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Mission and History

Luther Seminary adopted its present mission statement in 1995.

Mission Statement

Luther Seminary educates leaders for Christian communities called and sent by the Holy Spirit to witness to salvation through Jesus Christ and to serve in God's world.

The mission statement represents a major marker on the path of our journey. It serves as a primary point of reference for all of the seminary's strategic decisions.

This mission statement is dynamic in character--a living statement that continues to breathe life into the seminary's work.

History of Luther Seminary

A detailed account of the history of Luther Seminary is available in a 1997 publication called "Thanksgiving and Hope", available for free from the Luther Seminary Archives.

Luther Seminary, through a series of mergers covering more than half a century, represents the consolidation into one seminary of what at one time were six separate institutions.

The oldest of the antecedent institutions was Augsburg Theological Seminary, founded in 1869 at Marshall, Wis., as the seminary of the Lutheran Free Church. It remained a separate seminary until 1963 when the Lutheran Free Church merged with the American Lutheran Church and Augsburg Seminary was united with Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

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 Ave. in St. Paul; the Hauge Synod operated Red Wing Seminary in Red Wing, Minn.; 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 Ave. 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, N.D., 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 Jan. 1, 1988, Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary became affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) 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 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (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.

History of Luther Seminary flow chart