Luther Seminary throughout the years
In 2019, Luther Seminary marked its 150th anniversary with celebrations including the publication of Professor Mark Granquist’s book “A History of Luther Seminary: 1869–2019” (December 2019, Fortress Press).
Throughout his career, Granquist—the Lloyd and Annelotte Svendsbye Professor of the History of Christianity at Luther Seminary—has written several books on the history of Lutheranism, from Martin Luther and Scandinavian movements of the past two centuries to the development of Lutheran faith and practice in North America until present day. “A History of Luther Seminary” presents fascinating glimpses into the institution’s growth and moments of transformative change, some of which are mentioned below.
The seminary’s 125th anniversary celebration, in 1994, included the publication of school history, “Thanksgiving and Hope.” If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of “Thanksgiving and Hope,” please contact us and we will be happy to send you one. It is a collection of essays chronicling the people, events, and movements in the antecedent schools that have formed Luther Seminary:
- Augsburg Seminary, 1869-1963
- Luther Theological Seminary, 1876-1976
- Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary, 1920-1982
Augsburg Seminary joined Luther Theological Seminary in 1963. Luther Theological Seminary and Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary began merging in 1976, and completed full integration in 1982. The newly merged school was called Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary until 1994, when the name was changed to Luther Seminary.
Initial merger in 1917
Luther Theological Seminary was initially formed through the merger of three institutions in 1917 in conjunction with the merger of three Norwegian Lutheran Churches.
Each of the three churches operated a seminary: the Norwegian Synod operated Luther Seminary, located near Hamline Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota; the Hauge Synod operated Red Wing Seminary in Red Wing, Minnesota; and the United Norwegian Lutheran Church operated the United Church Seminary on a portion of the present site of Luther Seminary in St. Paul. The merged seminaries occupied the site of the United Church Seminary on Como Avenue and Luther Place, and retained the name of the oldest of the three schools, namely, Luther Theological Seminary, which had been founded in 1876.
Luther Theological Seminary and Augsburg Seminary
When Luther Theological Seminary was united with Augsburg Seminary in 1963, Luther, through the process of merger, assumed the earlier founding date of 1869.
Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary traces its origin to the Chicago Lutheran Divinity School, begun in Chicago in 1920 following action taken by the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest, a synod of the United Lutheran Church in America. In 1921, the seminary was moved to Fargo, North Dakota, and the following year to Minneapolis. From 1921 to 1982, its name was Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary. Located in north Minneapolis from 1922 to 1940 and in the former Pillsbury mansion in south Minneapolis for the next 27 years, it moved to the campus of Luther Theological Seminary in 1967.
At the time of the formation of the Lutheran Church in America in 1962, Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary was placed under the jurisdiction of two supporting synods: the Minnesota Synod and the Red River Valley Synod.
Luther and Northwestern
Desiring to make a witness to their common faith, Luther and Northwestern Seminaries functionally unified in 1976, beginning with a single administration. After a period of six years, during which a common curriculum as well as common admission and graduation requirements were developed and cross-registration was encouraged among the student bodies, the governing agencies of the two seminaries set in motion the planning process which culminated in the establishment of a single seminary on July 1, 1982, known as Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary.
As of January 1, 1988, Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary became affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America formed by a merger of three national bodies, The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and the Lutheran Church in America.
The name Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary was changed to Luther Seminary on July 1, 1994.
In the ELCA, theological education is supervised and directed by the Division for Ministry. Luther Seminary is the largest of eight ELCA seminaries in the United States providing theological education to equip people for ministry.