Concordia Seminary, St. Louis celebrated 131 students, six honorees and three retiring professors in an online Commencement ceremony Friday, May 15. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Theological Diploma Service and Commencement exercises, usually held as two separate events on campus, were combined into one online event. The ceremony also marked the end of the 181st academic year with the theme, “Grace. Mercy. Peace. Lives of Significance.”
During the ceremony, theological diplomas were presented to all graduating students eligible to receive a call as a pastor or deaconess in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Of these students, 60 were recognized in the spring 2020 pastoral candidate class, 16 were recognized in the fall 2019 pastoral candidate class and one was recognized as a deaconess candidate. Four pastoral candidates and four deaconess candidates were recognized for completing the requirements for certification and placement and for requesting deferment of their candidacy. One deferred vicar, six Residential Alternate Route vicars and one deaconess intern also were recognized.
Addressing the students receiving theological diplomas, Director of Placement and Director of Vicarage and Deaconess Internships Dr. Glenn Nielsen delivered the message, “Feed My Sheep,” on John 21:1–17.
“Jesus tells Peter, ‘Feed my sheep.’ And how will you do that? You will feed His sheep with such care and love, knowing that your official title — pastor, deaconess — will become one of a relationship,” Nielsen said.
During the Commencement portion of the ceremony, 50 students were recognized for earning a Master of Divinity, 16 for a Master of Arts and 14 for a Master of Sacred Theology. In addition, three students were recognized for earning a Doctor of Ministry and eight for a Doctor of Philosophy. Eight students who earned their Residential Alternate Route certificates also were recognized.
Rev. Mark Kiessling, director of Youth Ministry for the LCMS, delivered the Commencement address.
“You have a front-row seat to watch our God create faith in the next generation of disciples coming after you,” Kiessling said. “You will be God’s instrument to break down walls of doubt, uncertainty and isolation for young people. God will use you to bring healing and comfort to hurting families and be with them through some of the most joyous times of life. I hope this aspect of ministry brings you much joy and opportunities to give thanks for how God has worked through others in your life.”
The Seminary’s faculty presented an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree, in memoriam, to Rev. Laokouxang (Kou) Seying. Beginning in 2015, Seying served as the Seminary’s Lutheran Foundation Professor of Urban and Cross-Cultural Ministry and associate dean for Urban and Cross-Cultural Ministry until his death in November 2019.
“In granting this degree, this institution and especially its faculty gives praise to God for the talents He bestowed on Kou, and for the great gift he was to each of us, his students and the entire Seminary community,” said Seminary President Dr. Dale A. Meyer. “Our campus still grieves Kou’s passing. We miss the witness of his presence among us to the Gospel for all nations. That legacy will continue here.”
The faculty also presented an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree to Rev. Pornprom (Ted) Na Thalang, an honorary Doctor of Letters degree to Kiessling and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree to Gunya Na Thalang. In addition, the faculty presented the Christus Vivit Award to Dr. LeRoy Wilke and the Distinguished Alumnus Award to Dr. Thomas Zelt. Learn more about the honorees at csl.edu/commencement.
Also during the service, three retiring professors were recognized — Dr. Andrew Bartelt, the Gustav and Sophie Butterbach Professor of Exegetical Theology; Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs, professor of Exegetical Theology; and Dr. Dale A. Meyer, president and professor of Practical Theology.
This year’s graduates will join more than 9,000 called leaders of the LCMS around the world and more than 12,500 individuals who have received degrees from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in the school’s 181-year history.
“I often say it’s a great time to be the church. That’s a statement of faith,” Meyer told graduates in his concluding remarks. “Sight does not always tell us that it’s a great time, but faith trusts in a living Lord Jesus that breaks out in hope whatever our outward circumstances may be.”
After Meyer officially closed the academic year, the service concluded with the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostolic Benediction, the closing hymn — “Te Deum: We Praise You and Acknowledge You, O God” — and video tributes to the graduates from faculty, staff, students and others.
The event was streamed at csl.edu/commencement and was shared on the Seminary’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. Students, families, friends and congregation members were encouraged to share photos and videos of their in-home celebrations on social media by using the hashtags #CSLGrad2020 and #LivesOfSignificance. Dozens of people participated in the live chat during the event’s YouTube Premiere.
Graduates will be mailed their diplomas and also will be invited to participate in Commencement exercises in 2021. An archived recording of the event will be available on YouTube and scholar.csl.edu. Find the list of students and their Theological Diplomas, academic degrees and certificates in the Commencement program.
About Concordia Seminary
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis provides Gospel-centered graduate-level theological education for pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, scholars and other leaders in the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). To learn more, visit csl.edu.