Columbia Theological Seminary

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Columbia Theological Seminary
Columbia Theological Seminary.JPG
Established 1828 (1828)
Affiliation Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
President Dr. Stephen A. Hayner
Academic staff
Students 450
Location Decatur, Georgia, United States
33°45′53″N 84°16′51″W / 33.76466°N 84.28080°W / 33.76466; -84.28080Coordinates: 33°45′53″N 84°16′51″W / 33.76466°N 84.28080°W / 33.76466; -84.28080
Campus Urban

Columbia Theological Seminary is one of the ten theological institutions affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is located in Decatur, Georgia. Dr. Stephen A. Hayner is the seminary's president.[1]


Columbia Theological Seminary was founded in 1828 in Lexington, Georgia, by several Presbyterian ministers. In 1830, the seminary was moved to Columbia, South Carolina (taking its name at that location), and in 1927, to its current location in suburban Atlanta.[2] During the American Civil War, the seminary became affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America, renamed the Presbyterian Church in the United States after the war. The school become a battle ground in the debate over the theory of evolution in the PCUS during the 1880s, due to the controversial views of James Woodrow, an uncle of president Woodrow Wilson and seminary science professor, who affirmed evolution, a controversy which led to the school not operating during the 1887-1888 academic year.

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 1920s 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. Columbia was one of the several PCUS seminaries that joined the PC(U.S.A.) following the 1983 PCUS and United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. merger.

Degree programs[edit]



Presidents of Columbia Theological Seminary[edit]

  • 1921-1925 Dr. John M. Wells
  • 1925-1930 President Richard T. Gillespie
  • 1932-1971 Dr. J. McDowell Richards
  • 1971-1976 Dr. C. Benton Kline
  • 1976-1987 Dr. J. Davison Philips
  • 1987-2000 Dr. Douglas Oldenburg
  • 2000-2009 Dr. Laura S. Mendenhall
  • 2009–2014 Dr. Stephen A. Hayner

People associated with the seminary[edit]


  • Barbara Brown Taylor, Adjunct Professor of Christian Spirituality, and well-known Episcopal priest and writer.
  • David L. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus, writer.
  • G. Thompson Brown, (1921-2014), Professor Emeritus, writer, missionary, Director of the Division of International Mission for the Presbyterian Church (US) (1967–1980), founder of Honam Theological Academy (now Honam Theological University and Seminary).
  • William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament, writer.
  • Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Professor Emeritus, theologian and writer.
  • Erskine Clarke, Professor Emeritus, religious historian.
  • Charles Cousar, (1933-2014) Professor Emeritus, New Testament Scholar, author.
  • Justo Gonzalez, adjuct professor with an international reputation for his contributions to Historical theology.
  • Joan Gray, Interim Vice President for Student Services and Dean of Students, former Moderator of the 217th General Assembly.
  • Catherine Gunsalus Gonzalez, Professor Emerita, writer.
  • Charles Colcock Jones, Sr., professor (1835–38, 1847–50), patriarch of the family chronicled in Children of Pride (1972) and Erskine Clarke's Dwelling Place (2005).
  • Ben Campbell Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Evangelism, former Director of Spirituality, writer.
  • Jasper Keith, Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Care and Counseling, clinical chaplain.
  • Sara Myers, Professor Emerita, theological librarian.
  • Kathleen M. O'Connor, Old Testament Professor Emerita, writer.
  • William Swan Plumer, (1802-1880), Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology (1867-1875) and Professor of Pastoral, Casuistic, and Historical Theology (1875-1880).
  • Syngman Rhee (Presbyterian minister), (1931-1915), Distinguished Visiting Professor for Global Leadership Development
  • Marcia Y. Riggs, J. Erskine Love Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of ThM Program, writer.
  • George Stroup, J.B. Green Professor Emeritus of Theology, author.
  • James Henley Thornwell, (1812-1862) professor of theology post-1855; president of South Carolina College, leader in organizing the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States.
  • Ralph Watkins, Peachtree Associate Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth
  • Joseph R. Wilson, father of Woodrow Wilson, faculty member following the Civil War.
  • James Woodrow, first Perkins Professor of Natural Science, uncle of president Woodrow Wilson and controversial professor



  • History of Columbia Theological Seminary by George T. Howe; Presbyterian Publishing House, Columbia, SC; 1884.
  • Columbia Theological Seminary and The Southern Presbyterian Church by William Childs Robinson, AM, ThD, DD; Dennis Lindsey Printing Co., Inc., Decatur, GA; 1931.
  • Colored Light by Louis C. LaMotte, MA, ThM; Presbyterian Committee of Publication, Richmond, VA; 1937.
  • As I Remember It by Dr. J. McDowell Richards; Columbia Theological Seminary Press, Decatur, GA; 1985.
  • Time of Blessing, Time of Hope by J. Davison Philips; Columbia Theological Seminary Press, Decatur, GA; 1994.

External links[edit]