On the Glorious Hill

"On the Glorious Hill" is a historical blog with weekly updates through the month of June. With nine different authors contributing, each entry will showcase a different aspect of life here on the Ridge; pieces of a dazzling mosaic that make up the legacy of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. The idea for the blog originated with President Michael Cooper-White, who, in the midst of the transition to United Lutheran Seminary, has been reflecting with "a great cloud of witnesses" on this special place-- the crossroads of history and hope. Please share the link on your social media outlets and help us celebrate the legacy that is LTSG. Thank you!

Celebrating the Legacy of LTSG

Whose Shoes are in the Wall?

Pete Miele of the Seminary Ridge Museum shares a little-known fact about Schmucker Hall aka “Old Dorm” and its connection to a peculiar folkway of European origin.

During the renovation of Schmucker Hall in 2012-2013, construction workers uncovered a treasure trove of objects in the nooks and crannies of the building.  Over 180 years of the building’s use, it can be surmised that many of these objects, such as old newspapers, letters and envelopes, and soda cans, were left here by accident, misplaced by students, faculty, and staff.  However, discovered within the “bones” of the building, among these discarded items, were four shoes that were carefully and purposefully placed in the walls.

The practice of concealing textile items in walls dates to at least 16th Century Europe.  In addition to Europe, examples of concealed items have been discovered in North America and Australia, which shows the far reach of this custom. Discovered garments have included dresses, breeches, and bow-ties. Some are remarkably preserved, others are in fragmentary pieces.  While material culture historians have made various suggestions to explain this practice, they have yet to discover written evidence as to the reasons for placing items in the walls, eaves, and chimneys of buildings.  Some have proposed that garments are seen as “part” of the individual (homeowner, builder, etc.) and this custom allows the individual to leave something of themselves in the structure of the building.  Other historians hypothesize that the building is seen a metaphor for the human body and leaving clothing in the structure is a way of “clothing” the home.  In the way that clothing protects the human body, garments in the walls will protect the home and its inhabitants from supernatural occurrences.

In Schmucker Hall, the four shoes that were discovered roughly correspond with construction projects in the building’s history.  The earliest shoe dates to 1800-1830 and was most likely concealed in the wall during the construction of the building, which took place between 1831 and 1832.  It is quite possible that this shoe belonged to Samuel Simon Schmucker, the first Chairman of the Faculty.  The second oldest is an 1850’s calfskin boot, possibly placed in the wall during the repair of the building following the battle in July 1863.  The next shoe, a leather “Congress Gaiter,” dates to the 1870s-1880s, and roughly corresponds with the conversion of the main building into a dormitory in 1895.  Finally, the “youngest” shoe, a wingtip of black leather, dates to the 1920s-1930s.  While no major renovations were done around that time, the Seminary board minutes from May 1926 indicate that the building “requires incessant repairs,” and it is possible that the shoe was placed during this era. 

So, what does this discovery tell us today about Schmucker Hall, Gettysburg Seminary, and material culture?  First, one can see the far-reaching effects of European traditions and beliefs in this small corner of south-central Pennsylvania.  Schmucker, who possibly condoned the placement of the initial shoe in the wall, was American, but was somehow familiar with this folk custom.  Second, the fact that the “youngest” shoe dates to the early 20th century shows that this tradition was passed down and was still practiced as late as that period.  Finally, this discovery reminds us of the importance of material culture in the study of history.  Through the study of artifacts, material culture historians can tell of the values, ideas, and beliefs of a society at a given time, even of a community or tradition of which little or no written records are extant.

As the walls of the building were closed at the end of the renovation in 2012-2013, members of the Seminary community carried on the tradition by placing their own shoes within in the walls of the building.  Maybe they will be discovered 100 years from now when United Lutheran celebrates its centennial.

