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LCA Collection 169. Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary. Collection of the Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary, 1920-1975: Overview

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Collection Description

Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary.  Collection of the Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary, 1920-1975.  LCA Collection 169.  2 Records Center Cartons and 1 Hollinger box.

The Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary collection contains constitutions, evaluations, financial reports, publications, rules, correspondence, building and property materials, Board of Directors minutes, handouts, and correspondence, institute and seminar information, programs and awards.  The Seminary was officially started in 1920, though this collection includes some materials that pre-date its official beginnings.  Northwest Seminary began in Chicago, Illinois; then moved to Fargo, North Dakota; then to South Minneapolis, Minnesota; then to North Minneapolis, Minnesota; and finally to St. Paul, Minnesota, where it merged with Luther Seminary in 1976.

Organization Note

The Chicago Lutheran Divinity School opened in Chicago on 14 October 1920 as an “ad interim” school.  This occurred after the Synod of the Northwest of the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA) ran into administrative problems with the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary in Maywood, Illinois.  The seminary had been relied upon to provide ministers for the Church.  During a June 1921 Synod meeting it was resolved to create a new Seminary run by the Synod of the Northwest, and to cut ties with the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary.1

Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary opened in Fargo, North Dakota on 6 October 1921.  In June 1922 the Synod resolved to move the Seminary to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where it was believed the Seminary could reach more members of the church.  Subsequently, the school opened in North Minneapolis on 5 October 1922.  Northwestern Seminary moved to a new location in South Minneapolis in 1940, where it stayed until 1967.  1

Many different Lutheran synods ran seminaries of their own throughout the United States.  When several synods joined together to form the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) in 1962, they began discussing the possibility of merging existing seminaries, especially when multiple schools existed in a given city.  In 1967 Northwestern Seminary began sharing a physical location with Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  After the 1962 merger, Northwestern Seminary came under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota and Red River Valley synods.2

The two seminaries functionally unified in 1976 by creating a single administration.  On 1 July 1982 they established a single seminary named Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was created by merging three national Lutheran bodies on 1 January 1988.  The ELCA became the new governing body for the seminary.  On 1 July 1994 the name was truncated to Luther Seminary.2

1The Story of the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest, 1891-1941 by Paul Hoerlein Roth.

2 Luther Seminary Wikipedia page, 8 April 2013, (

Scope and Content

This collection is divided into six series: Administration; Board of Directors; Convocations, Institutes, and Seminars; Student Body; Merger; and Miscellaneous.

Administration, 1886-1973 includes studies, constitutions, catalogs, financial reports, histories, publications, correspondence, and materials regarding buildings and property.  This series contains two sub-series.

Correspondence, 1927-1972 consists of correspondence to and from the seminary, mostly with mission and higher education boards of the United Lutheran Church in America, and the Lutheran Church in America.

Buildings, Property, and Insurance, 1886-1970 contains titles, insurance policies and correspondence, and House and Property Committee materials.

Board of Directors, 1957-1975 holds minutes, handouts, correspondence, committee materials, and reports to and/or from the Seminary’s Board of Directors.

Convocations, Institutes, and Seminars, 1953-1971 has materials related to different events attended by students and faculty of the Seminary.

Student Body, 1911-1962 is composed of materials related to the Seminary students, such as publications, minutes, correspondence, constitutions, and financial materials.

Merger, 1959-1964 consists of correspondence, committee matierals, and studies regarding the merging of Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary and Luther Theological Seminary.

Miscellaneous, 1929-1971 contains photographs, programs, awards, certificates, a guestbook, and a research paper comparing Lutheran seminaries.

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