Published on December 12, 2022 by Kristen Padilla  
Divinity December Commencement

Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School honored 19 graduates who earned a Master of Divinity degree during its winter Commencement and Service of Consecration on Friday, Dec. 9.

Laurent Mbanda, archbishop of the Province of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, gave the commencement sermon entitled, “Go and Be Fruitful.”

“Graduation marks a turning point in the life of the student and on the part of those who played a significant role in the journey of their education,” Mbanda said. “You are stepping out at a time the church is experiencing significant issues and, in a way, a crisis in different denominations. My prayer is that you trust the Lord who called you. Relying on your own strength and knowledge is dangerous for your life and your ministry.”

Mbanda, who lived as a refugee for much of his childhood and who wrote about his journey in a book, From Barefoot to Bishop: A Rwandan Refugee’s Journey, referenced his story in his sermon, saying, “As a refugee kid, I walked 500 miles in six months without food or a place to stay.”

Despite these difficult circumstances, God was always with him, he said.

Mbanda eventually came to the United States, where he earned a Master of Arts in missiology from Fuller Seminary, a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Denver Seminary and a doctorate from Trinity International University. He served as the vice president of the African region for Compassion International before being called to serve as bishop of the Shyira Diocese in northern Rwanda.

“Being in Christ and him being in you is the key to bearing fruit,” Mbanda said. “May you go out to be instrumental in saving the lost and training disciples. Our lives will be healthy, our ministry successful only if we remain in him. Let us go and bear fruit!”

Earlier in the service, Samford President Beck A. Taylor brought greetings to the graduates and their families.

“Our foundation for today’s ceremony rests deep in the heart of the founding of Christ’s church more than 2,000 years ago,” Taylor said. “This commencement service is rooted in the redeeming work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit poured out on all who believe, calling across all ages to all who respond to Jesus’ invitation, ‘Come, follow me.’”

Beeson Dean Douglas A. Sweeney, who presided over the service, also brought greetings.

“Beeson Divinity School is a community of faith and learning," he said. "We are a graduate theological school, and we take seriously the academic part of our work. We’re also a community of prayer and worship and spiritual formation. Today, we acknowledge again that one of these dimensions without the other is incomplete in preparing God-called men and women for the service of the church.”

Watch the commencement and service of consecration., or watch a wrap-up video.

Beeson Divinity School is an evangelical, interdenominational divinity school on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Beeson’s mission is to prepare God-called persons for ministry in the church of Jesus Christ. The school accomplishes its mission by providing face-to-face, classical graduate theological education, worshiping the Triune God and encouraging the practices of Christian spirituality in covenanted community. Learn more at

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.