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Media Contact: Curtis Prather
Alexandria, VA – Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) celebrated its 195th Commencement today, awarding 60 students with degrees of Master in Divinity, Master of Arts, Doctor of Ministry, Diploma in Theology, and Diploma in Anglican Studies, representing over 25 dioceses and 8 different countries.
“Commencement is a day of great hope for the Church and for the Episcopal Church,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “Lay and ordained leadership set forth from the campus to serve the people, to preach the Gospel, and to be there in human lives at the hardest and happiest times. Let us pray for this group of graduates from Virginia Theological Seminary.”
The commencement address was given by the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor ‘DD 01, New York Times best-selling author, teacher, and Episcopal priest.
"Like all Christians I have a hard time with conflict," Taylor told the Class of 2018, in her sermon which tackled the politics, divisions, and confllict. "Even Jesus' teachings take conflict for granted. You can't love an enemy who is not there; turnng the other cheek requires someone to slap you first.... The very existence of these teachings of these teachings tell is that Jesus knew conflict would be a regular part of his followers' lives and that they needed to know they had choices about how to handle those occasions, otherwise they would only be able to find two gears: idle and attack."
During the ceremony, the Anglican Communion Prize, which recognizes a graduating student who has shown an outstanding commitment to discerning the mission of God through World Anglicanism, goes to Pearson Yoram Nhayo, of the Diocese of Ruaha.
The Thomas Underwood Dudley Award for Reading and Scripture Liturgy, awarded to graduating students who, in the opinion of the faculty, have demonstrated excellence in the public reading and interpretation of the Scriptures and the Liturgy, is given to Marlene Forrest, of the Diocese of Virginia.
Tthe recipient of the 2018 Susan Ford Chair, a gift of Susan Ford to a member of the graduating class who has exhibited a strong commitment to the community life and mission of the Seminary, was awarded to Kathleen Denise Walker, of the Diocese of Southeast Florida.
The recipients of the Charles and Janet Harris Award, given each year to candidates for Holy Orders who have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership ability, are Joseph Downing Thompson, Jr., Ph.D., from the Diocese of Missouri, and to Richard Christian Bauer, of the Diocese of Southeast Florida.
The Doctoral Thesis Award is given to one graduating doctoral student who has written an exceptional thesis with clarity, depth, and boundedness that addresses a higher aim of Christian life, service, and leadership. During this ceremony, the Rev. James Larkin Pahl, Jr. was awarded the Doctoral Thesis Award for his thesis, “Community Backyard Relationship-Building: A Partnership between the Church, Government, and Local Stakeholders.”
This year, VTS conferred The Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, to Canon Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, Esq., the Episcopal Church lay representative on the Anglican Consultative Council.
Virginia Seminary also conferred the Degree of Doctor in Divinity, honoris causa, to the Rev. John Nelson Wall, Jr., Ph.D., professor of English Literature, North Carolina State University.
For the eleventh year, the service was streamed live over the Internet through the VTS website
.You can click here to watch the full service
(begins at 12:30).###Founded in 1823 as a beacon of hope in a country new and finding its way, Virginia Theological Seminary is the flagship Seminary of the Episcopal Church. One of our first benefactors was Francis Scott Key whose poem provides the text for our national anthem. In the 194 years since being established, VTS has led the way in forming leaders of the Episcopal Church, including: the Most Rev. John E. Hines (VTS 1933, D.D. 1946), former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rt. Rev. John T. Walker (VTS 1954, D.D. 1978), the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; and theologian, author and lay preacher Ms. Verna J. Dozier (VTS D.D. 1978). Serving the worldwide Anglican Communion, Virginia Theological Seminary educates approximately 25% of those being ordained who received residential theological education. Visit us online at www.vts.edu.