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Columbia Theological Seminary is a Presbyterian seminary in Decatur, Georgia. It is one of ten theological institutions affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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. 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
Presidents of Columbia Theological Seminary
- David L. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus, writer.
- Walter Brueggemann, Old Testament Professor Emeritus, theologian and writer.
- Erskine Clarke, Professor Emeritus, religious historian.
- Catherine Gunsalus Gonzalez, Professor Emerita, writer.
- Sara Myers, Professor Emerita, theological librarian.
- Kathleen M. O'Connor, Old Testament Professor Emerita, writer.
- George Stroup, J.B. Green Professor Emeritus of Theology, author.
- Brian Wren, Conant Professor of Worship
- John Azumah, Professor of World Christianity and Islam; Director of International Programs
- William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament, writer
- Kathy Dawson, Associate Professor of Christian Education; Director of MAPT Program.
- Mark Douglas (Ethicist), Professor of Christian Ethics; Director of M.Div. Program.
- Anna Carter Florence, Peter Marshall Associate Professor of Preaching
- Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning
- Elizabeth Johnson (New Testament Scholar), J. Davison Philips Professor of New Testament
- Martha L. Moore-Keish, J.B. Green Professor of Theology
- Raj Nadella, Samuel A. Cartledge Associate Professor of New Testament
- Marcia Y. Riggs, J. Erskine Love Professor of Christian Ethics, writer
- Love L. Sechrest, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs
- Jeffery Tribble, Associate Professor of Ministry
- Haruko Nawata Ward, Professor of Church History
- Ralph Watkins, Peachtree Associate Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth
- Christine Roy Yoder, J. McDowell Richards Professor of Biblical Interpretation
- William Yoo, Assistant Professor of American Religious and Cultural History, Director of ThM Program
Past Faculty 1925-Present (Decatur, GA Campus)
- Barbara Brown Taylor, Adjunct Professor of Christian Spirituality, and well-known Episcopal priest and 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).
- Pamela Cooper-White, Ben G and Nancye Clapp Gautier Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care and Counseling. writer.
- Charles Cousar, (1933-2014) Professor Emeritus, New Testament scholar, author.
- Justo Gonzalez, adjunct professor with an international reputation for his contributions to Historical theology.
- Shirley Guthrie, J.B. Green Professor of Systematic Theology.
- Joan Gray, Interim Vice President for Student Services and Dean of Students, former Moderator of the 217th General Assembly.
- Ben Campbell Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Evangelism, former Director of Spirituality, writer.
- Kimberly Bracken Long, Associate Professor of Worship
- Deborah Flemister Mullen, Dean of Faculty/Executive Vice President, Associate Professor of American Christianity and Black Church Studies
- Rodger Nishioka, Benton Family Associate Professor of Christian Education
- Syngman Rhee (Presbyterian minister), (1931-2015), Distinguished Visiting Professor for Global Leadership Development
- Ronald Wallace, (1911–2006), Professor of Biblical Theology and brother-in-law of Thomas F. Torrance, J. B. Torrance, and David W. Torrance
Past Faculty 1828-1925 (Columbia, SC Campus)
- 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)
- C. Hassell Bullock, B.D. 1964.
- Charles Cousar, B.D. 1958.
- D. James Kennedy, graduate.
- John C. Knapp, graduate, author, speaker, college president.
- John H. Leith, graduate.
- Peter Marshall, 1931 graduate, twice Chaplain of the United States Senate.
- Ben Mathes, graduate, Missionary, founder of Rivers of the World.
- J. Vernon McGee, graduate (1933), founder of Thru The Bible Radio Network.
- Ian Punnett, graduate, radio talk show host.
- James M. Robinson, 1946 graduate, New Testament scholar, son of William Childs Robinson (1897-1982), who taught church history and apologetics at Columbia Theological Seminary.
Alumni 1828-1925 (Columbia, SC Campus)
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. Winners of the prize are selected by faculty in recognition of their significant achievements in these areas. 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.