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Alumni News

Updates from our alumni serving to the ends of the earth. Alumnus of the Year, Alumnus Academy and Maj. Gen. Dondi E. Costin.

Alumnus of the Year: Russell Moore

Moore Alumnus of the Year

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. presented the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award to Russell D. Moore at the seminary’s June 15 alumni luncheon during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
 
“Russ Moore has already made history and there is much history still to be written. He has made Southern Seminary proud in so many different ways,” said Mohler, who also presented Moore a commemorative plaque. “It is high time that we make this presentation and celebrate Russ Moore as Alumnus of the Year of the institution very proud to claim him as our own.”
 
Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC and SBTS Ph.D. graduate (2002), also formerly served as professor of Christian theology, dean of the School of Theology, and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary.
 
“This school didn’t just educate me,” Moore said. “I look around this room, the best friends in the world that we have, I look at students that I love. I look at a place where, when we arrived home with our first two children, there was a parking lot full of people waiting for us … I can’t thank Southern Seminary enough for being our family.”
 
In his annual presentation to alumni and friends, Mohler called for increased boldness for the challenges facing Southern Seminary. Using Acts 4:23 as his text — in which the disciples react to their bold proclamation of the gospel before the Sanhedrin by praying for more boldness — Mohler said more is required of the seminary as it looks to
the future.
 
“I think there’s the temptation for us to simply be thankful for how bold the Lord has allowed this school to be,” Mohler said. “But what we really pray for is that the Lord would make us even more bold, because what will be required of us in the future is even far greater than what has been required in the past … Everything we’ve done thus far — sweet and precious and instructive as it is — is just, by God’s grace, a foretaste of what’s to come.”
 
The more than 450 attendees of the luncheon also received a copy of the “President’s Report,” a publication providing a summary of the 2015-16 academic year.
— Andrew J.W. Smith

Alumni Academy: Engaging Islam

Ibrahim Alumni Academy

With the need for global gospel proclamation as critical as ever, Christians need to learn how to engage with Islam theologically and strategically,
said two Southern Seminary professors during the Aug. 8-9 Alumni Academy.
 
Ayman Ibrahim, Bill and Connie Jenkins Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies and senior fellow for the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam, and John Klaassen, associate professor of global studies at Boyce College, led the seven sessions of the Alumni Academy, which culminated with a Q&A with both Ibrahim and Klaassen.
 
Ibrahim, who grew up in Egypt, said Islam is a traditional faith with multiple sacred texts. While believers evangelizing Muslims should illustrate points from the Quran, they should only use it to prove to Muslims that their sacred text assumes the reliability of the Bible, Ibrahim said. The Sermon on the Mount is particularly helpful, he said, since it challenges some of the pillars of Islam, requiring heart transformation more than good deeds.
 
“If you asked me what Muslims need the most, I would tell you: hope. And there is no hope apart from the gospel,” he said.
 
The culture of Islam is significantly different than that of the United States, said Klaassen, author of the 2015 book Engaging with Muslims. It is driven by an honor-shame dynamic more than the West, which aligns more closely with a guilt-innocence dynamic. Those sharing the gospel with Muslims should always be aware of these cultural markers, making it clear that when Jesus died on the cross, he took the shame of sinners upon himself but did not lose his honor, Klaassen said. These categories are not common for Westerners.
 
Because of the significant effect of shame on Muslim cultures, converting from Islam is extremely damaging socially, Klaassen said. The religion dictates Muslims’ entire lives and forms a worldview that requires absolute commitment.
 
“You cannot convert out of Islam,” he said. “To convert out of Islam is to shame your family — it is to reject everything you have ever known and everything you have ever heard.”

— Andrew J.W. Smith
 
Alumni Academy provides free ongoing instruction for alumni and prospective students of Southern Seminary. To find out more about the program, Visit sbts.edu/alumni.

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Maj. Gen. Dondi E. Costin Equips Air Force Chaplains, Models Life of Prayer

By Eric Harrough
Despite 30 years of military experience and receiving a myriad of medals and degrees, Maj. Gen. Dondi E. Costin says he doubts President Obama would have promoted him to chief of chaplains of the Air Force in August 2015 without the teaching he received from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Costin received a Doctor of Ministry and a Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership from Southern, saying in an interview with Southern Seminary Magazine that the top-notch faculty was a “Godsend in every sense.”
 
“I always knew my doctoral supervisors were pushing me to grow so I would be equipped to grow others,” said Costin, who has served in the Air Force since 1986. “It’s no exaggeration to say that I would not be chief of chaplains without their investment in my life.”
 
Costin has received 21 medals during his military service, including the Bronze Star for Heroic Achievement, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal, and the Air and Space Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, just to name a few. Costin also earned eight degrees from military and private schools ranging from a Bachelor of Science in Operation Research to a Master of Strategic Studies.
 
Today, Chaplain Costin serves at the Pentagon and delivers prayers that stir crowds. Public prayer is one of the greatest privileges and opportunities that a chaplain is allowed to take part in, said Costin. When contacted about Chaplain Costin, the Air Force press desk pointed Southern Seminary Magazine to a “rousing” prayer that Costin delivered in June 2016 at Gen. Mark A. Welsh III’s retirement. In the invocation, Chaplain Costin honored Welsh’s concern for others, saying in his prayer, “You’ve numbered every hair on our heads and they [Gen. Walsh and wife, Betty] saw us through your eyes. Because you loved much, you gave much, and they followed your lead. When bean counters saw us as numbers they called us by name. Where many saw only forest they saw trees.”
 
“The opportunity is demonstrating publicly that God is real, that he cares for us, and that he’s powerful enough to answer in keeping with his will. I just try to approach the throne of grace with as much confidence in public as I do in private,” Costin said in the interview.
 
Although Costin said he considers his job “less significant than the work done by Religious Support Teams defending Airmen’s religious liberties,” the ordained Southern Baptist minister’s primary role as chief of chaplains involves clearing obstacles and equipping the teams with the resources they need to do their work.
 
SBTS Degrees:
D.Min. (2003),
Ph.D. in Leadership (2008)
 
Most influential leader:
“My dad, Sandy Costin, was always the kind of leader I aspire to be. He treated his employees like they were
part of our family and did everything in his businessas unto the Lord.”
 
Favorite Bible verse:
Philippians 4:12-13