Where History and Hope Embrace

Dr. Daryl Black, Director of the Seminary Ridge Museum, offers some insight into the importance of preserving the seminary's connection to the larger national historical narrative through the lives of ordinary folk caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

On July 7th, 1863, while he lay wounded in the Seminary Hospital, Noah Koontz of the 142nd Pennsylvania received a letter from Catharine Shrunk. We don’t know their relationship but we do know that they had been writing each other regularly in the weeks before Koontz was wounded on July 1. Despite their obvious closeness, the young soldier lost the letter he received that hot July day. It fell between the floor boards of the fourth floor of the Seminary and not recovered until 2012 when it was discovered during the renovation project.

While the letter does not give any new clues about the battle and while it was not penned by a noted leader of the United States Army, this letter and its story connects us to the people whose lives were so deeply marked by the events that swirled around the Seminary in the summer of 1863. The march north, the fierce battle, the very specific result of lead striking flesh, the thrill of victory, and the hope for peace comes through in the letter and connects us to the past. Of themselves, stories such as Koontz and Shrunk’s are fascinating and humanizing glimpses into the past. And they are stories that connect the visitors to Seminary Ridge Museum to the very specific place that has been so carefully conserved and gives to the Museum a particular, and powerful authenticity of place and space.

The Museum’s engagement with the Civil War, with the Battle of Gettysburg, and with the stories of the ethical, racial, moral, and spiritual notions that contributed to the cultural foundations of the United States in the mid-19th century, however, is more than a simple encounter with the past. The stories the Museum tells provide powerful opportunities to consider how the nation was made, to explore the complicated notion of making a diverse political state into a unified people, and of the powerful exclusionary force of a historical memory that erased millions of Americans from their central, critical role in the conflict.

Seminary Ridge Museum occupies, as do all museums, a mediating space that exists between the realm of social memory, the influence of “authorized, imposed, celebrated, commemorated history”, and the insight provided by critical, academic history. Through the stories the Museum staff select and interpret, a different narrative emerges that interrogates, revisits, and re-structures narratives that have distorted our understanding of the contradictory, troubling history of the Civil War era and of the long shadow the war has cast over the nation.

Museum historians depend on the techniques and insights of academic history but the narrative they weave jettisons the language of the academy and engages what historians call Micro-History as a way to make the past recognizable and at the same time provide fresh insights into the Civil War era and encourage a consideration of the moral, racial, and ethical dilemmas that faced women and men in the mid-19th century and in their universality, continue to face us today.

The contribution Seminary Ridge Museum makes, then, takes on a cultural role beyond the scope of Civil War history and of the story of Koontz and Shrunk. By exploring over and again the concepts of contingency and the tense relationship between human agency and the limits that culture, environment, and time place on what humans can do, by bringing in narratives that have been traditionally excluded from the “war’s story”, by forthrightly illustrating the religious and racial components of the war’s origins, the Museum – by example and by stories – encourages visitors to take a new view onto their role as citizen, their contribution to structures of power, their own subjectivity, and their responsibility for making futures that aspire to our better spiritual and civil selves. 

The Lost Letter

This month the blog entries will be written by the Seminary Ridge Museum staff. Today’s fascinating entry about a letter that disappeared through a crack in the floor is by Pete Miele, Director of Education and Museum Operations. To learn more about this award-winning institution and plan a visit, click here.

Corporal Noah Koontz was only nineteen years old in 1863.  Hailing from Somerset County, PA, Koontz likely worked on his father’s farm before enlisting in the 142nd Pennsylvania Volunteers on August 1, 1862.  The 142nd had spent time on garrison duty in Washington D.C. and Frederick, MD, and took part in the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

The evening of June 30/July 1 was probably Koontz’s first night on Pennsylvania soil since early September, 1862.  Noah and his comrades had been instructed to draw sixty rounds of ammunition and prepare three days’ rations, a sure sign that a battle was imminent.  As they marched toward McPherson’s Ridge the next morning, they could undoubtedly hear the boom of cannons and the rattle of musketry.  Upon arrival, the regiment took its place in line of battle, south and east of John Herbst’s woodlot where the Iron Brigade had met the initial Confederate onslaught an hour or so before.  Soon, artillery from Robert Rodes’ division on Oak Hill, a mile to the north of where Koontz was standing, began pummeling the Federal line, sending the exposed soldiers diving for cover.

