Educating imaginative, resilient leaders for God's changing world.

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.


Mission Emphases

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.