Speaker encourages graduates for a harvest of justice

Published: May 24, 2015

Mary E. Klassen

In her commencement address on the day before Pentecost, May 23, Nancy Bedford reminded graduates of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary that the Holy Spirit will be with them as they go into ministry.

Bedford, who is Georgia Harkness Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Ill., drew on the third chapter of James to talk about wisdom that comes from God. She wove metaphors of planting and harvesting and themes of peace and justice into her encouragement and challenge for the fifteen graduates in the service at College Mennonite Church, Goshen.

View an album of photos from the 2015 AMBS commencement service.

“You certainly have a lot of formal instruction under your belts,” Bedford said. “And yet, as useful as all that is, it doesn’t quite add up to wisdom. For all your acquired knowledge to be transmuted to a wisdom that builds up others and contributes to systemic change, it needs to be embedded in practices of peace, compassion, humility and honesty—all of which are only possible with the help and agency of God’s spirit.”

She cautioned, however, that these good gifts are often threatened by partiality, hypocrisy and self-conceit, which she called “invasive species coming into the garden, choking out the good wisdom we are trying to cultivate.”

She told the graduates that each is well-prepared to sow peace and to be a peacemaker not only because of their theological education—“though, believe me, it will help you,” she said—and not just because of their Anabaptist heritage or education. “You are equipped to contribute to a harvest of justice because you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit who wants to do a new thing in this world,” she concluded.

Bedford earned a Doctor of Theology at Karl-Ludwigs-Universität Tübingen, Germany. In addition to her position at Garrett-Evangelical, the native of Argentina also is Profesora Extraordinaria No-Residente, Instituto Unversitario ISEDET in Buenos Aires. She is a member of Reba Place Church where she serves as a Discipleship Team member, teacher and preacher.

The James text on which Bedford based her message was read by two members of the graduating class: Ryan Harker, who read the text in Greek, and Andrea Baker Dean, who read an English translation of it.

Rebecca Slough, academic dean, presented the charge to the graduates. She reminded them of Jesus’ command to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbors as yourself. “These commandments of love form a holistic spirituality. Living the good news of God’s reign requires your willingness to be swept up into this trinity of love for God and neighbor and self,” she said. “I charge you to do this, and you will live.”

Ten of the fifteen graduates are involved in pastoral ministry, including campus ministry, or are seeking ministry assignments. Two are pursuing chaplaincy, one is teaching while pursuing doctoral studies, one is seeking to lead community efforts in justice and conflict mediation, and one is involved in other employment.

Eleven graduates received the Master of Divinity degree, which prepares people for various forms of ministry. One each received the Master of Arts in Christian Formation and the Master of Arts: Peace Studies degrees. Two received a Certificate in Theological Studies, representing one year of study.

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