For the first time in history, four San Quentin State Prison inmates were the first to receive diplomas from the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s contextualized leadership program.

“These inmates are studying principles in the Bible and want to live a life that reflects those values, “said Miguel Rodriguez, program coordinator. “These inmates will have a positive effect in the prison. The inmates are looking for hope. “

About 150 inmates and members of the community were there as the graduates received diplomas in Christian Ministries at the first commencement held in the Protestant Chapel.

“The graduation of our four inmates, not only represents a great individual achievement for our graduates, but it is also a testament to the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and their community outreach program to provide a high quality of religious studies to our inmate population at no cost to the taxpayer,” said Warden (A) Vincent S. Cullen. “This graduation ceremony typifies the valuable network of volunteer services provided to the inmate population at San Quentin State Prison.”

The leadership program was introduced in 2006 at San Quentin and is the only one actually housed in a prison. The program provides post- high school level classed to develop effective Christian leaders. The program takes two to three years to complete, including classes from church planning and evangelism to ministry training. The inmates in the program are taught by seminary graduate students on a volunteer basis during spring and fall semesters.

Some people wonder why such a program would be offered in a prison. Jeff Lorg, president of the seminary, summed it up as, “Our mission is training leaders to expand the mission of God. The church is in San Quentin and the church needs leaders here.”

Reverend Morris Curry Jr. volunteered at the prison for 20 years before becoming its Protestant chaplain five years ago. He is convinced that the program can heal inmates. “We have men preparing themselves for rehabilitation,” said Reverend Curry. “This program demonstrates that people can change.”

The program, launched in the early 1980s as a partnership between the seminary and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, is taught at 61 centers nationwide.