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New Orleans Seminary celebrates record Dec. graduating class

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–For the second year in a row, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated a record December graduation. This year’s 178-member class marked the largest December commencement in the school’s 86-year history.

During the commencement ceremony Dec. 20, the seminary awarded ministry certificates, undergraduate degrees, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees. Students earned degrees from 36 different programs including 12 specialized master of divinity degrees in biblical languages, biblical studies, Christian education, Christian thought, church planting, evangelistic church growth, expository preaching, missions, people group strategies, psychology and counseling, urban missions and worship leadership. Fourteen graduates earned degrees on the doctoral level.

The commencement, which drew a capacity crowd at Roland Q. Leavell Chapel, included several other significant NOBTS milestones. The school awarded its first master of arts in biblical studies degree and its first doctor of educational ministry to a person focusing on women’s ministry.

Joshua Johnson was the first graduate in the master of arts in biblical studies program designed to prepare students for research degrees in biblical studies for the purpose of teaching, research or writing. Students may concentrate in New Testament and Greek, Old Testament and Hebrew or biblical backgrounds.

Judy Patrick, women’s ministry leader at Chapel Hill Baptist Church in Northport, Ala., received the doctor of educational ministry specializing in women’s ministry and counseling. The D.Ed.Min is a professional degree designed to give those with Christian education degrees an opportunity for advanced, focused study. Each D.Ed.Min graduate completes a practical ministry project designed to strengthen skills in ministry.

Twenty-two men from correctional institutions, while unable to attend, were recognized for completing certificates through Leavell College of NOBTS. Six of the men received the certificate in biblical teaching. Sixteen others completed the certificate in Christian ministry. The training programs are designed to equip the men with the skills needed to lead Bible study groups and ministry among their fellow inmates.

In his charge to the graduates, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley spoke of the difference the incarnation of Christ has made in the world. Looking at John 1:1 and 14, he told of how God’s coming to earth as a man significantly changed things for mankind.

People of all cultures throughout the ages have exhibited faith, devotion, sacrifice and worship while seeking after impersonal gods, Kelley said, comparing these practices to the individual ingredients of his wife’s pumpkin spice cake.

Taken alone, the ingredients of the spice cake are rather unimpressive. None would be good alone. But when all of these items are mixed together and baked in an oven, the results are quite impressive, Kelley said. Instead of unrelated individual ingredients, a moist, tasty cake comes out of the oven.

In much the same way, the different ingredients of religious expression were meaningless until Jesus came to earth. That’s when things changed.

“The thing that changed everything was God becoming flesh and blood,” Kelley said. “All the different pieces [of religious expression] began to take on a completely different relationship to each other through Jesus.”

Kelley noted that even during a time of celebration such as graduation, many in the audience are facing difficulties. There is comfort, he noted, in knowing that Jesus lived a life as a man.

“He [Jesus] experienced all we experience in life — the everyday eating and drinking, working and walking,” Kelley said. “He not only experienced all that gives joy, but all that gives pain. That life culminated with a very cruel, humiliating death — death on the cross.

“What God did when He left the glory of heaven and clothed Himself in flesh and blood was to express the passion of His love for you and me,” the NOBTS president said. “The heat of that passion began to pull all the things together that had been recognized throughout the ages and cultures of man and make them something very different.”

Words like “love,” “hope,” “judgment,” “sin,” “forgiveness” and “God” were given new meaning at the cross, Kelley said. Only Jesus can judge and remove sin and completely transform a person.

Kelley pointed out that many cultures have attempted to appease their gods and make up for their failures through sacrifice. Some of these cultures have sacrificed animals or even other people; other cultures have offered grain. However, sacrifice has been a common theme.

“In every human culture, this groping after gods has always been with sacrifice,” Kelley said. “But Jesus came saying, ‘I will make the sacrifice for you and the death and judgment; I will experience myself.'”

Jesus not only gave up the splendor of heaven when He came to earth, Kelley said, He became the sacrifice for our sins, taking on Himself the punishment for human sin.

“In the oven of God’s passionate love for us, God made something different out of all those pieces,” Kelley said. “That is the Gospel, the Good News that every man, woman and child can have a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: WOMEN’S MINISTRY GRAD.