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Southwestern awards 1,000th theology Ph.D.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated a milestone and several firsts during the seminary’s 204th commencement ceremony Dec. 14.

David Sung Hyon Yang of Abingdon, Md., became the 1,000th Ph.D. graduate from the seminary’s theology school.

The 1,000th graduate, Karen Bullock, associate dean for the Ph.D. degree in the theology school, said, “represents the many decades of dynamic leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention who were prepared for ministry at Southwestern. We’ve had 92 years of quality doctoral education beginning with our first Th.D. in 1910.”

Baghdad native Khalil Jaloub became the seminary’s first graduate from Iraq and Roberto Samidin became the first graduate from the South American country of Suriname.

“I never thought this would happen to me,” Jaloub said, “and it is only by the grace of God that I am here.”

But Jaloub’s joy of graduating from seminary was tempered by the knowledge that many of his former countrymen have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel. He is confident that the situation may soon change, he said.

“Some day Iraq will be open to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Jaloub said. “The Iraqi people are hungry for the gospel, and as soon as they are able to have it, Iraq and the Middle East will never be the same again. … If the Lord calls me back to Iraq I will go.”

Degrees were conferred on 287 students from 30 states and eight countries. That number included 224 master’s degrees from the school’s 25 master’s degree programs, and 47 doctoral degrees.

Eighteen students were awarded the first doctor of educational ministry degrees. Among those receiving the new D.Ed.Min. degree was Courtney Sean Cash, vice president of International Sports Federation, an Arlington, Texas,-based organization that assists Southern Baptist missionaries in efforts to use sports as a tool in proclaiming the gospel, providing discipleship and starting new churches.

Curtis L. Sergeant, associate vice president for global strategy with the International Mission Board, was awarded a doctor of ministry degree.

Of the remaining doctoral graduates, 27 were serving as pastors of local churches.

Each of the 287 graduates represented a hearty investment on the part of individual Southern Baptists who had contributed to the Cooperative Program, Seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill said during his commencement address.

“This graduating class represents a total investment of Cooperative Program gifts of more than $2.8 million dollars,” Hemphill said, noting that the students were responsible for repaying the money.

“We ask that you repay that with your fidelity, your service to the Lord, your service to local churches or wherever the Lord may call you,” Hemphill said.

Seminary officials have traditionally referred to the graduation ceremony as a “commissioning service,” and Hemphill’s message to the graduates was in line with that theme.

Hemphill reminded the graduates that in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus made four comprehensive “all statements.” Jesus said that his disciples should go with “all authority” to “all nations” to teach them “all things” for “all the days.”

“It is not insignificant that the commission is bracketed by his authority and the power of his presence,” Hemphill said. “Our responsibility, our opportunity is to join him in this eternal purpose — make all nations his disciples.

“You have been called to a privilege of going to tell with all authority, to all the nations, with all the word, for all the days,” Hemphill told the graduates.

Bill Tolar, special assistant to the president and distinguished professor of biblical backgrounds, charged the students with sharing the gospel, even if it means paying the ultimate sacrifice. “I want to remind you that many of the Southwesterners who have gone before you have become martyrs for the sake of the kingdom,” Tolar said.

Students from 48 states and 47 countries are enrolled at Southwestern Seminary. More than 64,000 students have enrolled in the seminary since it was founded in 1908, more than 38,000 graduating.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: 1000th PH.D.

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  • Gregory Tomlin