Our Story


The Legacy Continues

"Fuller Theological Seminary has seen a rich history of excellence in scholarship intertwined with innovation in theological education. It's a legacy that Fuller Northern California has sustained and enriched over its own 40-year history."

Beginning in 1947 with the combined visions of radio evangelist Charles E. Fuller and theologian Dr. Harold Ockenga, Fuller Theological Seminary has seen a rich history of excellence in scholarship intertwined with innovation in theological education. It's a legacy that Fuller Northern California has sustained and enriched over its own 40-year history.

In the early 1970s Dr. Robert Boyd Munger, professor of evangelism and church renewal, had an idea: to create a two-year extension program for training laypeople, offering courses in the evening and on weekends. A series of conversations ensued and in 1973 Dr. Homer Goddard, a pastor and associate professor of the ministry of the laity, was appointed Fuller's first director of extension.

Simultaneously, a group of local pastors and lay leaders began exploring the possibility of an extension site specifically in Northern California. An initial steering committee that included Dr. Paul Larson, Gilman Robinson, and Larry Langdon worked with Dr. Goddard and the faculty of the School of Theology to make the dream a reality-and in the fall of 1974, the new extension program offered its first two courses at Westminster Presbyterian Church in San Jose.

In 1985, New Testament professor Dr. Art Patzia was appointed the first full-time director of Fuller Seminary Northern California-and furthered its legacy of innovation by recruiting and developing an outstanding body of local adjunct professors, bringing the Marriage and Family Therapy program to the Menlo Park campus for a time, opening satellite campuses in Sacramento, Oakland and Walnut Creek, and expanding available library resources.

"Continuing the tradition of innovation, Dr. Longacre took the campus in several new directions-establishing Sacramento as an independent, degree granting site..."

Robert Boyd Munger
Dr. Robert Boyd Munger

Passion to create a 2-year extension program in Northern California

Homer Goddard
Dr. Homer Goddard

First Director of Extension

Art Patzia
Dr. Art Patzia

First full-time Director of Northern California

Curt Longacre
Dr. Curt Longacre

Second Director of Fuller Northern California

    Dr. Curt Longacre came on board in 1997 as administrator director, becoming FSNC's second director in 2003 when Dr. Patzia moved into full-time teaching. Continuing the tradition of innovation, Dr. Longacre took the campus in several new directions-establishing Sacramento as an independent, degree granting site, launching two Spanish-language degree programs, and bringing the Windrider Film Forum to the Bay Area as a means of engaging the surrounding community.

    FSNC has flourished through the contributions of not only these leaders but many others-faculty member Dr. Roberta Hestenes in the early years, associate director Rev. Brad Howell and professor Dr. J. R. Daniel Kirk currently-along with countless devoted faculty, support staff, students, alumni, and friends.

    This campus has inherited a rich history of creativity and innovation, a passion for church renewal and growth, Christian formation and discipleship, evangelism and mission, and an intellectually rigorous graduate theological education. That legacy continues today in equipping missional leaders for the work of the kingdom.


    Winter 2015 Newsletter for Fuller Bay Area

    Dear friends,

    We are grateful for the ways that God has been moving through the changes we have experienced at Fuller Bay Area. Please read our updates and pray for us to use all these changes and opportunities ahead for God's glory!

    The staff of Fuller Bay Area

    Student Stories

    The roads to seminary follow many different paths. Listen in as a few of our Menlo Park students reflect on their decision to attend seminary and what they've experienced so far.

    Annabel Leyva, current MDIV student

    Annabel Leyva

    MDiv 2015

    I sensed God's call to be prepared for his service in 2011. I had no clue how I would do this, but I was sure of His call. After seeking God in prayer, I started looking for seminaries and even took a trip to Puerto Rico where I thought I would start my journey. God did not open the doors for me in Puerto Rico. I went to God in prayer once again, and He lead me to Fuller.

