Bethany Honors New Graduates

Bethany Theological Seminary’s class of 2017 gathered with family, friends, and the Bethany community on Saturday, May 6, to celebrate their academic achievements. Fifteen seniors received their degrees and certificates from President Jeff Carter and Lynn Myers, chair of the board of trustees. “You are a faithful class,” Carter told the group, “faithful not only to your studies but to your families, to your churches, to your professions. . . . So many sermons preached, papers written, books read, old truths exegeted in new ways—and the work of heart, soul, and mind brought to life through your presence among us.”

Class of 2017
Back row: Bryan Hanger, Jonathan Stauffer, Evan Underbrink, Joel Gibbel, Caleb Kragt
Front row: Staci Williams, Freedom Eastling, Bethany Hoffer, Jody Gunn, Wendy McFadden, Tabitha Rudy, Jennifer Quijano
In absentia: Samuel Brackett, Steven Petersheim, Chibuzo Petty

The following diplomas and certificates were granted, which include the first of Bethany’s specialized graduate certificates:

Master of Divinity
Joel C. Gibbel, Lititz, Pennsylvania
Jody M. Gunn, Cordova, Maryland
Bethany L. Hoffer, Palmyra, Pennsylvania – emphasis in youth and young adult ministry
Caleb Kragt, Richmond, Indiana – ministry focus in preaching and worship, emphasis in conflict transformation
Jennifer L. Quijano, Richmond, Indiana
Tabitha Hartman Rudy, Roanoke, Virginia – emphasis in leadership and administration

Master of Arts
Bryan Hanger, Richmond, Indiana – concentration in peace studies
Wendy C. McFadden, Elgin, Illinois – concentration in theological studies
Jonathan P. Stauffer, Polo, Illinois – concentration in theological studies
Staci A. Williams, Cecil, Ohio – concentration in theological studies

Certificate of Achievement in Theological Studies
Samuel A. Brackett, Eugene, Oregon
Freedom Eastling, Indianapolis, Indiana

Specialized Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination
Wendy C. McFadden, Elgin, Illinois
Steven P. Petersheim, Richmond, Indiana
Chibuzo Petty, Dayton, Ohio
Evan R. Underbrink, Richmond, Indiana

Speaker Dennis WebbThe commencement speaker was Dennis Webb, pastor of the Naperville (Illinois) Church of the Brethren. In his address entitled “Ministry—Praxis, Peril, and Promise,” he called attention to both the needs of a complex world in which the graduates would serve and the personal challenges they would encounter in becoming effective servants. “People’s world views have changed, and consequently their needs have changed. Global shifts abound. . . . The context of your graduation is change, change in a dual sense: You are called to change the world at the same time the world itself is changing.” Webb encouraged the graduates to make caring for others and modeling truth essential parts of their ministry, following the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:16-20). “Your character will always be more important than your craft. Your integrity will always trump your insight. Your approachability will always supersede your visibility. And your availability will count far more than your ability.”

A 2012 graduate of Bethany, Webb is currently on the Mission and Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren. He has been involved in multicultural ministry for a number of years and served on the denomination’s Intercultural Consultation and Celebration Committee. He has also spoken at national and district Church of the Brethren events.

The graduating seniors shared their talents in leading a worship service on Friday, May 5, which included a traditional ritual of sending. Joel Gibbel gave a message entitled “The Beautiful Shepherd,” and Evan Underbrink shared a theopoetic reflection of his educational and spiritual journey at Bethany. At the close of the service, faculty members anointed the seniors in preparation for their new ventures as Jennifer Quijano performed a vocal solo. Future plans of class members include seeking or continuing in positions of congregational ministry, further study, teaching, and community service.

Recordings of both the academic ceremony and the worship service will be posted on Bethany’s webcasts page as soon as they are available.