The newest graduates of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School will take their diplomas into a rapidly changing world that will present challenges not seen before.
“Never before has a generation experienced such change in the world church as this one has,” said Dr. Timothy C. Tennent during May 4 commencement activity in A. Gerow Hodges Chapel.
“We must renew our efforts to expand God’s word in the world, and take our place in the context of global Christianity,” said Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., and a specialist in non-western Christianity.
Citing realities such as the emergence of multiple religious centers and trends that show a reversal of traditional worship patterns, graduates must recognize that the gospel is for the whole world, he said.
In 1911, for example the representative model of an average Christian was considered to be a middle aged British male. Today, it is a young Nigerian woman.
“We’re experiencing the dawn of a truly global Christian movement. It is an exciting time to be a Christian,” said Tennent, whose books include Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology (Zondervan 2007).
“You’re preparing to enter the biggest mission field there has been,” he told the graduates, noting that North America is moving into a dynamic phase of church planting.
Tennent acknowledged the challenges that come with the simplistic nature of social media such as Twitter, with its 140 character limit. “We’re inundated with information, but most of it is trivial. We live in a world connected as never before, but with a profound lack of all sense of commitment. You’re called to rebuild that.”
The commencement program included a service of consecration, in which each Beeson faculty member lay hands on, prayed with, and blessed each graduate. The tradition is a special time for faculty and the new graduates.
“Beeson is a community of learning and spiritual formation,” said founding dean Dr. Timothy George. “One without the other is incomplete for preparing men and women for the Lord’s service.”
The graduating class included the first three recipients of Beeson’s new Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree. The school also awarded two Master of Theological Studies degrees, 19 Master of Divinity degrees, and one doctor ministry degree. Graduates hailed from 11 states and one foreign nation.
In addition to their diploma, each graduate received a copy of the Holy Scriptures from their new alma mater.