    From the start, I saw God opening door after door. I was welcomed by Fuller staff in Northern California who prayed with me and demonstrated God's love and patience. All of my concerns were addressed. God provided the financial means and the benefit of staying in my community. Opened doors does not mean easy journey. I became a student once again after thirteen years of achieving my bachelors degree. Many things had changed in thirteen years. I have a husband, two young children, ministry, I am older and tired, and I am academically rusty! I was sure that I was called to support my denominational bible college become accredited, so that meant that I needed to work toward a PhD. I was ready to go, but things started to unravel for me on my first day of class. On my way to class, I was reminded that an old friend was still part of me: anxiety! I could not stop crying! Anxiety has come for visits every once in a while during these past two years (Mostly at the start of new quarters). This has caused me to struggle with discerning God's direction with regard to my degree.

    God had a more direct intervention with me this last school year, 2012-2013. First, I was connected to the Hispanic Center where I have been able to receive support, prayer, information, and courses that relate to Hispanic Ministry which is my context. Next, I have been supported by my academic adviser who has spent many hours listening to me change ideas for degrees. Finally, God has given me peace over grades and dropped classes. I know that God is with me on this journey. He called me, and He has been with me placing people to minster to me along the way. Today, I am open to whatever direction God has for me. I am going to finish the MDiv degree in approximately three years. I am sure that God will have doors wide open for me when I am ready to take the next journey for his service.

    Tina Teng-Henson, current MDIV student

    Tina Teng-Henson

    Master of Divinity Student

    If you go to Sundance next year with the Windrider Forum, just remember that God is full of surprises… and you don't know what he will churn up inside.

    I went with anticipation. I was concerned that 15 films in 5 days would do me in. But I looked forward to theological reflection with Fuller classmates from all the satellite campuses. And I was excited to meet people randomly along the way - people who had found their calling, were pursuing their craft, and singing their song.

    But I didn't expect to meet them on screen. For some reason, the characters who stood out to me were women. Mothers of children in families across a wide variety of films: Ethel, Where Do We Go Now?, Finding North, and Raju. I admired Ethel Kennedy's spunkiness and raising eleven kids with Bobby Kennedy...I was inspired by the collective strength and creative shenanigans of Muslim and Christian women who stopped the violence of their men... I ached for the children who grow up hungry in our country...and I was appalled at the sinister underside of international adoption.

    I was inspired by these characters - and also the filmmakers who brought these stories to life, the actors who probably had kids but still found ways of pursuing their dreams. Maybe motherhood wouldn't be this totally life-altering thing that would throw off my entire career trajectory -- to be feared and avoided... but was something women did all the time and, in fact, had done for generations just fine. And maybe it was time for me to start that journey.

    So, I came home from Sundance unexpectedly rethinking our timeline for kids. Since my husband and I had planned to wait a few more years for children until after I'd finished my MDiv, found a job, and so forth, I never thought God would use a diverse assortment of movies at Sundance to get my attention. But that he did, unearthing desires and inspiring a different kind of faith.

    My Sundance epiphany was that the Spirit of God moves throughout all creation, energizing and provoking us in ways impossible to predict. Jesus is always at work in every single person, whether we recognize that or not, and we can trust that he knows what he's doing. The critical invitation to me was to be attentive and reflective...to have eyes to see and a heart to respond... to notice what he was doing in me and how he was moving. And then, to follow. To follow Jesus where he was going -- and to trust him for what adventures would come.

    Tina Teng-Henson is an MDiv candidate at the Menlo Park campus. She is a pastoral intern at Recreate Church in San Jose.

    Alumni Stories

    Lives are changed while studying at Fuller. See how some of our graduates reflect on their time at Fuller and their prospects for the future.

    Gilman Robinson, MAT 1988

    Gilman Robinson (MAT, 1988) was enrolled in the first course offered at Fuller Seminary Northern California in the fall of 1974. Later he served as the chair of the FSNC steering committee and as a Trustee of Fuller Theological Seminary.

    Gilman Robinson

    MAT, 1988

    Gilman Robinson (MAT, 1988) was one of the first students to enroll in courses at Fuller Seminary Northern California in the fall of 1974. He enrolled in Introduction to the New Testament, which was taught by Dr. Tom Gillespie, who was then the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Burlingame. (Dr. Gillespie later served as Princeton Theological Seminary's fifth president from 1983 to 2004.)

