2015 Student Commencement Speech by Henry Washington

2015 ABSW Commencement Speech
Rev. Henry Washington

It seems like only yesterday, that we earnestly and excitedly enrolled at
American Baptist Seminary of the West. We were all optimistic about being
trained seminarians. We were taught to look beyond King James, to widen
our view of God and that our embedded theology might not be up to parr to
properly engage the social ills of the day. But more importantly, we learned
that the discipline of theology was vast and unabridged. That to talk of God,
is to walk upon the clouds. We used to be so happy to receive our papers
back; but just the other day, I realized that we were never really writing for
our professors but rather to stretch our own minds and to better articulate the
prophetic call through our own experiences.

We want to first acknowledge and say thank you to Beth Eden and pastor
James for having us and to Bishop Warner Brown and Taylor Memorial for
feeding us today. To our immediate classmates; Tony, Doug, Phoebe, Chuck,
Jong-Min, Sukkyu, Pray, Lana, Gilbert, Paul and Sydney (we’ve gone from a
GED to an MDiv). On behalf of the graduating seniors thank the faculty in
the persons of our president and vice-president Dr. Paul Martin and Rev. Micky Holmes and the entire ABSW falculty. You all have helped in shaping us into the theologians that we are and the ones we are becoming.

We thank Dr. Allen for allowing us think out of the theological box and
her tenaciousness, Dr. Burch for exposing us to some startling facts about the
historical Jesus, Dr. Guerrero for writing the most clear comments and
challenging us in her grading, Dr. Hall for forcing us to be clear, and then
making us be more clear yet again, Dr. Kunkel for helping us to revisit basic
grammar, and Dr. Grandison for exposing us to Theology Proper, Liberation
Theology, Sociological Ethics and for giving us so many opportunities to rewrite our papers. And where would be without Dr.’s Jennifer Davidson,
Tripp Hudgins, Margaret McManus, Valerie Miles-Tribble, Sam Park and J.
Alfred Smith who have supported us from day one. Thank you Dr. Burris, for
believing in me, helping me get started on this magnificent road and for being
my friend. And thank you Dr. LeAnn Snow Flesher for all you do for us and
this great institution of learning. We want to thank our churches, families and
support systems that have afforded us the opportunity to strive toward
academic excellence. Thank you Garden of Peace, thank you E.

Intro to the OT, Intro to Theology and Understanding Biblical Languages
(Do you remember Corrina forbidding us from mentioning Jesus while studying the Hebrew Bible?) wasn’t this to help appreciate the text without
superimposing Christ into the OT? (Do you remember thinking how easy it
would be to write about Creation, Salvation and Sanctification?) Boy were
we wrong! How about when Dr. Allen critiqued my manuscript so hard that I
tore-it-up myself. (Anyone remember staying-up all hours of the night trying
to parse the Greek’s pluperfect or Hebrew’s Qal-Qatal or Qal Yiqtol roots and
stems? Thank God that we’ve gone through the fire and come-out as pure

Like Plato’s man in the cave, none of us can unlearn what has been poured
into us. We have been trained to chime-in on such world events as the threat
and growth of Isis, earthquakes in Nepal and cyber warfare in China. But
more importantly, we have been conditioned to speak intelligently about the
dialectic process going on in our hearts and minds, conditioned to impact our
homes and local communities and conditioned to bring hope to the poor, the
captive, the blind and the oppressed. Since Iron sharpens Iron, we must
continue the fellowship that we’ve begun with each other and start new
fellowships and conversations that are capable of changing the world for the
helpless and voiceless ones of the society. Watch-out world, here comes the
2015 graduating class of American Baptist Seminary of the West!


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