Ben Campbell Johnson, Professor Emeritus Dies at Age 84

Decatur, GA—Dr. Ben Campbell Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Evangelism at Columbia Theological Seminary and the founding Director of the Spirituality program at The Center for Lifelong Learning passed away Thursday afternoon. A memorial service will be held on Friday, June 17 at 2:00 pm, at Shallowford Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

“May Ben rest in peace in the blessed assurance that he lived his life faithfully serving the Lord he so dearly loved,” said Deborah Flemister Mullen, Executive Vice President and Dean of Faculty in a statement to the seminary community. “Thanks be to God for the life of our brother Ben Johnson!”

Dr. Johnson was born in March of 1932 in Elba, Alabama. He received a B.A. from Asbury College in 1953, a B.D. from Asbury Seminary in 1955, a Th.M. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1957, a D.Min. from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1978, and a Ph.D. from Emory University in 1980.

As an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Dr. Johnson was widely known for his work in church renewal movements and on interfaith relations between diverse faith traditions. He was pastor of United Methodist Churches in Kentucky and Alabama and served in interim roles at Salem Presbyterian Church in Lithonia, GA and North Avenue Presbyterian Church, Atlanta. Dr. Johnson founded and served as the Executive Director of the Institute for Church Renewal (ICR) in Atlanta starting in 1963 which developed a number of programs and resources for congregations aimed to promote growth and vitality. This past year, Dr. Johnson focused on reshaping the role of the Institute for Church Renewal for the 21st century local congregation. His efforts continue through the work of ICR in a supporting relationship with The Presbyterian Foundation.

Beginning in 1981, Dr. Johnson served as the Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Columbia Theological Seminary and in 1995 became the Professor of Spirituality. In 2000, when Dr. Johnson retired from Columbia Theological Seminary, he was named Professor Emeritus by the Board of Trustees. Johnson devoted much of his work to church growth and spiritual formation. He furthered this work by founding the CTS Press, enabling the publishing of many books and articles intended to educate all church leaders. He created the Certificate in Spiritual Formation program at The Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary extending the education of spiritual development to lay and clergy to encourage church growth in a variety of ways.

Dr. Johnson was a prolific writer of more than forty books concentrating on evangelism, prayer and spirituality. His most recent work focused on creating interfaith relationships between different faith traditions. He fostered these relations through Interfaith Community Initiatives, where he served as an advisory board member and program director of the immersion experience. He concentrated particularly on Christian and Muslim relations, publishing Beyond 9/11: Christians and Muslims Together: An Invitation to Conversation (2009).

Columbia Theological Seminary is “Cultivating faithful leaders for God’s changing world.” As an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Columbia Seminary is a community of theological inquiry and formation for ministry in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. Columbia offers six graduate degree programs and dozens of courses and events as a resource for church professionals and lay people through The Center for Lifelong Learning. For more information, please visit