Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Scarborough College recognized, celebrated, and commissioned 638 bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and 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 livestreamed 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 in order to formally walk across the stage alongside the fall graduates. 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 over 10 years ago to enroll in Southwestern Seminary. Wisdom’s wife, Augusta, later enrolled in the seminary as well, completing her Master of Arts in Christian Education in 2014.
Wisdom currently serves as senior pastor of the First African Baptist Church in Fort Worth. “Southwestern Seminary has equipped me in preaching, church growth strategies, and church revitalization,” he says.
Still seeking what the Lord has for him next, Wisdom says that “Southwestern has improved my research skills and taught me resilient patience when life does not go as planned.”
His daughter, Mitovieiye “Mimi” Asita, began her studies at Southwestern toward of a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling in the fall of 2017.
Mimi says that after the many challenges in her family’s pursuit of theological education, their graduation marks a significant milestone for their family. “To graduate with my dad is indeed an honor,” she says.
“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,” Mimi says. “I have been encouraged by friends and strangers, and I have been blessed to encourage others as well.
“In my time at Southwestern, God had made His call on my life clearer, and in line with that, I am continuing my education here to one day earn a Ph.D. in biblical counseling with a minor in women’s ministry. I am honored to be a Southwesterner.”
Nancy Gilmer from Farmersville, Texas, who completed her Master of Arts in Missiology in spring 2020, also returned for the fall graduation.
“I am returning to participate in graduation because my parents, who are in their 90s, and my husband are so very proud of me,” she says. “… I am not one to call attention to myself, but my family is worth every uncomfortable moment the spotlight is on me. I am grateful for SWBTS creatively making this day happen. There has been much effort put into honoring those of us graduating.”
Gilmer now plans to continue her educational pursuits at Southwestern Seminary in the Master of Theology program.
“I guess you could say that a big piece of my heart resides on the hill,” she says. “The dome is truly my home,” invoking a favorite expression of Greenway about the prominent architectural feature of the B.H. Carroll Memorial Building on the Fort Worth campus.
Paul Stohler, a 2006 Master of Divinity graduate who completed his Doctor of Ministry in spring 2020, wrote on Twitter, “Finally getting to walk. No spring commencement, so glad SWBTS made it possible so we can walk today.”
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 (MTS) 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.”
Some graduates’ friends and families took to social media to celebrate their loved ones’ graduation. Janese Rivers, wife of MTS graduate Tim Rivers, wrote on Facebook, “There are many defining moments in life. Today is one of those moments for Tim and our little family. … Tim has pushed himself through late nights, has challenged deep concepts of his beliefs, and remained incredibly objective and quietly firm. I am through-the-roof proud of him.”
Other congratulatory messages included: