Statement of Mission
Columbia Theological Seminary exists to educate and nurture faithful, imaginative, and effective leaders for the sake of the Church and the world.
We understand Christian faith to include a growing love for God expressed in daily faithfulness to Jesus Christ, vibrant worship as an essential feature of life together, cultivation of the mind, and the disciplines of the Christian life; a growing love for the Church expressed in authentic community, participation in the life of local churches, and responding to God’s call to and gifting for leadership; a growing love for Christ’s work in the world expressed in ministries of proclamation, nurture, compassion, justice, creativity, and the care of all creation.
Because we are a confessional community of the Church, we believe in Christ’s reign over the whole world; articulate a missional understanding of life rooted in the rule of God’s love and justice; celebrate the goodness of God in all creation; live under the authority of Jesus Christ as witnessed in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, in the Church throughout the ages, and in the Reformed tradition and its confessions; nurture a personal and corporate faith which takes responsibility for our choices amid the political realities, the social institutions, and the global contexts in which we live; commit ourselves to diversity and inclusivity, to ecumenicity, and to discerning the ongoing manifestations of God’s presence in human affairs; listen with openness to voices of hopelessness and hope around and within us; and acknowledge our own brokenness and need for redemption.
At Columbia, we seek to witness to God’s creative power—seen in the wonder and beauty of creation; God’s reconciling love—demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and God’s redemptive action and transforming justice—visible through the Church and in the broad work of the Holy Spirit in a pluralistic and interdependent world.
Our special mission in the service of the Church, and especially the Presbyterian Church (USA), is to educate women and men for leadership in ordained and lay ministries by offering graduate degrees, certification programs, and lifelong learning opportunities; to attend diligently to both text and context; to keep learning as a community of scholars and practitioners together; and to provide theological resources through an exceptional faculty, library, and campus facilities.
Because we are an educational institution, our calling is to prepare persons to be leaders in worship, witness, teaching, mission, and service; to pursue learning that joins mind and heart—that enlarges intellect and imagination and nurtures passion, compassion and empathy; to develop personal and professional skills for leadership in the Church; to learn from the world-wide church, from other faith traditions, from education, the arts, politics, economics, and science, and from those outside the centers of power and influence; and to consider critically from the perspective of the Christian faith, ideological, technical, and scientific assumptions—including our own—about the human situation.
In carrying out our mission, we seek to be faithful to the gospel, and to become a living expression of the Body of Christ in the world.
A Brief History of the Seminary
From the time of its founding in Lexington, Georgia, in 1828, Columbia has been committed to training persons for leadership in the church of Jesus Christ. Throughout its history, Columbia has nurtured, and has been nurtured by, the Presbyterian Church in the South; this connection continues to be a cherished tradition. While Columbia now enjoys an outstanding national and international reputation, it also faithfully upholds its historic covenants with the Synods of Living Waters and South Atlantic.
In 1830, Columbia, South Carolina, became the first permanent location of the seminary. The school became popularly known as Columbia Theological Seminary, and the name was formally accepted in 1925.
The decade of the 1920's saw a shift in population throughout the Southeast. Atlanta was becoming a commercial and industrial center and growing rapidly in its cultural and educational opportunities. Between 1925 and 1930, President Richard T. Gillespie provided leadership that led to the development of the present facilities on a fifty-seven-acre tract in Decatur, Georgia.
Because the early years in Decatur were difficult, the future of the institution became uncertain. Columbia, however, experienced substantial growth under the leadership of Dr. J. McDowell Richards, who was elected president in 1932 and led the seminary for almost four decades. Following Dr. Richards' retirement in 1971, Dr. C. Benton Kline served five years as Columbia's president. In January 1976, Dr. J. Davison Philips assumed the presidency; he retired eleven years later. Dr. Douglas W. Oldenburg became the seminary's seventh president in January 1987. In August 2000, Dr. Laura S. Mendenhall began her service as Columbia's eighth president.She served nine years and was succeeded on July 1, 2009, by Dr. Stephen A. Hayner, who had been a member of the faculty since 2003.