Stephen A. Hayner named president of Columbia Theological Seminary

            William E. Scheu, chair of Columbia’s Board of Trustees, said, “God has called a person of integrity, vision, and joy to this office. The trustees are grateful for the search committee’s expansive and diligent process that led them to discern God’s call and recommend Steve to the Board.”

            A leading proponent of the missional church movement, Hayner overviewed that movement in an article published in The Presbyterian Outlook, August 20, 2007:  

Churches that are growing see the primary purpose of the church as joining God’s mission in the world, rather than focusing on what happens in their clubhouses. … In the old way of doing church, what church leaders wanted was for the institution to grow — for more people to do “church work,” for the budget to be balanced — so that they looked successful. But in this new way of being church, leadership is helping everyone to turn their faces toward the world and to join Jesus in a lifestyle of witness, reconciliation, compassion, and justice.”

An ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for more than 36 years, Hayner has served in a wide range of roles, and accumulated a diverse education. He earned an undergraduate degree in English literature from Whitman College, a M.T.S. degree in Semitic languages and literature at Harvard University, a Th.M. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Old Testament from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He served first as “university pastor” at University Church in Seattle for 11 years. After earning the Ph.D., he served as president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational discipleship ministry with students on college campuses. In 2001 he returned to parish ministry as associate pastor in two multi-ethnic congregations in Madison, Wisc. In 2003, he joined the Columbia faculty.

            He serves on the boards of directors for World Vision, the International Justice Mission, Christian International Scholarship Foundation, and the Presbyterian Global Fellowship. He has been scholar-in-residence for Peachtree Church in Atlanta, where wife, Sharol, serves as associate pastor for discipleship.

             Hayner knows that his broad range of schools and organizational affiliations will raise some eyebrows. “I’m always leery about getting labeled. When I was appointed as president of InterVarsity, the word on the street was, ‘What has I-V done, putting a mainline Presbyterian in charge?’” he told the OUTLOOK today.

             Hayner does have a long track record of doing justice ministry and promoting evangelism. “That’s just because that’s what I think the kingdom of God is all about – following where Jesus has gone, and doing what Jesus is doing.”

            “I received good advice many years ago from Bruce Larson. ‘Be careful about what labels you give yourself. You’ll spend the rest of your life defending them.’”  So, he says, “The only label I like to use for myself is, ‘follower of Jesus.’”         

            “Steve’s dedication to theological inquiry and alertness to the shifting landscapes of higher education and the global church will serve Columbia Theological Seminary very well in the years ahead,” said Christine Yoder, search committee member and associate professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.

            “Steve is a bridge-builder, said Rodger Nishioka, search committee member and Benton Family Associate Professor of Christian Education at Columbia.  He added, “Through his varied life experiences, he bridges the natural tensions between the classroom and the congregation, the rich history and practices of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the innovation and creativity of parachurch organizations, Columbia Seminary’s historic roots in the American South and the dynamism of the global Church, as well as the ongoing struggles between those who claim a more evangelical and conservative theology and those who claim a more liberal and progressive one.

            “Through his remarkable and authentic humility, a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ, and a love of Christ’s Church,” Nishioka continued, “Steve calls everyone to participate in building the reign of God for the glory of God.  I look forward to serving on the faculty under his bridge-building leadership.”

            Steve Montgomery, a trustee who also served on the search committee, said, “Steve Hayner has vitally important parish, academic, and administrative experience, but what strikes me most emphatically is the way he combines a strong personal faith with a passionate concern for the role of the global church in social outreach and justice. I think he will be a magnet for a wider and more diverse student body than Columbia has ever known.”

            Master of Divinity student Jamison Collier, a search committee member and trustee, emphasized Hayner’s commitment to students. “Steve is a connected and accessible teacher. Students appreciate that he not only relates well in person but is also a sophisticated user of technology and the many ways people communicate today.”

            Hayner reflects, “Students have been a consistent theme throughout my life, and I look forward to serving them in new ways in yet another role. I am committed to Christ, to Christ’s church, and to Columbia’s mission as we help students to discern and to engage in vocations of service.”

            He adds, “I love what’s going on in this faculty.  We are so united not only in our focus on preparing men and women for leadership in the church but also to be about the biggest thing – the praise of God’s glory.”

            He added that after the trustees announced his appointment, “the faculty spontaneously surrounded me, laid hands upon me, and prayed.”  Then the staff did the same.

 

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