“What will the world be like when the youngest of the Beeson grads are in the prime of your ministries?” asked The Rt. Rev. Dr. George Sumner, Bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, Texas, during Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School commencement and service of consecration May 9.
Sumner’s prediction is that the question the 30 graduates will face is: “What is a human being?”
“Our culture lurches between having an excessive sense of its own lordly autonomy and on the other hand of being pawns of greater forces,” said Sumner. “A willful and amnesiac world needs you to remind them what a human being is.”
The answer Sumner said the world needs is “distinctively Christian,” that is, human beings are made in the image of God, have sinned against God, and are redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ.
“That is the irony, isn’t it? you cannot really see the human except with God and his kingdom in view, since it is as creatures in his image we were made,” he said. “Seeing the human alone is not to see the human at all, and that is what we are being shown in this time.”
Sumner, who preached from 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:1, added, “You are witnesses first of the One who really makes all things new, and only then are you to be critics of false forms of newness. And you need to be reminded of this by the Scriptures every day of your ministry from now on.”
Earlier in the service, Samford President Andrew Westmoreland welcomed the graduates and guests to the beginning of the 175th anniversary year of Samford University. In so doing, he reminded the graduates that they are part of a great cloud of witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ of those who have graduated from Samford University before them.
“To the graduates this morning, we salute you on this milestone in your journey, and as you receive the degree that you so dearly earned, we send you into the world as Samford’s only legacy that will last unto eternity,” he said.
In his opening remarks, Timothy George, Beeson Divinity School dean, gave special recognition to faculty member Patricia Outlaw, who retires at the end of May after 15 years as associate professor of pastoral counseling.
George also stressed the importance of theological education is preparing divinity students for “service in the ministry of the church of Jesus Christ.”
“Beeson Divinity School is a community of faith and learning,” George said. “We are a graduate theological school, and we take seriously our academic work, as our graduates can attest. But, we are also a community of prayer, 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 service in the church.”
Seven students graduated with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, 22 students graduated with a Master of Divinity degree, and one student graduated with a Doctor of Ministry.
The ceremony was one of seven commencements scheduled this spring at Samford.