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First female earns graduate degree in Islamic studies

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The global reach of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was evident at the seminary’s 203rd commencement ceremony at Travis Avenue Baptist Church May 17. 375 students from 29 states and 16 foreign countries were awarded degrees.

Mary Kay* became the first female to receive the Master of Arts in Islamic studies. She plans to pursue employment overseas where she can come into contact with Muslim women. Kay said she was thankful that the seminary established the program.

“I really enjoyed the program and it was definitely needed. I have gained a wealth of information and understanding that I wouldn’t have had without it. I am lucky to have been offered the opportunity to participate in the Islamic studies program,” Kay said.

Kay also said that while she remains in the United States she hopes to promote understanding between Christians and Muslims.

“Because of everything that has happened since Sept. 11, everyone has become so suspicious. People automatically assume that their Muslim neighbors are terrorists or at least sympathize with them — like those who cheered in the Middle East when the attacks occurred. I want people to see them simply as people who happen to have a different faith. The only difference is that they are lost.”

Four students from Korea were the first to graduate from the seminary’s joint Korean language doctor of ministry program with Korea Baptist Theological Seminary under an agreement formalized in October 1997. Jongpo Kim, Jongyoul Kim, Jang Bae Min and Sang Chae Yoo will return to Korea to pastor churches in Seoul, Inchon and Dae Jeon.

In order to meet the residency requirement of the Association of Theological Schools, the four Korean students traveled to Southwestern two times and participated in two Doctor of Ministry seminars on each trip.

According to Paul Stevens, associate dean of the doctor of ministry program, the future of the relationship between Southwestern and KBTS is promising.

“At present 74 South Korean students and 12 American students are enrolled in the Korean language doctor of ministry program,” Stevens said.

Malaysia-native Jeanie Shim, who received a doctor of philosophy in educational ministries, will return to Southeast Asia to teach Christian education at Singapore Baptist Theological Seminary in January 2003.

South Africa-native Andre Peasley, who received a master of divinity with biblical languages, was the first South African student to graduate from Southwestern.

Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill said that the graduation of such a large class was evidence of the prayers and support of family, friends and church members in the lives of the graduates.

Hemphill made his comments during a commencement address based on the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. He remarked that the manner in which the message of the gospel is received is dependent on the soil but encouraged graduates to “continue to sow seed no matter how the message of the gospel is received.”

“Some of you are going into places where we cannot even call you ‘missionaries,’ but you must keep sowing the seed. You’ve got good seed — the Word of God. What matters is the faithfulness of the sower. The harvest depends on the faithfulness of the sower,” Hemphill said.

Of those who graduated, 342 students received master’s degrees from 16 of the seminary’s master’s degree programs. 52 received diplomas and seminary extension program certificates while another 29 received doctoral degrees.

Students from 40 states and 44 foreign countries are enrolled currently at Southwestern. More than 63,000 students have enrolled at the world’s largest evangelical seminary since it was founded in 1908. More than 37,000 have received degrees.
*Name changed in response to security concerns.

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  • Gregory Tomlin