Published on December 10, 2019 by Kristen Padilla  

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, gave the commencement address for Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School Dec. 6.

Speaking on the “Crisis of Integrity,” Moore told the 29 graduates it was an honor to be with them in their moment of crisis. 

“By crisis I mean a turning point, a way in which your life can go in one direction or another, as indeed every moment of your life has been and every moment of your life will be,” he explained.

Using the prophet Elijah as an example for cross-shaped ministry, Moore said it’s tempting to read the climax of Elijah’s ministry as the moment when he prayed fire from heaven on Mount Carmel. However, Moore contends that the climax of Elijah’s ministry occurred when he was in the wilderness running for his life in great weakness and need (1 Kings 19:1-19).

“Elijah does not seem to be succeeding. He seems to be someone who is falling, someone who is collapsing. What seems to be succeeding is all in his past,” he said. “We all assume that what it means to succeed in ministry is to be Elijah on top of Mount Carmel.”

“You will have the temptation, you will have the pull, to see your ministry as being one that is based in results, in swagger, in prosperity,” said Moore. “But God has called you to the way of the cross, and in the way of the cross all our expectations are turned on their head.”

“The integrity of your ministry will not be about your ability to win arguments. The integrity of your ministry will not be the ability for you to be envied by your peers. The integrity of your ministry will not be how proud your parents or your mentors in ministry are of you,” he said. “The integrity of your ministry will come in those deepest moments of loneliness and vulnerability and irrelevance. But if you listen in those moments to that thinnest silence, then you will hear the voice that led you here: ‘Come follow me’.”

This was Douglas Sweeney’s first service of commencement and consecration as dean of Beeson Divinity.

“We are especially pleased today about the Lord’s provision for these graduating students,” Sweeney said. “We give thanks to God for his providential care for them. We give thanks to God for giving them his Holy Spirit and his Holy Word, who will give them all they need for faithfulness and a long life of ministry, we pray.”

President Andrew Westmoreland brought greetings on behalf of the university’s trustees and faculty.

“Our roots go deep into the heart and history of the church so beautifully displayed in this chapel,” he said. “This service is rooted in the redeeming work of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit poured out on all who believe and it is a celebration of our shared commitment to the work of the church.”

Westmoreland concluded, “To the graduating class, we salute you at this milestone on your journey of faith and service. As you receive your degree, we send you into the world as Samford’s only legacy that will last into eternity.”

One graduated with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree; 23 graduated with a Master of Divinity degree; and five graduated with a Doctor of Ministry degree.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.