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The 163rd Commencement of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

May 14, 2021 | 10 a.m. (CDT) | Online


This year's Commencement will be held in a virtual format and available for all to watch on the seminary's YouTube channel. All of those who register by 12 p.m. (CDT) on May 13, 2021, will be emailed a direct link to the video and the program at 2 pm. (CDT) on May 13.

We are extremely excited to welcome pastor, professor, organizer, author, and sought-after speaker Bishop William J. Barber II as the Commencement Speaker. The seminary will also award Bishop Barber with an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity. Two Distinguished Alum Awards will be presented to Bishop Bruce Ough (G-ETS 1978) and Rev. Sue Laurie (G-ETS 1995) for their remarkable ministries, both within and on the margins of The United Methodist Church. This year, 64 masters and doctoral degrees will be awarded to 63 members of the Class of 2021.

We are extremely proud of the Class of 2021! Amidst a global pandemic their seminary experience has been filled with racial, social, and political upheaval, still yet, they have persevered. Our churches, communities, and world are in dire need of their leadership and we are confident they will rise to the challenge. We join with their family, friends, parishoners, and the cloud of witnesses to say congratulations!

Bishop William J. Barber II to Deliver 163rd Commencement Address

Bishop William J. Barber IIGarrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary will welcome pastor, professor, organizer, author, and sought-after speaker Bishop William J. Barber II for the seminary’s 163rd Commencement Service, being held online on Friday, May 14, 2021, at 10 a.m. (CDT). Bishop Barber will deliver the commencement address and be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity.

In addition to Barber’s address, the 163rd Commencement will include two distinguished alum awards presentations and the conferring of degrees upon the Class of 2021. This service will be held online and all are welcome to attend. Registration for the service and additional information about all events being held in honor of the Class of 2021 will be available on the seminary’s website beginning Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

Bishop Barber is the president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival; bishop with The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries; visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary; and the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Bishop Barber is also the architect of the Moral Movement, which began with weekly Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013. In 2018, Bishop Barber helped relaunch the Poor People’s Campaign, which was begun by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, starting with an historic wave of protests in state capitals and in Washington, D.C., calling for a moral agenda and a moral budget to address the five interlocking injustices of systemic racism, systemic poverty, the war economy and militarism, ecological devastation/denial of healthcare, and the false moral narrative of Christian nationalism.

“It is an honor for Garrett-Evangelical to celebrate and recognize the transformative work of Bishop William J. Barber II,” proclaimed Garrett President, Rev. Dr. Javier A. Viera. “His faithfulness, fearlessness, courage, and passion are exemplary and inspire all who know him or hear him to work toward creating a better world. I am delighted that he will be the one to charge members of the Garrett-Evangelical Class of 2021 with being bearers of Christ’s light and love and repairers of the breach.”

Bishop Barber has given keynote addresses at hundreds of national and state conferences, including the 2016 Democratic National Convention. On January 21, 2021, he delivered the homily for the 59th Inaugural Prayer Service for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. He has also spoken to a wide variety of audiences including national unions, fraternities and sororities, motorcycle organizations, drug dealer redemption conferences, women’s groups, economic policy groups, voting rights advocates, LGBTQ equality and justice groups, environmental and criminal justice groups, small organizing committees of domestic workers, fast food workers, and national gatherings of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other people of faith.

Barber served as president of the North Carolina NAACP, the largest state conference in the South, from 2006-2017. A former Mel King Fellow at MIT, he is currently Visiting Professor of Public Theology and Activism at Union Theological Seminary and is a Senior Fellow at Auburn Seminary.

He is regularly featured in media outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, and The Nation Magazine, among others. Bishop Barber is the 2015 recipient of the Puffin Award and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award, a 2018 MacArthur Foundation genius award recipient, and he is one of the 2019 recipients of the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor.

A prolific writer, Barber is the author of four books: We Are Called To Be A Movement (Workman Publishing Company, June 9, 2020); Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing (Beacon Press, December 4, 2018); The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and The Rise of a New Justice Movement (Beacon Press, January 12, 2016); and Forward Together: A Moral Message For The Nation (Chalice Press, October 30, 2014).

Distinguished Alum Awards: Rev. Sue Laurie and Bishop Bruce Ough

Each year Garrett-Evangelical chooses two alums to be honored as Distinguished Alums. One alum is chosen from the most recent 25 years of graduates, and one alum is chosen from alums who graduated over 25 years ago. Both Laurie and Ough will be honored at the 163rd Commencement of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.


