Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) and Scarborough College recognized, celebrated and commissioned 54 bachelor’s, 494 master’s, 72 doctoral and 18 certificate graduates during its fall 2020 commencement ceremony, Dec. 4, of whom 223 were present.
The ceremony took place in MacGorman Chapel, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, only graduates, faculty, and production staff were present in the room. All wore masks and remained socially distanced throughout the ceremony.
Graduates’ families were invited to view commencement via a live simulcast from various locations across the Fort Worth campus. Masks and social distancing were required in these locations as well. The ceremony was also live streamed online.
Due to the cancellation of the spring commencement ceremony last May necessitated by COVID-19, spring graduates, who received their diplomas by mail, were invited to return for the fall ceremony. All spring and fall graduates were listed in the commencement program.
During his address to the graduates, President Adam W. Greenway noted the unique context in which the students are graduating and in which they will serve, acknowledging not only COVID-19 but also the often-vitriolic rhetoric concerning various issues in society, particularly on social media. Given this context, Greenway posed the question: “How should a watching world know that you are a Southwestern Seminary graduate?”
Preaching from John 13:31-35, Greenway said his prayer for the graduates is that they would follow Jesus’ words in verse 35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
“What we need is less of the incendiary, the antagonistic, the hostile, the critical, the negative; we need more gospel, more grace, more mercy, more love, more King Jesus,” Greenway said.
“And I would say to those of you who, in a few moments, will receive your Southwestern Seminary diplomas and will be conferred your certificates and degrees, my fellow Southwesterners, go forth, live your life in such a way, empowered by the Spirit of God, where people will know that you are a Southwestern Seminary and Scarborough College graduate because they see the love of God in you; they see how you love one another; they see how you love others. I believe that bears the fragrant aroma of Christ. I believe God is glorified in that.”
“The need is great,” Greenway concluded. “The time is short. By this will all people know that you are disciples of Christ and, prayerfully, they will know that you are graduates of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Scarborough College: by the love you show one toward another.”
Among the returning spring graduates were Wisdom and Mitovieiye Asita, a father and daughter from Rivers State, Nigeria. Wisdom, who received his Ph.D. in missions, moved his family to Fort Worth more than 10 years ago to enroll in SWBTS. Wisdom’s wife Augusta later enrolled in the seminary as well, completing her Master of Arts in Christian Education in 2014.
Wisdom, who is senior pastor of the First African Baptist Church in Fort Worth, said “Southwestern Seminary has equipped me in preaching, church growth strategies, and church revitalization,” adding that the seminary has taught him “resilient patience when life does not go as planned.”
Wisdom’s daughter, Mitovieiye “Mimi” Asita, began her studies at SWBTS toward a master of arts in biblical counseling in the fall of 2017. She said her family faced many challenges in pursuit of theological education and that their graduation was a significant milestone for them.
“To graduate with my dad is indeed an honor,” she said. “In my time here, I have become more grounded in my beliefs, my faith has been strengthened, I have been exposed to people across different walks of life, and I have gained friends for life and ministry as a student and staff in the custodial department. I have been encouraged by friends and strangers, and I have been blessed to encourage others as well.
Among the fall graduates was Dwight McKissic, senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and his wife, Vera, who both completed their master of theological studies degrees. On Twitter, McKissic wrote, “For me it took 39 years, off and on (obviously more off than on); for Vera it has taken 19 years. We probably could go into the Guinness Book of World Records for taking the longest time to earn master’s degrees. I was fulfilling a promise to my mother; Vera loves growing. … To God be the glory, great things He has done.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Katie Coleman and Alex Sibley write for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)