Between 2:30 and 3:00pm, Confederate forces on Herr’s Ridge, west of McPherson Ridge, renewed their attack, driving the Federal soldiers back to the Seminary.  While we are unsure of the exact circumstances of what happened next, Koontz was hit in the left hip and was taken to the Seminary building.  After the Federal defensive line on Seminary Ridge broke around 4:30pm, the Confederate Army took control of the hospital.  Union soldiers inside became prisoners and, by many accounts, spent the next three days without food, water, or medical care.

On July 5, the United States army regained control of the Seminary.  Not long after, Koontz received a letter from Catharine Shrunk, dated July 7.  Catharine may have been the sister of Benjamin Shunk, also in the 142nd PA.  Noah and Catharine had been carrying on some sort of correspondence, as she indicates that she had received a letter from him “a few days ago.”  By the time Catharine wrote Noah on July 7, word of the battle had reached her.  “The reporte is a bout here that General meeds has whipped Gen lee all to fiddle sticks,” she wrote, “and if it be true, I hope the war will soon be ended.”

Catharine’s prophecy would, of course, not hold true.  Noah was sent to Baltimore on July 13th and later returned to his unit.  Rising to the rank of Sergeant, he served until end of the war.  After, he returned home, married, and fathered eleven children.  He died in 1916 and is buried in Johnstown, PA.

The letter, however, along with an envelope addressed to “Mr Noah Koontz, Theological Seminary Hospital,” did not leave the building with him.  In 2012, workers in Schmucker Hall removed the ceiling of the third floor and the letter and envelope dropped to the floor.  The items must have fallen through the floorboards on the fourth floor and remained there for 148 years.  One can only speculate how Noah Koontz must have felt when he realized this piece of warm correspondence was missing.

The letter and envelope are now carefully conserved and exhibited for the public to see.  Noah’s experience in the Seminary building is just one of the 650 personal stories that could be told about the two-and-a-half months the building served as a hospital.  While most people visit museums to see artifacts, Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum gives visitors the unique opportunity to stand inside an artifact and reflect on the individuals involved in this a seminal moment in American History. 

Author’s note: the quotes from Catharine’s letter retained the original spelling and grammar. 

The Seminary on Another Historic Hill (Capitol!)

President Cooper-White shares the backstory of the Washington Consortium and shares some memories of his experience in DC as an aspiring seminarian.

Fifty years ago, the Washingto Theological Consortium (WTC) began its life as a collegium of seminaries committed to foster strong ecumenical relations and to offer students and faculties the rich resources of member schools.  A little-known fact about the creation of the WTC in the mid-sixties, was that to some degree Gettysburg Seminary played the role of “community organizer” in its formation.  In that era Gettysburg and Philadelphia were amidst of one several previous rounds of “merger talk.”  Back then, by contrast to how our consolidation into United Lutheran Seminary has unfolded, the vision was tosell both existing campuses and relocate to a new location.  Among the leading contenders for the home of the “new Lutheran seminary” was our nation’s capitol.  Accordingly, faculty and key administrators had made the rounds engaging in exploratory conversations with their counterparts at all the other denominational seminaries, as well as at Catholic and Howard Universities.  As the process toward merger continued, Gettysburg’s board favored the Washington location, and Philadelphia’s governors determined the new school needed to relocate within its city to property adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania.  Because the Gettysburgians had received such felicitous warm welcomes among the D.C. area schools, our predecessors said in essence, “Let’s still set up operations in Washington, but in modest measure as we keep the main campus at Gettysburg.” 