    At the time, Gilman was the elder for Adult Education at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. Several years later he followed Dr. Paul Larsen as chair of the FSNC steering committee. Gilman laughingly remembered a couple of "stressful months" when he moved the FSNC telephone to his office desk.

    In 1985, Fuller Seminary hired Dr. Art Patzia as FSNC's first full-time director. Recognizing the financial challenges of relocating to the Bay Area, Gilman created the Church of the Pioneers Foundation, a non-profit corporation, to raise money to assist Dr. Art Patzia in purchasing a residence in Redwood City. When Dr. Patzia retired in 2007, a portion of the proceeds on the sale of his property provided the necessary funds to assist Dr. Daniel Kirk (FSNC's second full-time resident faculty member) in purchasing a home in San Francisco.

    From this beginning, COPF has gone on to provide financial and housing support to other Christian organizations, including Mt. Hermon Association, Bayshore Christian Ministries, Young Life, EPA, and City Team Ministries.

    In 1986, Gilman was elected as the first trustee from the regional campuses to serve on the Fuller Seminary's Board of Trustees where he now serves as a senior trustee.

    This article was borrowed in part from Larry Langdon's article "Gilman Robinson: Venture Capitalist for the Lord and a COPF Pioneer," Opportunities, Church of the Pioneer Foundation, Volume 15, No. 1, 2010, 12-13 <http://churchofthepioneers.org/documents/opportunies2010.pdf>. Used with permission.

    Tony Gapastione, MAT 2010

    Taken from our Spring 2013 Newsletter, Tony talks of his love of God and his love of theater arts: "Fuller's emphasis on Theology and the Arts energized my creativity and affirmed my life's purpose. It was perfect timing and amazing training."

    Tony Gapastione

    Masters in Theology | 2010

    In high school and college, my life was all about acting! But when I started following Christ, I wasn't sure I could be a Christian and a performing artist. How could they co-exist? I assumed theatre wasn't the best place to be a Christian, "those thespians" were bad influences, and Shakespeare was a little too racy for Jesus.

    I was encouraged my skills would be best used for church skits and youth group. So, I spent my time dancing in a Technicolor dream coat, choreographing hand motions to Steven Curtis Chapman, and casting out demons, in mime. And, truthfully I enjoyed it. (I was even convinced seeing any movie that wasn't PG-13, or under, was sinful).

    After college I entered full time ministry. And the story flipped.

    God reignited my artistic passions and stretched them beyond what I thought was Biblically "legal." Someone in my church hooked me up with a talent agent, which I was sure was grounds for burning at the stake. Then, I stumbled upon Fuller and found myself in classes like, "Theology and Film," and "Evangelism and Pop Culture." Somebody pinch me. You're telling me in order to get my Master's degree, my classes require me to watch rated R movies and go to the Sundance Film Festival? What will the church ladies say?

    God's kingdom was a lot bigger than I had thought. I realized my early days were preparation for my ministry calling. Now, I'm a pastor, AND an actor and filmmaker.

    I serve in Peninsula Covenant Church to equip our congregation. I get to create media, (and my characters aren't always required to sport sandals, a tunic or a beard), and offer opportunities for people to engage meaningfully with truth through discussions and experiences on our campus and in the community. We set up film screenings to dialog with filmmakers (and the Church ladies bake cookies). We're launching arts programs in schools and we're discovering God's kingdom everywhere, not just in our building on Sundays. And I'm encouraging our church to hang out with those "crazy artist people," AND also to become one. For we have a lot to learn from both the artists and the art they create.

    Fuller's emphasis on Theology and the Arts energized my creativity and affirmed my life's purpose. It was perfect timing and amazing training.

    And Fuller connected me to the Bay Area Windrider Film Forum: "Cinema in Conversation," a mini Sundance Film Fest, right here in Menlo Park. June 27-29th, we'll be watching films and exploring life issues with the people who create the stories that move us. And we'll be challenged to think deeply and take action at Menlo Atherton Performing Arts Center (MAPAC).

    Invite your friends, especially the ones who'd never go to a Sunday service. Because they just might encounter God in a movie theater. I do all the time.

    Join the conversation.

