News Articles

285 graduates commissioned at Southwestern commencement

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A commissioning to Christian ministry and an invitation to salvation marked Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s fall commencement ceremonies Dec. 12 at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Many of [the graduates] have been praying that this day would be a day of encounter for some of you who do not know Christ as Savior, who have not experienced this great hope, this great redemption,” Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill said to the guests of the 285 graduates at the beginning of his commencement address.
Of the 285 graduates, 229 earned master’s degrees, 21 earned diploma studies degrees and nine earned degrees through the Southern Baptist Seminary Extension program, including one student from Mexico. Twenty-five students earned doctoral degrees, nine of whom are already teaching in seminaries and universities across the country.
The graduates earned 330 degrees and represented 26 states, the District of Columbia and 19 countries. Jennifer Parris from Tennessee became the first person to earn a certificate of master’s studies for laypersons, and Juan Carlos Garcia became the first person from Peru to receive a doctoral degree from the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary.
In the commencement address, Hemphill reminded the graduates of five keys to successful ministry found in 1 Peter 1:13-22.
The first key was for graduates to “gird” their minds to prepare for spiritual battle. Hemphill recalled his experience providing a pre-game devotion and prayer for the Dallas Cowboys football team. The players, Hemphill said, were engrossed in preparing for the game by mentally running through plays and assignments.
He told the graduates that their “game” requires even more preparation because of its significance.
“You’re girding up your mind for a spiritual battle that has eternal consequences,” Hemphill said, adding mental preparation is essential for ministry even though “[we] will not always know the final score until we get to heaven.”
Southwestern’s role, Hemphill said, is to teach students how to learn with the hopes that they will be “intentional learners” throughout their lives.
Hemphill also warned of the need to balance ministry, family, study and personal relationship with the Lord. He told the story of a church member who was upset that Hemphill did not visit the member’s wife in the hospital enough. When asked, “Who is most important?” by the man, Hemphill looked to his young daughters and said, “They are.”
“That balance which is so tenuous, that spiritual balance is to be maintained as you spend time on your knees with a holy God who alone can set your priorities,” Hemphill said.
Acknowledging the difficulties of ministry, Hemphill encouraged the graduates to keep their heads up.
“No matter how difficult the soil may seem, no matter how different the times may be, set your hope fully on the grace brought to you by the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
Hemphill concluded by exhorting the graduates to be holy and to love the ones God places in their ministries.
“You cannot lead those that you do not love,” he said.
This is the 90th year that Southwestern has held commencement ceremonies. More than 61,000 students have enrolled in Southwestern since it was founded 90 years ago and more than 35,000 degrees have been conferred by the seminary during that time.

    About the Author

  • Matt Sanders