So we were in on the ground floor at the Consortium’s founding.  Some might argue that in many ways Gettysburg Seminary was primary in building its very foundation.  Thus was born the “Lutheran House of Studies,” which perhaps was at its strongest in the era of my student years from 1972-1976.  In its early years, the physical “House” where unmarried students resided belonged to others.  The Paulist Fathers were amazingly gracious hosts who flung open their doors in Northwest D.C. and embraced in community several dozen LTSG students for more than a decade.  Those of us committed to D.C. area residence who were married found apartments around the capital city or suburbs; but we all gathered weekly for Eucharist and fellowship with our colleagues at the Paulist center.  One of its advantages was a denomination-blind beer tap where the Lutherans and Paulists forged lasting friendships that in some cases continue to this day. 

In the early 1980’s the Seminary’s “House of Studies” lived more fully into the image when a home was purchased near Catholic University.  Offering semester- or year-long residence for LTSG students, the house on Monroe Street also served as a Lutheran gathering place for a couple of decades.  Throughout all those years, a Gettysburg faculty member was deployed full-time to D.C. to shepherd our students and to offer courses throughout the Consortium schools in Lutheran theology, ethics and other disciplines.  Generations of LTSG alumni/ae recall when that role was filled in sequence by the likes of Larry Folkemer, Jacob Heikkinen, Roy Enquist, and Robin Steinke.  Many D.C. area pastors and lay leaders joined these faculty mentors in offering students their wisdom, sharing experiences of urban ministry and their roles as public theologians witnessing to politicians and leaders of many of the world’s great institutions that cluster in and around the nation’s capital.

As a prospective seminarian keenly interested in politics and issues of church and society, I chose Gettysburg in large measure precisely because of the House of Studies.  After fulfilling basic course requirements on campus my first year, I took the majority of courses through the WTC my subsequent years, when I was in residence in suburban D.C.  The range of opportunities was fantastic!  In a course called “The Pastor and Public Affairs,” our mentor was Robert Van Dusen, then head of the Lutheran Council in the USA (LCUSA) Washington Office on Public Affairs and Governmental Relations.  Each week we spent a couple of hours in dialogue with some of the nation’s political movers and shakers—among them Supreme Court justice William Rehnquist, along with senators and representatives, federal judges and other high level civil servants.  What amazing conversations those were!  We also learned how Dr. Van Dusen served as a kind of unofficial chaplain and pastored many of Washington’s famous citizens in his quiet, behind-the-scenes manner.  An example of the latter was his being among the last to visit Senator Hubert Humphrey in his dying hours. 

Other memorable courses taken at the WTC included one in Bonhoeffer’s theology taught by Dr. John Godsey at Wesley Seminary.  Godsey’s book on Bonhoeffer—one of the first by an American theologian--introduced the German martyr’s work to generations of students.  And over at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), several of us Lutherans enrolled in the Episcopal school’s renowned course offered by Prof. Murray Newman, “The Bible and the New York Times.”  We committed ourselves to daily lectionary readings coupled with close perusal of the daily news as reported by the Times.  Then each week a student wrote and presented a paper on some contemporary issue and how biblical perspectives could be brought to bear in ongoing political debates and decisions.  What lively discussions we had in that era of Watergate, Vietnam, and the Cold War!  Building upon work I had done as a volunteer congressional aide for my home congressman (Bob Bergland of Minnesota who later became Secretary of Agriculture under President Carter), a January-term project in 1974 involved preparing a briefing paper on the impeachment process.  Things were moving in that direction as evidence continued to surface that Richard Nixon likely was guilty of crimes in the Watergate cover-up, and the Lutheran Council began receiving inquiries about how an impeachment process would unfold.  This was an incredible opportunity to play a minor role at a historic moment of the 20th century.

As time moved along, and student interests and personal circumstances changed, fewer LTSGers availed themselves of the opportunity for full-time residence in the D.C. area.  When the need for a physical house waned, accordingly, early in my tenure as president a decision was made to sell the Washington real estate and enable any students in need of housing to find their own or take up residence in one of the other WTC schools’ dormitories.  The LTSG faculty, nevertheless, remained firm in its insistence that students take advantage of the incredible array of WTC course and extra-curricular offerings.  To ensure that all would at least “dip a toe in the waters” of Washington’s rich ecumenical and urban environment, we maintained a requirement that every M.Div. student complete at least one residential course in a school of another denomination.  In recent years, preaching courses in the African American tradition offered at the Howard University divinity school have been among the more popular for our students.

