By Marlys Weaver-Stoesz and Annette Brill Bergstresser
GOSHEN, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Meghan Larissa Good, D.Min., encouraged the 20 graduates at the 73rd Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) commencement to embrace a ministry of celebration.
“Our primary work,” Good said, “is to do two things: to proclaim to the world its glorious destiny and to rejoice ahead of time in the victory that is overcoming everything.”
Good, of Phoenix, Arizona, is teaching pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Arizona; a member of the AMBS Board of Directors; and author of The Bible Unwrapped: Making Sense of Scripture Today (Herald, 2018). During the commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 4, at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, she reflected on one of her favorite passages, 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, where Paul envisions Christians as the captives of Christ’s victory parade.
Captives in Roman military parades were walking to their deaths, but Paul’s metaphor suggests that the captives are celebrating, which means they “must know something that no one else does,” Good said.
“We are commissioning you for a ministry of celebration. We are sending you out as the world’s most joy-filled captives,” Good declared. “Wherever you go from here — wherever God’s call takes you — what you are going to do is you are going to wear your weakness openly and declare at the top of your lungs, ‘Look what the power of God has done! The God of the universe is toppling tyrants, beginning here with me. Praise God that I’ve been taken captive by the mercy of the Lamb.’”
She explained that practicing ministry as a captive means remembering that God will heal the world, whether we wake up early and engage in that work or spend a day eating Cheetos under the covers. It is about “getting over ourselves” and letting go of the idea of one’s indispensability, instead focusing on “the incredible joy of getting to participate in this story,” Good told the graduates.
“Most of us come into these kinds of ministry with a burden to save the world and keep it on track and help things come together, and everything in the world seems to resist that effort,” Good said.
“This will cause you to feel overwhelmed and exhausted and to question your qualifications for this work,” she continued. “Hear me, future leaders, the broken world is not out there waiting for you to go and save it. It has been saved and it will be saved by Jesus Christ.”
Along with honoring the accomplishments of the 20 graduates, the commencement service also recognized the three administrative and teaching faculty members retiring from AMBS this academic year. AMBS Vice President and Academic Dean Beverly Lapp, Ed.D., commended Loren L. Johns, Ph.D., professor of New Testament, who is retiring June 30 after 19 years of service; Ben C. Ollenburger, Ph.D., retired professor of biblical theology, who retired Dec. 31, 2018, after 31 years of service; and Sara Wenger Shenk, Ed.D., president, who is retiring June 30 after nine years of service.
After Wenger Shenk conferred the graduates’ degrees and the graduates received their diplomas and certificates, Ollenburger presented them with a charge. He echoed Good’s call to celebrate amidst the struggle for God’s kingdom and charged the graduates to continue in their ministry wearing the armor mentioned in Isaiah 59 and Ephesians 6, including “shoes suited to proclaiming the gospel of peace.” Not only are those shoes fit for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, he said, but “those same new shoes are good for dancing, and the gospel is the greatest music ever composed, so even while you are wearing armor and wielding weapons, yield to the Spirit’s song, and dance to the music.”
The 2019 graduating class
Of the 20 graduates honored during the commencement service, 12 earned a Master of Divinity (MDiv); two earned a Master of Arts: Peace Studies (MAPS); one earned a Master of Arts: Theological Studies (MATS); and one earned a Master of Arts: Theology and Peace Studies (MATPS). Four students received a Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies.
The graduating class comprised 13 men and seven women from nine countries — Australia, Canada, Germany, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States — on five continents. The graduates range in age from 25 to 62.
Thirteen of the graduates are serving in ministry roles or seeking pastoral or chaplaincy assignments. Four are pursuing mission, church planting, service and/or peacebuilding work; one will teach high school; one will seek a second degree from AMBS; one is pursuing opportunities where her faith and health interests intersect; and one plans to work with linking theology and business. At least half of the graduates were engaged in pastoral ministry, conference ministry or mission work (not including internships) while earning their seminary degrees.
This year’s class includes nine students who completed at least part of their seminary studies at a distance, some through the MDiv Connect program, which began in 2013.
Ten of the graduates are affiliated with Mennonite Church USA; one with Mennonite Church Canada; and five with Mennonite Churches in other countries. One identifies as Baptist; one as Anglican; one as Church of Christ and one as nondenominational.
Several graduates have family members who are also AMBS graduates: Pratik Bagh’s uncles, Anil Bagh (MATS 1998) and Prem Bagh (Certificate 1996); Barbara Krehbiel Gehring’s husband, Richard Gehring (MDiv 1991); Scott Litwiller’s uncle, Jerry Holsopple (MDiv 1987); Grant Miller’s sister, Elizabeth Miller (MATS 2013), and brother, Lane Miller (MDiv 2013); Renee Reimer’s mother, Rosie Epp (MAPS 1977, MDiv 1983), father, Ray Reimer (MDiv 1983), and uncle, Delvyn Epp (MDiv 1973); and Joel Schroeder’s wife, Kay Schroeder (MA: Christian Formation 2018).
As a gift to the seminary — an annual tradition — this year’s graduating class will build a wood-fired pizza oven on campus near the pergola given by the Class of 2017.
Meghan Larissa Good, D.Min., gives the address at the 2019 commencement ceremony of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana. (Credit: Jason Bryant)
The 2019 graduating class of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana:
(front, l. to r.) Renee Epp Reimer of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Dustin Finch of Jonesboro, Arkansas; Margaret De Jong of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada; Tesfaye D. Robelle of Oromia Regional State, Ethiopia; Benjamin Isaak-Krauss of Bammental, Germany;
(middle, l. to r.) Yukino Ohyama of Sapporo, Hokkaido, and Tokyo, Japan; Suzanne Engle Ford of Fort Collins, Colorado; Peter Digitale Anderson, originally from Bremen, Indiana; Naún Lucoer Cerrato of Goshen, Indiana; Nel Warkentin of Elkhart;
(back, l. to r.) Grant S. Miller of Danvers, Illinois; Brian Miller O’Leary of Goshen; Pratik Bagh of Kutela-Raipur, Chhattisgarh, India; James Longley of Sydney, Australia; Scott Micheal Litwiller of Delavan, Illinois.
(Not pictured: Jeremiah Buhler of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada; Barbara Krehbiel Gehring of Manhattan, Kansas; Sungbin Kim of Seoul, Kyunggi, South Korea; Anne Perkins Munley of Mundelein, Illinois; and Joel Ray Schroeder of Newton, Kansas) (Credit: Steve Echols)