BTS Honors all of the Graduates of 2015
The 44th BTS Commencement was held on Saturday, June 27th at LCBC BranchCreek Church in Harleysville, PA. Sixty-five students received graduate degrees and two doctoral degrees were conferred. The following students were awarded special honors in their fields of study:
- HyeJung Sun received the Hebrew Exegesis Award;
- Xiaowei Zhou received the Greek Exegesis Award;
- Sungjun Kim received the Master of Arts Award;
- Alexandria Cole received the Master of Arts in Counseling Award;
- Jason Armold received the Language MDiv Award;
- Chris Owens received the Urban LEAD MDiv Award;
- Rachel Lindemuth received the LEAD MDiv Award; and
- Monica Hall and Rob Marshall received the President’s Award.
During the ceremony Dr. Larry L. Anderson, Jr. shared an inspiring commencement address titled Our Moment for a Movement. The “Waves of Praise” worship team from Living Waters Church in Collingdale, PA led the congregational singing.
Janice Kim who graduated with her Master of Divinity degree shared her testimony in song.
Josef Berthold who completed his Doctor of Ministry degree has given his permission for his testimony to be shared in its entirety:
“I started school after experiencing a major loss in my life. I wanted to go to school sometime around the time when my children were all out of the house and not as dependent on us anymore. However, by that I did not mean for any of them to leave this earth permanently, but that is what happened. After my oldest son Micah passed away, theorizing about God had lost its appeal and theology was reduced to the very basics. This was a time when reading obituaries became a habit, because the reminder that life is short for all of us was actually a comforting thought. What could school have to offer at a time like this?
Around that time an older wiser man, a mentor of mine, said to me: “Josef, do you know the most fruitful years of your life still lie ahead?” So I decided I would let God surprise me in how more studies can prepare me for the “fruitful years ahead”. And that is just what God did…He surprised me.
Here are the three surprises I experienced throughout these 4 years of study:
How different God looks through the prism of color
As one of five Anglos among a cohort of mostly Korean and African American brothers and sisters, I learned to know their struggles and how it shaped their understanding of God. The best theology I have received was not from Dr. Metzger, Bonhoeffer, or Barth (even though they are superb theologians), but from people like Jeffrey Harley and Sherry Jones, Yoseop Choi and Paul Chung.
I learned what faith looks like born from struggle, and that our God transcends culture, privilege and theological preferences.
I learned about the sacrifice some have made to go on this venture of getting a degree. Yes, for some it could mean more prestige and opportunity, but for an African American sister it might mean a diminished opportunity to find a spouse.
Love for people trumps title (every time)
No doubt, my studies have enriched my understanding of what it is to be missional and have helped me conceptualize things, which I now can pass on to my congregation. (Thanks to my professors and a school who is willing to allow God’s Spirit to transform our thinking from dogma to missions).
Throughout my pastoral ministry, not once have I been asked about my titles. Not once, by any of the people in the community that my church is part of.
Conversely, the question people were asking, particularly those who have been on the fringes of society, has never been “What is your degree?” but “How much do you love me?” And that is really the question that matters. My doctoral studies have not been an exception to this.
I appreciate what I have learned and God can use it for His glory, but I am with the Apostle Paul on this one:
Philippians 3:8 I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
My inability to answer a simple question raised at my oral examination
I would have been prepared to spew all sorts of names and dates of important people and events of the reformation, or to give a detailed analysis of why some church planting movements are successful and others fail, but I was unprepared to answer this question raised by Manny Ortiz: “What is the gospel to you in the context of your church.” I stumbled with my answer that afternoon trying to be missionally and theologically correct, only to read the next day in scripture: “When I was a sinner Christ died for me.” The simplicity of the gospel came back to me that morning, and I felt reminded that my studies are only as good as God’s answers to the complex questions of this beautiful but very fallen plane. Dr. Ortiz, here again is my answer to your question - For those who are in Christ: ALL THINGS NEW.
The power of the gospel at work
When people as different as Manny Ortiz and Sue Baker can work in such unison for the gospel, that gives me hope.
I want to thank the staff of Biblical, in particular those who worked so hard behind the scenes out of dedication to the Mission of God.
Thanks to Dr. Manuel Ortiz and Dr. Sue Baker for guiding me through this process. Manny, you are a testimony of living for the gospel, literally with every breath until the end of your days. Thanks for being such an inspiration. I want to grow old like this, in order to bear even greater fruit in years to come. God be with you all.”
Once again, congratulations to ALL the gradutes from BTS this year... We honor you!