By Marilyn Stewart
NEW ORLEANS – The “one word” that brought students to seminary must now guide them as graduates, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Chancellor Chuck Kelley told them, Dec. 15, at NOBTS’ Leavell Chapel.
“‘Yes’ is the word that brought you to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. ‘Yes’ is the word I want you to take with you as you depart,” Kelley said. “But, I warn you. Not every ‘yes’ is easy.”
Kelley reminded graduates they answered “yes” when God called them to seminary knowing the road would be long and difficult. Kelley recalled trying personal times he and wife Rhonda Kelley faced when he came to seminary 43 years ago — first as a student, then faculty member, and then president.
Life turned upside down during Kelley’s student days to the point he considered leaving the ministry and joining his father in business, Kelley explained. His father’s reminder that God had not rescinded Kelley’s call to ministry helped him stay the course, Kelley said.
“It was a hard ‘yes,'” Kelley said. “But it wasn’t our toughest ‘yes.'”
Kelley went on to describe an unexpected change of direction when he was asked to join the NOBTS faculty following his doctoral graduation. The decision was difficult because his dream of an evangelistic ministry had already been set in motion, Kelley said.
“It was a hard ‘yes,'” Kelley repeated. “But it wasn’t our toughest ‘yes.'”
Though the Kelleys had wanted children, it became apparent God had a different plan for them, he noted. Kelley described the moment they knelt as a couple by the side of the bed and surrendered to God’s plan for their lives.
It was the toughest “yes,” Kelley said, adding that every time someone asks if they have children is a reminder of that difficult commitment.
Kelley explained that God instead called them to invest in other people’s children and in God’s kingdom. It was a plan that quickly unfolded with speaking engagements and writing assignments for Rhonda.
Noting the success of his wife’s writing ministry, Kelley pointed to the “Women’s Study Bible” edited by Rhonda Kelley and Dorothy Patterson, that has sold 2 million copies.
Kelley reminded graduates that God has a right to direct their lives, but that they can rely on the promises of Scripture. He added that 2 Corinthians 1:20 says that “every one of God’s promises is ‘Yes’ in Him.”
“He is faithful to all of those who will say ‘yes’ to Him,” Kelley concluded. “Walk out of here today with one word on your lips — that word is ‘yes.'”
Norris Grubbs, provost, urged the graduates to guard their hearts and minds so that their lives would honor Christ.
“As you’ve learned here, knowledge is not enough,” Grubbs said. “You must always cultivate a growing relationship with the Lord so that you will remain faithful to the end.”
Bo Rice, dean of graduate studies, charged the candidates with a nod to Dr. Seuss’s book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” Rice reworked one verse to say, “You have the Spirit in your heart; you have feet in your shoes; remember that He will steer you any direction He should choose. You’re not on your own and you know what you know. Yet, He is the One who’ll decide where you should go.”
Rice said he considered the many places God would lead the graduates that would impact lives.
“I think of the slums, the unreached nations, the church that is struggling, the orphanage in Haiti, the counseling ministry with a wife who is being abused, the foster home with abandoned children, the college dorm room with a student contemplating suicide, the countless hospital bedsides that lead to many gravesides,” Rice said.
“We watch with great anticipation as you go under the direction of the Holy Spirit,” Rice added. “There is a Father who is leading you. We rejoice because He is already there.”
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary conferred 108 master degrees and 24 doctoral degrees including six Ph.D., 14 D.Min., and three D.Ed.Min degrees. Forty-seven M.Div. degrees, 16 with specializations, were conferred.
NOBTS/Leavell College conferred 102 Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry degrees. Of the bachelor degrees conferred, 15 were presented at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, and 40 at Hardee Correctional Institution, Bowling Green, Fla.
The Lockman Foundation presented each graduate and awardee a copy of the New American Standard Bible.
The following graduates from Louisiana were awarded degrees and certificates:
Associate in Christian Ministries
Richard Lee Tull
Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministries
Daniel Bryant Mullens
William Andrew Sikes
Graduate Certificate in Biblical Studies
Deanna St. Germain
Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry
Master of Arts (Biblical Archaeology)
Gary Don Myers
Master of Arts in Christian Education
Mark Anthony Caruso
Formerly of Livingston
Joshua Paul Piper
Masters of Art in Counseling
Jessica Lopez Rodriguez
Master of Divinity
Kevin William Bruce
Nicholas Justin Maricle
Christopher Brandon Phillips
Eric Michael Pope
Master of Divinity with Specialization in Christian Apologetics
Price Elijah Forrest
Master of Divinity with Specialization in Missions Strategy
Cynthia Ann Becnel
Master of Divinity with Specialization in Pastoral Ministry
Mark Anthony Taylor
Master of Theology
Derek Heath Kitterlin
Shaun Michael Grunblatt
Doctor of Ministry
Lisa Graves Davis
Former Shreveport resident and LC graduate
Doctor of Philosophy
Joshua Michael Peeler