Columbia Theological Seminary

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Columbia Theological Seminary
Columbia Theological Seminary.JPG
Established1828; 193 years ago (1828)
AffiliationPresbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Endowment$222.2 million (2020)[1]
PresidentLeanne Van Dyk
Academic staff
Location, ,
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

Columbia Theological Seminary is a Presbyterian seminary in Decatur, Georgia. It is one of ten theological institutions affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA).[2]


Columbia Theological Seminary was founded in 1828 in Lexington, Georgia, by several Presbyterian ministers.[3] 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.[4] 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 became 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 aligned with evolution, a controversy which led to the school not operating during the 1887-1888 academic year.

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. It upholds its historic covenants with the Synods of Living Waters and South Atlantic.

Notable People associated with the seminary[edit]

Presidents of Columbia Theological Seminary[edit]

Faculty Emeriti[6][edit]

Current faculty[6][edit]

Past Faculty 1925-Present (Decatur, GA Campus)[edit]

Past Faculty 1828-1925 (Columbia, SC Campus)[edit]

  • 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).
  • William Swan Plumer, (1802-1880), Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology (1867-1875) and Professor of Pastoral, Casuistic, and Historical Theology (1875-1880).
  • 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.
  • 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
  • John L. Girardeau, Professor of systematic theology.

Alumni 1925-Present (Decatur, GA Campus)[edit]

Alumni 1828-1925 (Columbia, SC Campus)[edit]

Frederick Buechner[edit]

Columbia’s affiliation with the acclaimed American theologian and writer, Frederick Buechner, is centered on the Presbyterian values shared between school and author. In the interest of promoting these shared values, the Seminary has regularly distributed copies of Buechner’s works among its students. Columbia Theological Seminary also awards student prizes for Excellence in Preaching and Excellence in Writing named in honor of the author.[7] Winners of the prize are selected by faculty in recognition of their significant achievements in these areas.[8] Additionally, Buechner enjoys a long-lasting friendship with Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Professor Emeritus at the Seminary. Both men were contemporaries at Union Theological Seminary.[9]


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2020. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  2. ^ "Your Presbyterian Theological Seminaries at a Glance - Theological Education - Presbyterian Mission Agency".
  3. ^ Krakow, Kenneth K. (1975). Georgia Place-Names: Their History and Origins (PDF). Macon, GA: Winship Press. p. 49. ISBN 0-915430-00-2.
  4. ^ "Columbia Theological Seminary - Graduate Theology Programs - Atlanta, GA". Columbia Theological Seminary.
  5. ^ "Dr. Leanne Van Dyk Named Tenth President". Columbia Theological Seminary.
  6. ^ a b "Staff & Faculty Directory - Columbia Theological Seminary - Atlanta, GA".
  7. ^ "Graduates Celebrate At 2019 Commencement For Columbia Seminary". Columbia Theological Seminary. May 21, 2019.
  8. ^ "Graduates Celebrate At 2019 Commencement For Columbia Seminary". Columbia Theological Seminary. May 21, 2019.
  9. ^ "Walter Brueggemann interviews Frederick Buechner". YouTube. January 28, 2008.
  • 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]