    Twitter: @tonygapastione


    Windrider on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WindriderBA

    And watch a new short film every week on http://www.windriderforum.info/

    Steve Joh, MDIV 2013

    Taken from our Summer 2013 Newsletter, Steve shares his Fuller journey with us and explains how God used Fuller to impact his life and ministry.

    Steve Joh

    Master of Divinity 2013

    In December of 2012, after ten years of study, I completed my MA in Theology at Fuller. I did not plan on taking the maximum amount of time to finish. Especially in the entrepreneurial and technologically driven Silicon Valley, ten years is several lifetimes (or start-ups). However, because of a very busy life of ministry at a local church, and then a dating relationship that turned into a marriage that turned into a family with two young daughters, my time at Fuller stretched to cover most of my post-college life, the early stages of fatherhood, and becoming one of the pastors and leaders in my community. I've basically grown up as an adult at Fuller.

    Fuller was instrumental in my becoming an adult in spiritual terms. I entered my 20s with a sense that there was something more to being a faithful follower of Jesus than getting people to church, being nice, and trying to believe something so that our sins were forgiven. My experience in college helped me own my faith, and allowed me to know that social justice and action were more than spiritual extra credit. But I was still a child, lacking a mature understanding of the whole story of the gospel.

    Several pieces were there, but disjointed. I knew that the world was filled with pain, injustice, exploitation, hunger, and overwhelming despair and that someone should do something about it, but I did not know how that fit in a gospel concerned mostly with individualistic belief, forgiveness, and morality. I knew the story of Jesus and the cross, but I did not know how the story of Israel connected with it, aside from pithy character studies of Old Testament heroes and villains. I knew that God created the cosmos, but did not know how the material world mattered. I knew that the political world debated how to solve the big problems, but I did not know the politics of Jesus. I genuinely knew Jesus as a friend and savior, but I did not know how to follow him.

    Fuller helped connect these dots, primarily through being unafraid to ask the hard questions with rigor and humility, being unafraid to confront the questions of the broader secular culture and academy, while also maintaining relational fidelity to Jesus. This process helped me reach a deeper, more faithful and less fragile reverence for the truth of the scriptures by pushing me to not be satisfied with shallow and aggressive answers to honest inquiries into the mystery and wonder of the world.

    This narrative helped me see that seeking justice for the oppressed and exploited had shape, texture, and substance. No longer was it something nice to do that does not earn you salvation; it was a central piece of God's plan to bring all creation to rights, to make things new and afresh. God's love moved beyond amorphous sentimentality or philosophy and took on the shape and heft of the cross. Hope became physical and tangible, something I could eat and drink and share with those without enough to eat, or without economic systems to provide dignity, justice, and opportunity. Identification with the poor became more than an abstraction, and became the home my family lives in. Mission became more than a two-week trip, and instead became the center of my theology, my ministry, and my personal spirituality.

    But this did not happen from just reading books or taking notes. I was very fortunate to move slowly through my seminary education, enrolled in classes while also working as a minister at my church. Mission, as it turns out, can't be learned in the classroom. It is not the sole possession of our minds or of our hands or of our hearts, nor is mission something that is individual. Without the mind, mission is directionless and even dangerous. Without the hands, mission never actually happens, and without the heart, it loses its soul. The mission of God happens when deep theology meets deep action and captures our hearts, and only perseveres when connected to community.

    Fuller was important in helping me learn these lessons by providing me rigorous academic work, as well as assignments that encouraged me to experience the connection between word and deed and connecting that with rigorous thought and reflection. Fuller also gave me material and ideas to bring back to my community, which we could together use to help us grow and mature.

    Now that I am finished, I am thankful I took so long to finish, and for the deep and patient integration of intellectual learning and real changes to my own values and lifestyle. If I had finished in less than a full decade, I'm not so sure the connection between head, hands, and heart would have been made. God taught me that while it can be painful at times, slow growth is sometimes better in that it is stronger and allows for more integration with community and action. Learning and growing have now become a lifestyle. While I'm done with my coursework, I have learned to never be done learning and living the good news of the kingdom. That is something that, at least for me, can only be learned slowly.

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