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MBTS’ 73rd commencement celebrates graduates, Yeats’ transition

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) – Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College celebrated hundreds of new graduates this spring as the school held its 73rd commencement exercises on May 5.

Additionally, the seminary recognized John Mark Yeats for his ministry in Kansas City, presented a degree posthumously, and honored Blake Hearson as professor of the year.

After welcoming graduates and guests, President Jason Allen began the ceremony by recognizing God’s kindness in growing the number of new graduates from a few dozen when he arrived in 2012 to now more than 250 graduates who will serve the church and the kingdom.

Following his opening remarks, Allen delivered a scriptural exhortation to graduates from 2 Corinthians 5. From this passage, Allen emphasized the ambassadorial nature of the Christian life and how this year’s graduates “are called to be an ambassador of Christ” regardless of the degree they graduated with today.

He continued his address by outlining three ways they should live in light of their role as an ambassador of Christ.

“First of all, this passage should instill in each one of us boldness,” Allen explained. “A boldness in our Christian service and a boldness because of the power of the Gospel that Paul speaks of in verse 17.”

He continued, “Jesus was victoriously, gloriously, historically, factually, literally raised from the dead. And so, for 2000 years, the church has been moving forward, triumphantly around the globe in places like Kansas City, Mumbai, Seoul, and even places like Moscow. Therefore, we should feel boldness this morning about what God has called us to be and do.”

Second, as ambassadors of Christ, we are stewards. “We are ambassadors of Christ, and we enjoy a stewardship that is far more profound than we could have ever imagined,” he said. “There is a weightiness we should feel in Gospel ministry, but we are never ashamed or shy. Instead, that weightiness should lead us to be eager and willing to represent our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Third, he encouraged graduates to feel a sense of assurance. He explained that it is important to understand that our righteousness has “been settled by Christ’s righteousness,” and that “our account is not subject to withdrawals.”

He said, “God does not look at us, our lives, our ministries, and make withdrawals based on our effectiveness day-by-day as we serve him. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation, and you are not in danger of being placed in that old creation category again.”

In his concluding remarks, Allen recounted a story in the life and ministry of H.B. Charles Jr. which provided inspiration for his final charge to graduates. Allen said, “My prayer this day and every day forward is this: ‘Help him, Lord. Help her, Lord. Help them to honor you, to hold to Scripture, to cling to Jesus, and to enjoy the full power of His Holy Spirit.”

Honorary Recognitions

Among the recognized graduates, the seminary also awarded a posthumous degree to Caylee Michelle Dugger. Caylee, who had been studying toward her Master of Theological Studies in Missions, was killed in a vehicle accident earlier this year. According to her faculty mentor, Christy Allen, “Caylee was a gifted writer and an encouragement to all who knew her. She had a passion for the gospel and a heart for the world. She will be dearly missed.”

Caylee’s brother, Joshua, attended the ceremony to accept the degree on her behalf.

The awards of academic achievement for the year were also announced. The For the Kingdom Award is given to the Spurgeon College graduate with the highest grade point average for baccalaureate studies. This year’s recipient was Esther Pavlosky. The For the Church Award is given to the Midwestern Seminary student with the highest grade point average for master’s studies. This year’s recipient was Connor Guthrie. Nathan Nicholas received the Wanda J. Keatley award, which recognizes a student who excelled in the study of Biblical backgrounds. The winner of the Keatley award receives financial support for a trip to the Holy Land.

After recognizing each graduate, Allen announced the recipient of the 2022-2023 Midwestern Seminary Professor of the Year, N. Blake Hearson. Hearson serves as professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Midwestern, as well as book review editor for the Midwestern Journal of Theology. He has served the church in pastoral positions as well at churches in Cincinnati and Kansas City. Among his many published works, include Go Now to Shiloh: A Biblical Theology of Sacred Space by B&H publishers.

Additionally, the seminary honored John Marks Yeats for his faithful ministry at Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College. Yeats recently accepted the role of President at Corban University in Salem, Ore. Yeats served Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College in numerous roles over his nine-year tenure, most recently as the vice president of student services, dean of students and student success, Title IX coordinator, and professor of church history. Allen presented Yeats with a framed resolution, noting how the Midwestern Seminary’s leadership will continue to pray for and support the Yeats family from afar.

Jared Bumpers, assistant professor of preaching and evangelism, concluded the ceremony exercises by leading the graduates and attendees in the benediction.

To watch the graduation ceremony, visit here.

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  • Lucas Hahn/MBTS