World Vision & InterVarsity Christian Fellowship leader Steve Hayner dies

by Karen L. Willoughby |

ATLANTA, Georgia (Christian Examiner) – For more than four decades Steve Hayner ministered to young people. He died Jan. 31 from cancer at age 66 and a celebration of his life is to take place Feb. 23 at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

"He lived his final days with the same joy in the Lord that was the hallmark of his life of service," said Amy Parodi of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization that works with children and families in nearly 100 nations.

Hayner, who started in ministry as a youth pastor at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, went on to be president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and later, president of the Presbyterian-affiliated Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, among other roles, before his life was cut short.

In a 1988 article introducing their new president to the InterVarsity community, Hayner said, "I tell God I don't care if I'm ever great. But if I have the privilege of touching people who can be, I'll be a happy man."

InterVarsity is a college campus ministry that "establishes and advances witnessing communities of students and faculty," according to the website of the organization that started in 1938 in the United States as an outgrowth of a movement of British university students in the 1870s.

"Steve brought great gifts to InterVarsity through his pastor's heart, intellectual brilliance, love of students and the university and servant leadership," said Barney Ford, a former InterVarsity executive vice president. "Some of those gifts included personal and relational healing for a great many staff, steady high-quality leadership that created greater trust and focus for the ministry, and a strong and healthy board of trustees."

Hayner's ministry with young people included more than 10 years on the board of directors of World Vision United States and World Vision International.

"Steve's wisdom and skills were highly valued throughout his years of ministry," Parodi said. "An author and professor, Steve also served as a founding member of several Christian boards across the U.S. Among his passions were diversity and global leadership in the church."

In an article for World Vision magazine, Hayner wrote, "Our identity, our meaning in life, our sense of significance, and our self-worth are not to be based on the roles we fill, the power we wield, or the numbers we lead. We play to an audience of one, who loves us, affirms us and uses us."

Hayner, who joined InterVarsity as a student at Whitman College in Washington, earned a Master's degree in Theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, in 1973 before being called to a position as youth pastor at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. Later he earned a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

He leaves behind his wife Sharol, their three children and three grandchildren.

More on his life, the impact of his ministry, and funeral arrangements, can be found at www.ctsnet.edu, Columbia Theological Seminary's website.