FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary awarded degrees to 299 students during its 207th commencement ceremony at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, May 7. Graduates came from 26 countries and 14 states.
Among the students receiving degrees was Kevin Galey, one of the survivors of the shootings at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth that claimed the lives of seven worshipers and made national headlines Sept. 15, 1999. Galey, who was awarded a doctor of philosophy degree in psychology and counseling, currently is director of Wedgwood’s counseling center.
Also among the graduates was Mark Sadler, the first person to start and complete the seminary’s diploma and graduate diploma programs, progress through the master’s degree program and then complete a Ph.D.
Sadler began the application process for the diploma program in 1992 while stationed as a civilian technician working for the U.S. Air Force in Saudi Arabia. He faced and overcame many obstacles, including dyslexia. Sadler, who was awarded a doctor of philosophy degree from Southwestern’s school of theology for his work in philosophy of religion, currently teaches on the university level.
Gary R. Brumley became the first student to receive the new Master of Arts in worship degree from the school of church music.
Seminary President Paige Patterson brought the commissioning message to the graduates as he concluded his first academic year at the helm of Southwestern. Preaching from 1 Kings 12-13, Patterson issued several charges to the graduates as they began their journeys into fulltime ministry.
Patterson’s first charge was drawn from God’s condemnation of the priests and idols set up in temples built by King Jeroboam in the towns of Dan and Bethel. Jeroboam had set up the temples to compete with the true temple in Jerusalem controlled by King Rehoboam.
“Never be taken in by those who wish to use your spiritual leadership for their own political ends,” Patterson warned.
Patterson’s next lessons were drawn from the account of the old prophet and the man of God set forth in 1 Kings 13. Observing that the landscape is strewn with the figurative remains of ministers who lost their ministries because they stopped walking with God on a daily basis, Patterson noted that “yesterday’s triumphs are not sufficient for today’s trials.”
Ministers also must be firm in their convictions and stand up for doing ministry in a godly way. “Beware of people who bring gifts and then want you to do things their way,” Patterson said. “Desire is no substitute for integrity.”
After God gives a minister instruction on what to do and how to do it, Patterson said, it is easy to get waylaid by an excited person who says he has heard a more recent, but contradictory, word from God. Just remember that “ardent sincerity is no substitute for spiritual discernment,” Patterson said.
Finally, Patterson reminded the graduates that the Bible is replete with examples of well-intentioned people who were struck down by God’s punishment because they explicitly contravened God’s instructions. Avoid getting overconfident, Patterson said, because “human confidence is no deterrent to God’s judgment.”
Patterson summed up the convocation address by admonishing seminary graduates that “it is more important to be obedient to the Word of God than anything else.
“Be faithful to your call,” he said.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: WEDGWOOD GRAD and GRAD SETS MILESTONE.