C. F. W. Walther once said: “After God has graciously restored the precious treasure of pure doctrine to the church through Luther and his faithful followers, we must now either humbly permit this treasure to be transmitted to us through their service or we shall remain eternally deprived of it and fall from one error into another.” (C. F. W. Walther, Editorials from “Lehre und Wehre,” translated by Herbert J. A. Bouman, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1981, pg. 107).
Often called “the American Luther” because he tenaciously held to Martin Luther’s clear and insightful exposition of the Scriptures, Walther was instrumental in forming the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) in 1847. Since his time, many have faithfully followed, while others have not. Walther Theological Seminary (WTS) embraces the theology of C. F. W. Walther, which was the theology of Martin Luther, and is ultimately derived from the Scripture itself.
Established in 2010, WTS continues to preserve what has been handed down and seeks to transmit the treasure to laity and those who desire to be pastors. From the Altenburg debate in 1841 to this very day, we remain on the same page with Walther.
Martin Luther once said in the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope: “In 1 Cor. 3:4-8 Paul places ministers on an equality and teaches that the church is above the ministers. Therefore he does not attribute to Peter superiority or authority over the church or the other ministers. For he says, ‘All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas’ (1 Cor. 33:21-22).” (Theodore G. Tappert, The Book of Concord, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, pg. 321).
Yes, the Gospel treasures earned for us by Christ belong to the church, the priesthood of all believers. “All things are yours!” Luther understood this, and it is with that understanding that we embrace these words about Jesus in the fourth chapter of Ephesians, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” These gifts are those who have been divinely called to the one Gospel ministry as stewards of the Gospel treasures of Christ. This history takes us then to the heart of why WTS is here and its mission. It is all about the Gospel, the good news that Christ has lived a perfect life for us, and he has suffered and died for our sins.
The administration and teaching staff of WTS desires that the Theology of Christ, the apostles, Walther and Luther continues to be taught to future pastors of Evangelical Lutheran churches. One such church that has taken the bold step of making that teaching task a reality is Pilgrim Lutheran Church of Decatur, Il. In 2004, the members of Pilgrim, voted to leave the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod over doctrinal reasons in order to become an independent Lutheran congregation.
A year later, Pilgrim co-founded the United Lutheran Mission Association, a not for profit corporation that directs the resources of existing Lutheran congregations in order to establish new independent Lutheran congregations throughout the United States.
As Pilgrim looked to its own future and the future of the association, it realized the need for training pastors and missionaries. Late in 2009, at the direction of Pilgrim Church Council, legal counsel was sought to determine what would be required in order to properly establish a seminary that would be recognized as credible, and would afford its graduates degrees that would be considered legitimate, and to determine the estimated parameters in terms of time and cost. The resulting legal work, Preliminary Considerations Involved In Establishing a Lutheran Seminary In Illinois, was submitted to Pilgrim Church Council which, after reviewing the document, appointed a Seminary Exploratory Committee to further review the document and do additional research to determine the feasibility of a seminary at Pilgrim. Once Pilgrim’s Council and Elders decided that it was feasible, a number of “Informational Meetings” were held at Pilgrim. At the direction of the Voters of Pilgrim, Walther Theological Seminary was organized as a not for profit corporation in 2010.
On August 7, 2012, the Illinois Board of Higher Education granted to Walther Theological Seminary the Certificate of Approval and Authorization to operate in the Prairie Region of the State of Illinois, and on June 4, 2013 degree granting authority.
While WTS is its own entity, it is “owned and operated” by Pilgrim. It would be impossible for Pilgrim to support the Seminary without the help of the member and mission congregations of the United Lutheran Mission Association. With Pilgrim, those congregations are:
Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, Jackson, Michigan
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Forsyth, Illinois