Rev. Sue LaurieLaurie received her master of divinity from Garrett-Evangelical in 1995. Since her days at Garrett-Evangelical, Laurie has served as a pastor, prophet, and preacher dedicated to justice and inclusion, especially for LGBTQ+ persons in The United Methodist Church.

As a pastor, Laurie offers and teaches with confidence in God’s love and grace. She has an ability to feel the pain of exclusion and allow it to inform the ongoing ministry of gathering and offering a different path. Laurie seeds new faith communities and supports existing ones.

As a prophet, Laurie advocates for the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in The United Methodist Church. Laurie has participated actively in justice-seeking groups such as Love Prevails, Church Within A Church Movement, and UMForward. Serving as the National Outreach Coordinator for 8 years with Reconciling Ministries Network, Laurie traveled the United States speaking and teaching in many Annual Conferences. She has attended countless gatherings where decisions about LGBTQ+ persons are made—clergy trials, Judicial Council hearings, Council of Bishops gatherings, and General Conferences. At General Conference 2016, Laurie was ordained by her community as a testament to God’s undeniable call to ministry. Many of the United Methodist hierarchy know her by name and ministry.

As a preacher, Laurie gives witness to the Good News of Christ’s love for all people. Those familiar with Laurie’s preaching commitments often say, “Sue is a circuit rider and the world is her parish.” Laurie is known for her life-sustaining sense of humor, her integrity, and her ability to save lives and souls that may otherwise be lost to discrimination and oppression.

In one of more than twenty letters nominating Laurie as Distinguished Alum, a colleague wrote, “Sue has a pastor’s heart, a prophet’s courage, and a preacher’s passion for proclaiming the Good News in a world, a Church, and to people in deep need of Good News.” What better time than now to recognize Sue Laurie as a Distinguished Alum.



Bishop Bruce OughOugh received his master of divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1978. After graduating from Garrett-Evangelical, Ough served as council director of the Dakotas Area for four years. In 1982, Ough became director of the Oakwood Spiritual Life Center in the North Indiana Annual Conference, a position he held for three years. In 1985, Ough moved to Iowa where he served seven years as the council director of the Iowa Conference, then five years as District Superintendent of the Cedar Rapids District of the Iowa Conference before being appointed senior pastor of the 2,800 member St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1997. Ough was in this position when he was elected to the episcopacy in 2000 and assigned to the Ohio West Area of The United Methodist Church. After 12 years in West Ohio, Ough was assigned to the Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area in 2012.

In addition to these local ministries in seven states across the Midwest region, Ough has served on numerous jurisdictional and general church agencies, including the North Central Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy, the General Commission on Church Unity and Interreligious Concerns, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, the General Board on Global Ministries, and the denomination’s Connectional Table. Ough has also published a number of professional and devotional articles, and is a noted leader in the areas of spiritual formation, leadership development, and new church development. He is currently a member of the E. Stanley Jones Foundation Board of Directors.

Ough served as President of the Council of Bishops from 2016-2018 and provided outstanding leadership to the Council and The United Methodist Church during a very challenging time. As always, he led with grace, dignity, humility, and courage. Ough will be retiring from the Dakotas-Minnesota area episcopacy as of January 1, 2020. His retirement will be a vocational retirement as he has been appointed as the executive secretary of the Council of Bishops.

25 Year and 50 Year Reunions: Classes of 1995, 1996, 1970, and 1971

Virtual Experience  |  Thursday, May 6, through Friday, May 14, 2021

The Garrett-Evangelical 25 Year Reunion for the Classes of 1995 and 1996 and the 50 Year Reunion for the Classes of 1970 and 1971 will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You are invited to join us online for live events and self-guided activities beginning Thursday, May 6 through Friday, May 14, 2021. For a complete description of events and to register,  visit the Reunions webpage today.

In addition to this year's virtual reunion, all members of the Classes of 1995, 1996, 1970, and 1971 will be invited to return to campus for an in-person reunion experience once it is safe to do so, most likely in Spring 2022.

Register Now

May 14, 2021


Schedule of Events

Honors Chapel with Gathering for the Class of 2021 to Follow
Wednesday, May 5th at 4:00 p.m. (CDT)

Senior Chapel for the Garrett-Evangelical Community, Graduates, and their Families
Thursday, May 13th at 7:00 p.m. (CDT)
Learn More

The 163rd Commencement of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Friday, May 14th at 10 a.m. (CDT)