Central Baptist Theological Seminary joined many other educational institutions in holding its first ever virtual Commencement ceremony this year. On Saturday, May 16, the seminary combined live and previously recorded elements to celebrate its 118thclass of graduates. One of the largest graduating classes in the school’s history, 75 students were awarded several degrees, including master of divinity, master of arts in missional church studies, master of arts (theological studies), and doctor of ministry, as well as diplomas in theological studies and an honorary doctor of divinity (honoris causa).
Graduates, their friends and families, as well as other seminary friends gathered virtually from around the world via Zoom webinar and Facebook Live for the conferring of degrees; a seminary address, “Crazy People for a Crazed Time,” from Dr. Daniel O. Aleshire, the retired Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools; as well as recognition of award recipients.
The seminary board of trustees voted to award the Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, to Philip R. Love. Love received his master of arts degree from Central Seminary in 2004, subsequently served as a trustee and chairperson of the seminary board of trustees, played an integral role in the seminary’s Cultivating Excellence Capital Campaign, and more recently served on the presidential search committee for the seminary’s 11thpresident.
Former chairperson of the board, the Rev. Bruce Morgan, said this about Dr. Love:
Throughout his life, Phil has been an articulate voice in the world of church, seminary, and community. His bright mind is so steeped in his personal theology that every conversation with Phil gives a glimpse into his personal walk with the God revealed in Christ.
The faculty voted to award several students the following awards:
Lorenzo Streeter Award for Excellence in Biblical Interpretation
Daekwon Kim, Gayle Lawson
Philip Wendell Crannell Award for Excellence in Preaching
Kelly Moreland Jones, Michael Vollbrecht, Sungjun Yang
Harvey E. Dana Award for Excellence in Writing
Miho Hur, Gayle Lawson
C. R. McBride and Katherine Willard Eddy Award for Excellence in Ministry Peace and Justice Award
Ethan Bunce, Michelle Kim, Sam Kim, Marilee White
Robert G. Torbet Award in History Wheeler-Proctor Award in Theology
Byeongho Lee, Michael Vollbrecht
Peace and Justice Award
Eunho Lee, Ashley Robinson, Michael Vollbrecht
Presidential Citation – graduate with highest GPA
The virtual ceremony was well received. Seminary trustee Gail Ashby stated:
Kudos all around for preparing the most inspirational and beautiful commencement program I have ever witnessed. It was absolutely perfect and well thought out from beginning to end. The program’s total focus was on the graduate, which is the way it should be. There were no interruptions or distractions because of people talking, babies crying, photos being taken, or people arriving or leaving. For me it was an emotional, worshipful experience that brought tears to my eyes.
Central alumnus the Rev. Tyler Tankersley, senior minister of Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said this:
I just want to commend the seminary community on an incredibly heartfelt and pastoral viewing experience. You all seem to be leading Central in innovative and healthy ways in this tumultuous time. Today’s ceremony reminded me of the intentionality and wisdom that Central instills in its students, faculty, and staff. Thank you for providing a meaningful commencement ceremony for your 2020 graduates.
Interim President Dr. Robert E. Johnson reflected that the goal of those who planned and executed the Commencement program this year was to focus on the graduates:
The 2020 graduating class is historic, not only because their Commencement celebration was Central’s first ever virtual Commencement, but also because this class has been the first to complete most of their degree programs virtually. Because of their class experiences they have been uniquely prepared to lead during this season of sheltering at home. The class of 2020 is ready to lead!