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Columbia Adopts New Vision Statement

In March 2022 the Board of Trustees adopted a new vision statement for Columbia Theological Seminary. This was the culmination of a process started in the spring of 2021 when the seminary received a grant from Lily Endowment, Inc. and the Board of Trustees commissioned a Vision Steering Committee: a small group of trustees, faculty, and staff.

The steering committee engaged in a process of deep listening with the community that included listening sessions with faculty, students, staff, alumni, and trustees. With that input the steering committee was able to craft our new vision which we have already begun to embody and to determine how we can live into it.


A Prayer for Vision in Columbia’s Bicentennial Season

…these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7)

On the doorstep of its third century, in a landscape of global crisis and amidst sweeping change for the church and its educational institutions, Columbia Theological Seminary proposes a vision for its future. In service to Jesus Christ, Columbia’s mission is “to educate and nurture faithful, imaginative, and effective leaders for the sake of the Church and the world.” For many generations this is what we have endeavored to do. We now desire to live out that mission inspired by the Spirit’s urging and our community’s renewed commitment to become a place of welcome, hospitality, justice, and belonging: “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). We seek to honor foundations laid by our forebears, address wounds of the past, and act with courage to promote the flourishing of all, leaving a legacy for generations that will follow us.

Columbia’s Presbyterian heritage offers gifts to us in this moment. One is an affirmation that God invites us, each day, again and again, into deeper gratitude and repentance, humility and hope: we are Reformed, and always being re-formed for life together in more just and compassionate community shaped by the word of God in Scripture. We believe God is already doing a new thing among us for the sake of the Church and the world; we yearn to join in that holy work. We offer this vision as a statement of our collective intention and a prayer for moral courage to follow where the Spirit is leading.

We pray that Columbia’s students will be educated, equipped, and nurtured to become a new generation of pastoral leaders for the Church and the world.

A distinction of Columbia graduates will be that their leadership is pastoral in character. Pastoral leadership, regardless of setting, demands theological formation that the seminary is uniquely suited to provide. In particular, Columbia graduates will be marked by their:

Since its founding, Columbia’s students have gone forth to serve local congregations as pastors and teachers, and they have also led the way in redefining the frontiers of ministry. Each generation of Columbia students has reminded us that the church of Jesus Christ is not constrained by institutional or denominational borders, but exists wherever the gospel is proclaimed and the children of God are sheltered and nurtured in spiritual fellowship. Columbia will continue to prioritize the formation of pastoral leaders for congregations in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and other denominations. Likewise, Columbia graduates will be equipped to step into pastoral leadership across the broad spectrum of ministry, in congregations, chaplaincy, counseling, non-profit organizations, and elsewhere. Whether in our degree programs or our Center for Lifelong Learning, our faculty and staff will also partner with students in their vocational discernment, offering our best resources with academic integrity and excellence. We pray to provide spaces for students to engage in learning that joins mind and heart, equipping them to serve as pastoral leaders for new ministries to which they are called.

May our house be a house of prayer for all peoples.

O God, hear our prayer.

We pray that Columbia’s community will embody the welcome, hospitality, justice, and belonging of the reign of God.

Columbia affirms and celebrates that God forms all persons in the divine image and calls leaders to serve in Jesus’ name whose identities emerge and intersect across the dazzling array of human diversity. We claim the promise of Isaiah 56, in which God announces, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.” Moreover, we rejoice that the welcome we extend to one another is grounded in the welcome God extends to each of us in Christ, growing outward to bear fruit in the flourishing of all.

We affirm this promise, not lightly or naively, but confessing and repenting of the Seminary’s historical entanglement with the sins of slavery, racism, and white supremacy. We recognize that we are inheritors of theological traditions both rich and complicated, in which powerful witness to the radical love and justice of God is also mingled with painful histories of control and oppression, especially for women, BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) persons, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) siblings, and all others on the margins. We celebrate that Christ’s welcome draws us into conversation with unexpected partners across theological perspectives, transforming conflict to build beloved community. 

As Christ is able to hold space for all, we commit ourselves to the challenging work of becoming a more faithful, equitable, and just community. We pray that all may desire and experience new possibilities of relationship and belonging, healing and trust at Columbia. 

May our house be a house of prayer for all peoples.

O God, hear our prayer.

We pray that Columbia’s partnerships will bring vibrant spiritual, cultural, and academic exchange, with opportunities to generate new ideas and knowledge, create connection, and engage in experiential learning.

Institutions thrive within a network of partnerships and connections, just as individuals flourish within meaningful personal relationships. Columbia’s commitment to institutional connections grounds the seminary in systems of mutual learning, support, and accountability, all of which benefit our students. We pray for renewed commitment to three main arenas of partnership:

Regional Partnerships: Columbia’s location in the Metro-Atlanta area offers abundant gifts to the seminary and our students. Likewise, the seminary’s campus and community have abundant gifts to share with our immediate neighbors. We pray to strengthen relationships with other seminaries and universities in the region, with Atlanta congregations, non-profits, hospitals, and other ministries that afford our students practical ministry experience, opportunities for discovery, and vocational discernment. We celebrate local congregations that welcome our faculty, staff, and students into worship, community, and service. Crucially, as an educational institution in Atlanta, a city steeped in the complicated legacies of both Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, we commit ourselves to engaging the hard truths of our personal and institutional histories in this setting, and to supporting our students’ growth toward becoming leaders of anti-racist communities and organizations. 

Global Partnerships: Columbia’s long tradition of international engagement with students, scholars, and sibling churches across the globe enlivens and renews our seminary with inestimable gifts. We pray to deepen and strengthen these global partnerships. The rich interplay of complex cultural identities and spiritual traditions across boundaries of nationality and language provides fertile soil for the growth of transcultural competencies. Through relationships of mutual learning, our students, faculty, and staff deepen capacities to see their own cultures through the eyes of others. In critically articulating our own intersectional and multi-faceted social locations, identities, and cultural assumptions, we foster an ethos of empathy, openness, and tolerance of ambiguity that makes space for transformation and renewal.

Denominational and Institutional Partnerships: As an institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia participates actively in the life of the denomination through mid-councils and the General Assembly’s Committee on Theological Education. We pray to continue nourishing these denominational roots: like the tree which forms the seminary’s logo, deep roots in a particular tradition may grow into a wide and spreading canopy in which every branch is nourished as it finds its own path toward the light. As a seminary committed to serving the Church of Jesus Christ, we will continue to resource leaders from the PC(USA) and all denominations through our Center for Lifelong Learning, our Library and Archives, and our robust alumni network. 

May our house be a house of prayer for all peoples.

God, hear our prayer.