Columbia Theological Seminary

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Columbia Theological Seminary
Columbia Theological Seminary.JPG
Established1828; 194 years ago (1828)
AffiliationPresbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Endowment$222.2 million (2020)[1]
PresidentRev. Dr. Victor Aloyo
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.


  • 1911–1921 Dr. Thornton Whaling
  • 1921–1925 Dr. John M. Wells
  • 1925–1930 Dr. 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
  • 2015–2022 Dr. Leanne Van Dyk[5]
  • 2022–present Rev. Dr. Victor Aloyo [6]

Notable people[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]

Reverend Dr. Thomas Goulding[edit]

One of the founding presbyterian ministers and the first president of the early Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1830, [10] Thomas Goulding was born in Midway, Liberty county. Ga., March 14, 1786. He was ordained January 1, 1816 and served as its minister for 6 years before resigning his charge, where he helped to build the community that later would become the Seminary and was elected by the synod of Georgia and South Carolina to be its first, and at the time, only professor. Dr. Goulding, by appointment of the General Assembly, opened the first session of the Synod of Georgia, which met in Macon on the 20th of November, 1845, with a sermon from Acts xx: 28, and was elected its first Moderator. [11]


  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. Archived from the original on 2018-11-25. Retrieved 2016-10-07.
  6. ^ "Columbia Theological Seminary Names Eleventh President". Columbia Theological Seminary. Retrieved 2022-08-26.
  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. Archived from the original on 2021-12-13.
  10. ^ "Thomas Goulding Biography". log college press.
  11. ^ Wilson, John S. (1869). Necrology (PDF). Atlanta, Georgia: Franklin Printing House.
  • 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]