FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary commissioned a new class of graduates, including two of its own professors, Dec. 14. The seminary conferred degrees on 197 students—13 undergraduate degrees, 156 master's degrees and 32 doctoral degrees.

Terri Stovall, dean of women’s programs and associate professor of women's ministries, walked across the stage to receive her Master of Divinity degree. Already having earned her Ph.D. and Master of Arts in Christian Education from Southwestern more than a decade ago, Stovall completed work in the M.Div. program to add more tools in her belt to train women for service in local churches, ministries, and mission fields around the world.

Professor of Church Music Don Wyrtzen received his Doctor of Ministry in the School of Theology. Wyrtzen, whose father founded Word of Life International, serves as chapel pianist at the seminary in addition to his teaching duties, He is a Dove Award winning musician known worldwide for his more than 400 musical compositions and arrangements.

Another highlight of the ceremony included the conferral of 32 doctoral degrees, which seminary president Paige Patterson said were the most he has ever personally witnessed during a commencement. The degrees not only represented Southwestern’s ongoing contribution to biblical scholarship but also the growing impact of Southwestern around the world. Yaroslav Pyzh, president of Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary, earned his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology for his dissertation on Baptists in the Soviet Union. Additionally, Ralf Schowalter, a pastor in Rhaunen, Germany, earned his Ph.D. in Baptist and Free Church Studies for his work on the German Anabaptist Hans Denck.

Preaching from Luke 1:5-25, Patterson challenged graduates to submit themselves to the Lord as they go out into ministry. Pointing to Zechariah’s encounter with the angel Gabriel, Patterson said people knew he had heard from God.

 “Young people, do you know your (congregation) will know when you’ve been with God and when you haven’t?” Patterson asked graduates. “They will know whether or not you’re just a professional carrying out your assignment or whether or not you have been with God.”

Patterson also emphasized the primary importance of the Lord’s activity in one’s ministry. He referred to Luke 1:66, where it was said of John the Baptist that “the hand of the Lord was upon him.”

“May that be said of you,” Patterson said. “May it not be said that ‘he built a big church,’ ‘he became famous on the mission field,’ or any of those other things, except as an afterthought to this one statement: ‘the hand of the Lord was upon him.’ If it is said of you that the hand of the Lord was upon you, then you will have done all of what God has called you to do and be in the days ahead.

“Just like John the Baptist was the one to announce the incarnation of our Lord, so your assignment is to announce the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Make no mistake about it, that’s an assignment that is not a popular one today. … I challenge you to go forth in the spirit and the power of the Lord.”

The graduation ceremony can be viewed and downloaded in its entirety at graduationfall2012.