Earlier this spring, Columbia Theological Seminary President Steve Hayner was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor. He is presently pursuing an aggressive chemotherapy treatment plan.

In a communication to the seminary community, Hayner stated, “God has been very good at preparing the way on so many levels. We are confident that God is in charge along the way and that we can deal with each new thing that arises.”

The Board’s Executive Committee, including Hayner, met yesterday and adopted a flexible framework for decision making for the near term, medium term and longer term. The Executive Committee also named Deborah Flemister Mullen, currently the executive vice-president and dean of faculty, as acting president until the board’s next decision point in early August.

In July, Hayner will have further testing to update his prognosis, and the full board will meet again in August to consider alternatives for the medium term.

Board Chair Bill Scheu said, “New information available in July will give us insights on Steve’s condition, which is foremost on our hearts and minds, and in our prayers. This information will help us make decisions about the next several months in the seminary’s life.”

The Board’s framework contemplates points at which the board can consider Hayner’s ability to continue his service and for how long, and will enable it to determine when and if a longer term acting or interim president will be necessary.

At a meeting with Columbia’s staff later in the afternoon, Scheu added, “In the meantime, under Acting President Mullen’s leadership, Columbia will continue to thrive and continue to educate imaginative and resilient leaders for the church’s future.” 

At the same meeting, Mullen addressed the staff saying, “This has been an extraordinary time for the board. We have been communicating on a daily basis in an effort first to support Steve and his wife Sharol, and second to continue our work here at Columbia Seminary.” She further reminded everyone to continue to pray for the Hayners and that updates and space to leave well wishes was available on their CaringBridge website page found at: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/stevehayner.

“We walk by faith, and not by sight,” said Mullen. “Steve and Sharol have both been tremendous examples of how to do that well and remain in God’s joy during a difficult time.”