About the author:
Dr. Robert H. Fischer was professor of church history at Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary (Maywood) and LSTC from 1949 to 1986.
In his last years he spent considerable time on the “LSTC History Project.” He left detailed research notes on LSTC’s history through 1991. He wrote this brief history as LSTC observed its 40th anniversary in 2002.
He died in 2004.
by Robert Fischer
"Future generations may regard it as extraordinarily providential — in view of the present national and international events — that this school was readied ... at this particular time." So wrote President Stewart Herman in his first annual report to the Board after The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago opened on its new Chicago campus in 1967.
When four American Lutheran bodies, of four ethnic backgrounds, started the merger negotiations which formed the Lutheran Church in America in 1962, it was apparent that the pattern of theological education in the new church would change considerably. The shaping of LSTC required time, patient effort, and vision.
Three church bodies were predominantly Midwestern: the large Augustana Lutheran Church (of Swedish background), the small Suomi Synod (Finnish) and the small American Evangelical Lutheran Church (Danish). Each maintained one theological seminary: at Rock Island, Illinois, Hancock, Michigan and Des Moines, Iowa respectively. Much larger than its three partners, the USA-and-Canada-spanning United Lutheran Church (of predominantly German background) had ten regionally controlled seminaries, four of them in the American Midwest.
In the new church, control of seminaries was to remain chiefly regional. The LCA would assign four synods to control and support LSTC: Illinois, Wisconsin—Upper Michigan, Indiana—Kentucky, and Michigan.
The Boards of the Chicago (Maywood) and Augustana Seminaries took the initiative in 1958, forming an Inter-Seminary Committee to plan the future of the schools. Suomi Seminary was already in the process of moving to Maywood (1958), and Grand View followed suit in 1960. The Inter-Seminary Committee reached the decision in 1961 to merge the four seminaries in the Chicago area. LSTC became a corporate reality in September, 1962. Rock Island and Maywood continued until 1967 to operate as two campuses of the new school.
By vote of the LCA Convention a fifth school, the small Central Seminary at Fremont, Nebraska, was merged into LSTC in 1967. Now the enlarged seminary would be controlled and supported by nine LCA synods, reaching from Michigan to Texas and Kentucky to Colorado.
A new seminary was to arise in the Chicago area. But where? A majority opinion emerged favoring location next to the University of Chicago. It was1963 before church authorities ratified the choice. influencing the decision was the trenchant report of consultants headed by Charles L. Taylor, Executive Director of the American Association of Theological Schools:
It behooves us to know the world in which we live, to speak a language intelligible to it, and to profit by the studies which may reveal to us the depths and complexities of man's plight. ... The universities ... are representative of the total secular order, into which we believe the theological students should he plunged long before the time after graduation when they will encounter, often traumatically. the realities of modern life to which they should earlier have been exposed.
Proximity to a university also means close involvement in the life of the city. . We live in a culture which, whether we like it or not, is increasingly urban-dominated.
The consultants preferred a University of Chicago setting for several academic reasons. Land next to Northwestern University in Evanston, in any case, was unavailable. The University of Chicago, however, was eager to attract LSTC to Hyde Park, and aided the seminary in locating property that could be purchased.
After three years of painstaking effort, LSTC acquired land for the new seminary, including student housing — approximately six acres, within easy walking distance to the University. The firm of Perkins and Will designed an impressive academic building "not to shut the world out, but to let it in, and to give the seminary easy access to the world."
The cornerstone was laid April 24, 1966; the building was dedicated October 22, 1967.
Many persons - board members, administration and staff, faculty and students, university and civic officials, church leaders — deserve honor for their work in bringing the new seminary to completion. Heading the enterprise was the first President of LSTC. Stewart W. Herman, Jr., elected in 1963, was inaugurated May 3, 1964. He was an executive experienced in international church affairs. Franklin K. Zimmerman, appointed Business Manager in 1964, then Assistant to the President in 1966, played a major role in the acquisition of property, construction of the new building, and guidance of the seminary through its first financial campaign. L. Dale Lund, President of Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kan., was elected Dean of the Faculty in 1965 to oversee preparation of the comprehensive new academic program and integration of the enlarged faculty.
Written into the LSTC Constitution was an expansive concept of theological education. The school was mandated not only to prepare men for the Gospel ministry, but also to provide programs of training for missionary service, Christian education and parish work, instruction in theology for laymen and in-service training of pastors, and graduate study in theology. Already operative were the Augustana-pioneered requirement of an internship year for seminarians, Maywood's program of graduate theological studies, and the School of Missions which the ULCA Board of World Missions had established at Maywood in 1957. A creative new division of Continuing Education was about to be launched.
October 1, 1967, LSTC opened on its new Hyde Park campus. Its faculty numbered 30. Enrollment was 243 B.D students (including 45 interns), 32 in the Graduate School. 14 in the School of Missions: a total of 289.
LSTC had made a total investment of over $8.5 million in land and buildings, equipment and moving costs. Despite a successful financial campaign, it had a debt of $2 million — a dismaying burden. But how much greater would have been the cost of what LSTC now has, if the enterprise had been delayed another decade?
June 5, 2002