Columbia Seminary President Steve Hayner diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

Board adopts flexible contingency framework, names executive VP Deborah Mullen acting president

June 5, 2014

Steve Hayner

Columbia Theological Seminary President Steve Hayner —Columbia Theological Seminary


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:

“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.”

  1. Last night while surfing the internet I was shocked and sadden to learn of the death of Dr. Hayner. Believe it or not I never met the man, but somehow I've felt a keen sense of God's presence as I read about him and listened to his funeral, watch how his children and friends commented about his death. I never met Dr. Hayner personally however back in the year 2003, while surfing the internet to see where my friend and mentor Dr. J. Vernon McGee was trained theologically. I discovered that Dr. McGee founder of Thru The Bible Radio, and former Pastor of The Church of the Open Door, in California who was another beloved Pastor, Bible Teacher-and scholar par excellent, had earned his B.D. degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. I surf the internet, viewed the school, faculty and lo and behold I read about the newly elected President Dr. Hayner. I printed a copy and used portions and shared it with other friends. Dr.Hayner's scholarly background impressed me completely in 2003 and now. Why does God take good men and leave the bad ones? I placed a copy of his bio, or resume in my desk drawer file and there it laid for 11 years, until last night when I sadly learn of his passing. Last night I sat up in my study at home reading everything I could find about Dr. Hayner on the internet. Finally,my wife came to see if I was okay. At 5am in the morning I went to bed, after exhausting my mind, and head reading about Dr. Stephen Allen Hayner. I wish I could have met this dear man. I have been impressed with his brilliant mind, yet his humble spirit. I felt like Dr. Hayner and I were kindred spirits. I will never get a chance to met Dr. Hayner on earth, but one day Dr. McGee and Dr. Hayner and I will all gather in heaven and fall down at the Lord Jesus' feet in praise adoration and worship. Dr. Hayner made an indelible impression on me. We were born one year apart. He is 1948, and I in 1947. He was married to Sherol in 1973, and I married my lovely bride Sydell in 1973. Volumes could be written about Dr. Hayner. How is it possible to have such strong feelings about a man you never met, or never knew. His photo graphic memory, his brilliant mind was something I deeply admired and wish I could have achieved. How is it possible to love a man in the Lord you've never met? Only God knows..only God knows. Dr. Hayner was a Pastor, so was I. I retired from the Pastorate in 2011 after 25 years. I had a bi-vocational career for 23 years as a High School English Teacher. D. L. Moody said once, "...the world has yet to see what God will do with a man who is totally committed to Him.." Stephen Allen Hayner was that MAN. God bless your memory Stephen A. Hayner, may flights of angels take thee to thy rest. Reverend R. L. Addison Retired Pastor Centennial Baptist Church Portsmouth Va

    by Rev. R. L. Addison

    March 3, 2015

  2. Steves story was shared with me by a dear friend of his , and in reading it it has affirmed my encounter with the Holy Spirit as to the life ( thats big "L") "Life" beyond this temporal kingdom we are currently in . That we been made alive in Jesus and made new , and much of the yet to be through storms and tragedy will be a faith not sight journey , so often , this is where we are built up in the core of the prayer life , to where we must trust the greater plans and yet we get glimpses of messages around us as well of the joy and glory God offers through Jesus even during the earthly times. I just wanted to say that in reading a journal entry of Steves it truly kept that fire in me aglow , a blazing , deep at the core, the important root of the eternal flame of faith. Thanks Graham ( who shared his story) and thanks Steve for stepping up and continuing on in the faith despite this set back , where many seem to blame God and question the Lords will in these times, you are showing great connection and faith in trusting His greater plan and the potentials for healing as well revealing how in sickness and tragedy , things that seem tragic to human eyes, the Lord is working all things for His glory, sort of pruning a blossom , weaving relationships out of the bad that tries to entangle His children. You will be in our prayers brother . Way to fight the good fight, and thanks for the inspiration, God is using you, His power is made perfect in our weakness, yes , Amen. Thank you Jesus .

    by Anthony Cupo

    November 27, 2014

  3. I was recently told of Steve's trials when "catching up" with a former classmate. She was so touched by what she has read on this site. We were in the same large class in high school many years ago. I was not a believer until after high school and now it is such a blessing to hear stories of faith from former classmates , even if I didn't know them well at the time. Your family is now in our prayers.

    by Cecelia Anthony Liskey

    November 22, 2014