poor. Regardless of economic trade policies, God has created a worldwide Kingdom economy that forces interdependence within the church world-wide. BGU's vision is to create the relationships, common values, and communication needed to stimulate the flow of resources to fuel a new era of sharing partnership.
Perspective and Values Education
BGU provides a worldwide model of graduate education that invites students to evaluate and reinvent how they accomplish their work. This model includes education that results in changed values and paradigms, not just added knowledge. It is accomplished through "come and see" experiences that move students outside of comfort zones into new global realities and is committed to not uprooting students from their current ministry locations. BGU is facilitated by global faculty, global communication tools, and student cohorts diverse in church affiliation - gender, experiences and cultures.
Accessibility to Life-Long Learning
BGU creates pathways for learning that offer front-line practitioners the hope of life-long, credentialed, high-quality education. Students are given tools to help them learn life-long habits of reflection and theological inquiry in the midst of their leadership action. BGU is not seen as a three to four-year relationship, but a life-long equipping partner, advancing them through degrees and serving them with on-going teaching, networking and platforming opportunities.
BGU utilizes technology, travel and network relationships to provide a high-level of service to students in various world locations. BGU is not only 'high-tech,' but also 'high-touch,' emphasizing relationships and the use of technology to dispense information more efficiently and bring community together.
BGU's values serve as one of the primary distinctives and attractions to students. They create the means for BGU to participate in a larger network of national and international leaders.
We Value the Whole Church
In response to Christ's command to seek the unity of the body, we celebrate and commit to collaborate with God's Church. Therefore, we will risk organizational, personal and worldview changes that are necessary to see successful partnership and transformation across geographic, ethnic, cultural, denominational, and organizational lines. We also believe that Christ's vision for the cities is bigger than any single denomination and will only be achieved through the wholeness of the Church.
We Value Cities
For the first time in human history the majority of the world's people live in cities, which are God's gift of refuge, hope and common grace for countless millions. In the Bible there are more than 1000 passages about cities, giving us clues as to how we should live as persons and behave as institutions. Biblically, we see it is essential to value both places and persons. Therefore, we seek both the spiritual transformation of persons and the social transformation of places, until our Lord comes or calls for us.
We Value the Vulnerable
The Gospel is for all people, which includes the rich, the successful and the powerful in our cities. However, in the Bible we especially notice God's awesome and unrelenting concern for the poor, widows, migrants, unemployed (and underemployed), sick persons, prisoners, aliens, victims and refugees. BGU commits itself to working with the leadership of the city but always in partnership with the vulnerable, who are "equally sinful but most often sinned against."
We Value Justice
Ministry in Christ's Spirit and example celebrates the indwelling presence of God, who through His Holy Spirit delivers people from their personal bondage to sin and guilt, and also stimulates processes that lead to transformation of and liberation from oppressive and unjust laws and public structures. We call the powerful whom the Lord has raised up in every city to partnerships with the vulnerable so that the Gospel may be understood and the power of the Gospel may be demonstrated in the Church and in the world.
We Value Community
We believe God's Spirit calls and empowers us to community, and that this calling brings both relational and institutional tension. As a result of this tension we believe that ongoing reconciliation is critically important. We therefore purpose to be a community of people committed to vulnerability and common vision that deals with legitimate conflict in a creative and redemptive manner. For the sake of the Gospel we value diversity and are committed to collaborating with those with whom we may not share total theological agreement.
We Value Doing Theology
We believe that theological reflection is powerful, relevant and transformational when done in response to injustice and human suffering. This requires bold vision, the ability to adapt to rapid global change and urgent collaborative action from individuals, churches, and mission agencies to bring the whole Gospel to these cities. BGU is committed to providing quality theological education that equips present and future urban leaders for transformational ministry around the world.
We Value the Local Church
We believe in churches and local ministries that are both signs and agents of God's Kingdom. BGU's goal is to see God glorified in a transformed city, where both storefront and cathedral, small outreach and large non-profit ministries, embody God's Kingdom purposes. BGU is not only committed to those leaders who develop new ministries but also to those who believe in and seek the renewal of historic churches and structures, some centuries old.
We Value Leadership
Global, urban realities require competent, compassionate leadership in society. Such leaders have been entrusted with much and need continual nourishment, appreciation, encouragement and accountability to grow and sustain their work. Jesus is the message, the model and the method. Leaders following Him must be servant leaders, giving away control by empowering and resourcing others doing Kingdom work to achieve their mission.
We Value Missional Education
Drawing from the strength of effective indigenous leaders, we believe that learning is best accomplished when theology is studied and applied in the context of mission. BGU is committed to providing quality education accessible to the historically under-represented leaders. The context of education is new urban realities.
We Value Partnerships
We commit to mutually transformational partnerships that reflect God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The primary life of God from eternity is community, reminding us that we are never more like God than when we are in community and relationships. The primary work of God is in partnership where each member of the Trinity has a primary calling as creator, redeemer and sustainer of the universe, but also each has a mutual investment in the work of the whole. The primary structure of God informs our concept of the family existing in unity, equality and mutual submission within a diversity of roles.
