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Seminary graduates are ‘angels’ with a message, Patterson says

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary commissioned 274 messengers of the Gospel at the seminary’s 206th commencement ceremony Dec. 12.

In his first commencement address as president of the Texas seminary, Paige Patterson said that, just as in the Christmas story of Luke 2, the graduates would be “angels” who spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“I challenge you to be angels in a troubled world. … I challenge you today, graduates, above all else, never to lose sight that your message is a message that there is a Savior, Christ the Lord,” Patterson said.

This message of salvation always causes remarkable results, Patterson said, noting the shepherds’ response to the message. “The shepherds said, ‘Let us go and see for ourselves,'” Patterson said. “This response is the natural reaction of a hurting heart.”

Patterson also encouraged the graduates to be faithful in proclaiming the Good News despite apathy or opposition.

“The political leaders were not there, and the religious leaders were not there either. Not everyone will hear the message. But there will always be a remnant who accepts what they hear,” Patterson said. “The message will multiply just as it did when the shepherds heard and went to see for themselves.”

The effects of this message of Good News reverberate today even in the most remote parts of the world, Patterson said. He described how 19th-century American Baptist missionaries took this message to the proud headhunting tribes of Nagaland, a remote region between India and Burma.

The missionaries were warned that they would likely lose their lives, but they went anyway. Today more than 80 percent of the Nagas are Christians. An overwhelming number of the Naga Christians are Baptists.

Reflecting ties between Naga Baptists and Southwestern, Patterson recognized two students from Nagaland who received doctorate degrees. Vivee Kenileno Peseye received her doctor of philosophy from the seminary’s school of church music while Louis Meren Ao received his doctorate of educational ministry from the school of educational ministries.

Patterson and his wife, Dorothy, visited Nagaland Dec. 3-7 at the invitation of Naga Baptists to celebrate 100 years of Christianity in the province. Nagaland is an oasis of the Gospel surrounded by intolerant Buddhist and Hindu regions, Patterson said.

“In testimony after testimony, Nagaland Baptists remembered the early missionaries as angels of God,” he said.

Before the graduation ceremony, Patterson reminded graduates that moral failure would scuttle the message of hope in Christ.

“If you have not settled once and for all the question of your own moral purity,” Patterson said, “then go into banking, law or some other occupation, but do not put the message of the Gospel at risk by your behavior.”

Patterson repeated his warning at graduation. “I call on you to keep your life pure. Do not be consumed by things of the world. Think only about where God has called you to serve.”

During the commencement ceremony, 1st Lt. Josh Llano received a master of arts in Islamic studies. A U.S. Army chaplain, Llano previously completed a master of divinity in chaplain ministry degree before being deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Ga., this past year.

Noted religious author Henry Blackaby, who penned “Experiencing God” and other popular works, was present to witness the graduation of his son, Norman, who received a doctor of philosophy degree from the school of theology. Norman is the fourth of Blackaby’s sons to receive a doctoral degree from Southwestern Seminary.

Norman Blackaby is director of the Henry Blackaby training center and an adjunct professor at the Canadian Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta.

Henry Blackaby offered the prayer of commissioning for the graduates at the conclusion of the ceremony.

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  • Brent Thompson