We Value Holistic Mission
We understand that the Trinity is on mission reconciling us to God, to ourselves, to each other and to our world. The Trinity reconciles individuals, relationships, organizations and cultures long before we arrive so that every person and place is holy ground. Thus God's mission in the world delivers us from seeing only one kind of immediate evangelism as the sum of what the Trinity's mission is about. Mission flowing from the agendas of each person of the Trinity delivers us from the tyranny of pragmatics and particularistic views of our own role in mission.
We Value Work
We understand our purpose, made in the image of God, is to steward God's creation through our work in community with each other and in submission to God. All work, including work in business, government, churches, non-profit organizations and the family, is valued equally by God as the work reflects His gifts and purpose. In the image of God, we are created to make decisions on behalf of God, held accountable in both process and results by our community and by God.
We Value Business Education
We define business as the organization of God-given gifts in a God-honoring community to produce both process and results that steward God's creation. We recognize that local and global business has both growing influence in our world as well as growing crises of purpose and ethics. BGU is committed to providing quality business education that provides essential and practical business skills from the perspective of its sacred purpose.
We Value Diversity
We believe that God created all peoples and that He has intentionally designed each of them to be unique in their differences. Diversity derives from the life-giving characteristics that God designed and therefore is according to His will. We recognize that these differences have historically caused division and polarization for the Church. It is BGU’s goal to embrace those differences and build a culture that cherishes and respects those differences as evidence of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10). BGU is committed to the inclusion of members from diverse backgrounds at all levels of the organization and views this inclusion as being directly in line with God’s will and purpose to display His glory in our humanity.
We Value Creation Care
We value individual responsibility, community action, organizational practices, and advocacy that takes responsibility for protecting and sustaining the health of our environment. God created the earth and commissioned humans to steward it. Our role as citizens of God’s kingdom is to authentically live out that original commission in this age. We are awed by creation and all its beauty and wonder. As we use our God-given gifts to utilize God’s resources for the good of society, we recognize that those resources must be protected and replenished. Creation care is indeed a gospel issue within the lordship of Christ. We are faced with a crisis that is pressing, and urgent, and that must be resolved in our generation.
Bakke Graduate University (BGU) was founded in 1990 and was originally named the Northwest Graduate School of the Ministry (NWGS) and received full US accreditation to the doctoral level in 1995. Its primary emphasis during this first decade was serving Northwest US pastors.
A crisis in leadership at the founding church in 1998 created the need for the school to have a new vision and ownership. The new ownership and vision were formed by leaders in local and global city movements such as Northwest Leadership Foundation, Serve Seattle, the Coalition for Community Development and Renewal, The Christian Community Development Association, and others. A survey of over 70 key leaders in the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization originally formed by Billy Graham in 1960 demonstrated an overwhelming global need for a new type of education. These leaders expressed that there were many seminaries in their regions of the world that contextualized theology well, but what was missing was ways to apply theology to massive trends of urban migration, the growth of global cities, the rise of economics and business as the new center of influence for the gospel. As a result, the new school was designed to have three colleges of Christian theology, urban studies, and business with students studying together. Courses would be held on six continents with each person crossing the ocean at least once in their program. Two-week urban immersions led by leaders in the largest cities on six continents became a unique distinctive.
The original recommended new name for the school was to be “Paradox University” since in most cities Christian leaders in the church, education, business, arts and entertainment, and NGO’s are often so isolated in silos it would be a paradox for them to study together given their vastly different perspectives, pacing, language, and worldviews. The name Bakke was selected because it allowed the story to be told of a family who was integrally involved in the revisioning of the school that included: Ray Bakke, the leader of the Lausanne Urban Associates; brother Dennis Bakke, the founder of AES, the largest independent electricity company in the world; brother Lowell Bakke, an innovative pastor; and sister Marylin Bakke Pearson, a gifted Bible teacher. Four siblings each with significant influence in very different segments of society yet in one family represented the “paradox” that BGU was intended to pursue in its vision.
Since this time of new vision in the early 2000s, BGU has grown increasingly global with the addition of innovative hybrid studies using online classrooms, urban immersions, and local mentoring. Today, over 70% of BGU’s students live outside of North America. BGU graduates understand that they can “graduate, but they can never leave” as they remain in the BGU network for a lifetime of global relationships and mentoring of students who follow them.
People want to find meaning in their daily lives and make a difference through their work. This requires a holistic understanding of work, calling, life, relationships, community, influence, health, and the environment. BGU teaches the personal calling of work; ethics of work; spirituality of work; and personal/ organizational mission of work. Recognized as a global leader in these topics, BGU has taught theology of work to faculty and leaders in colleges, seminaries, and agencies in almost 40 countries. Applied to all aspects of business and city transformation, this provides a united underpinning within every BGU course. For additional information please visit the TOW website where you can apply for the Theology of Work grant.