Moving forward now into the United Lutheran Seminary, membership in the WTC will continue unabated.  Philadelphia-based faculty and students will henceforth be able to take advantage of the same rich resources in the nation’s capital that have been available to the LTSG learning community for the past half century.  Supplementing all that will continue to be offered on the “glorious hills” in Gettysburg and Philadelphia, a Capitol Hill experience can further enrich and enhance present and future seminarians’ preparation and formation as public theologians.


What's in a Wardrobe?

Pastor Martin Otto Zimmann writes about a little-known historical object on campus that was used by students for over fifty years on the Glorious Hill. 

There are many telltale signs on the campus of our history that are easily overlooked. What appears to be a patched pothole in the middle of the street between Singmaster and Schmucker House that is actually the remains of the Schmucker's well, which despite the best efforts of the National Park Service, continues to make its presence known as a small sinkhole, causing tour busses to pitch and yaw as they make their way southward across the ridge. In the basement of Krauth House there is what looks to be the remains of a hearth, suggesting that perhaps there were servant living quarters or even a kitchen at one time. The basement stairwell in the main edifice of North Hall contains the scrawled names of several children whose parents were students here over the past thirty-five years. There's also a hand-drawn blue cross on a wooden door in the basement which lends some credence to one of the many ghost stories on campus, but this is a history blog, and as such, I will leave that story to the ghost-hunter industry here in the borough. 

The Schmucker Family Bible is arguably the most famous relic from the battle which raged across our campus on the afternoon of July 1st. Author Steve Longenecker writes in "Gettysburg Religion: Refinement, Diversity, and Race in the Antebellum and Civil War Border North" that pictures were slashed with bayonets, books scattered, windows smashed, and personal belongings strewn about the property. Schmucker found the Bible on a shelf with the penciled inscription "J.G. Beardon of the Rebel Army. This is the Holy Bible. I picked it up out of the... and placed it back in the bookcase." Now the Bible is in the Wentz Library archive.

During the renovation of Old Dorm prior to the opening of the museum in 2013, a jumble of items had to be
removed from the attic. Many of the pieces ended up in the catalogue of the found objects display. One items in particular now resides in the basement of the library, an innocuous-looking wardrobe, disheveled in appearance, but bearing an amazing piece of seminary history inside one of its doors. In 1917, student Harry Goedeke (who would go ont to be a missionary in India) wrote his name at the top of the door. In subsequent years, until the wardrobe was "decommissioned" in 1951, other students followed suite.

Among the more notable inscriptions is R. Donald Clare, grandson of Lydia Ziegler Clare, daughter of the Seminary Building Steward during the Battle of Gettysburg (see blog entry below). Donald R. Heiges, former President of the seminary from 1962 - 1976 is also listed. The first academic dean of the seminary, Herbert W. Stroup, left his mark as well. 

Here is the list of names in totality:

(1) Harry Goedeke 1916-1917, Baltimore, MD      

(2) Howard F. Bink 1917-1920, Harrisburg, PA      

(3) Roy L. Yund 1920-1920, New Kensington, PA  

(4) Harman F. Miller 1921-22, Baltimore, MD      

(5) Raymond C. Miller 1922-1924, Allentown, PA  

(6) William Van Horn Davies Jr. 1928

(7) L Ralph Tabor 1928-1929, Philadelphia, PA

(8) George W. Hoffman 1929, Somerset PA

(9) C. Lester Lack 1930-1931, Harrisburg, PA

(10)  R. Donald Clare 1930-1931, Baltimore, MD

(11)  Harry M. Young Jr. 1930-1932, Baltimore, MD

(12) John Heller 1931-1932, St. Albans

(13) Donald R. Heiges 1931-1932, Biglerville, PA

(14) Vigo Swensen, 1932-1933

(15)  Edwerth E. Korte 1933-1934, Easting, MD


(16) George K. Gelbach 1933-1934, Hagerstown, MD

(17) Dale L. Kohr  1934, Middletown, PA

(18) James N. Fisher 1934, Warriors Mark, PA

(19) Raymond Wieder, Allentown, PA          

(20) Robert S. Nagle, 1935-1936 Philadelphia, PA  

(21) George S. Whetstone 1941, Waynesboro, PA

(22) H. W. Stroup Jr. 1943, Harrisburg, PA

(23) W. F. Forker, York, PA

(24) D. R. Hoover 1945, Railroad, PA

(25) James E. Morecraft, 1944-1945, Bayonne, NJ

(26) Victor A. Carlson 1946-1947, Pittsburgh, PA

(27) Harry E. Smyser 1947-1949, York, PA

(28) Paul F. Luebbe 1949-1951, Johnstown, PA

(29) David Hodge Schmid 1951

Most people associate wardrobes as a portal to "Narnia," but here on the Glorious Hill, the weathered wardrobe in the basement of Lentz Library is a portal to our mutual past, reminding us once again of the great cloud of witnesses that surround and uplift those who learn here in service to ministry. 

Marks and Seals

Pastor John Spangler offers a succinct and fascinating history of how we at the crossroads of history and hope have represented ourselves throughout the 191 years of LTSG. 

The school that we all know as Gettysburg Seminary emerged in its early days officially as “The Theological Seminary of the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States.”  It was difficult to fit on the property deeds in those early decades, and well-nigh impossible to fit within a compact official seal. 

The early diplomas were large scale in dimension to make the full name possible and was one of the few places one could read the full formal name.  Limits of space required the abbreviation of the name to “THEO. SEM. GENL. SYN. OF EV. LUTH. CHURCH U.S.”  A. R. Wentz’ centennial history by of the seminary (1826) sported the seal as it is illustrated here. Wentz already referred more often to the seminary as “Gettysburg Seminary” in chapter heads and in textual references. This seal, also sporting a motto “Preach the Gospel” arcing over a book figure marked holy Bible, appeared in embossed form on diplomas in the 19th century as well. 

But even before the Gettysburg centennial, the seal got more complicated still. In 1918, the General Synod and the General Council (and the corresponding southern Lutheran body) merged to form the United Lutheran Church in America. These two church northern bodies, by the way, were the sponsoring ecclesiastical bodies of the seminaries in Gettysburg and Philadelphia, respectively. This move also marked the beginning of repeated and concerted efforts to join the two schools, which is another story for another blog entry.

Faced with this change in the name of the churchly sponsor, Gettysburg promptly redesigned the old seal to include “or the United Lutheran Church in America.”   This seal enjoyed a long life for the Seminary, even anchoring the upper right hand corner of the newly inaugurated newsletter until the mid-1960’s when the church changed its name again to the Lutheran Church in America, a merger of ULCA, Augustana, and a Finnish church body. In this era, there was a name formalization as Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg as well, warranting a new, more updated look.  The square format integrated the formalized name, with a sword and a scroll, and emphasized the 1826 year of origin. While losing the proclamation oriented motto, this official seal was sufficiently creative to serve as an early form of logotype for the Seminary, and was adapted for use in marking the Seminary’s sesquicentennial a decade later.  Sword and scroll could be allusions to Revelation, but I suspect that it was an indirect updating of the motto of its predecessor with the gospel oriented Law and the Gospel theological motif. Any readers know more about this design? 

As a seal it was fresh in its style, unusually square in a form that traditionally preferred roundness. This seal remains to the present because it included the school name and avoided the church body affiliation, which would change again in 1988.

As the ELCA was emerging, without a permanent logotype, by the way, the Seminary sought a new logotype to use apart from the duties performed by the official seal.  It was an intricate if elegant mashup of five of the seminary’s main buildings:  Church of the Abiding Presence, Valentine Hall, Old Dorm (Schmucker Hall), Schmucker House, and the Wentz Library. This architectural blending, featuring an overlapping and refined drawing of the buildings, was made for the then dominant world of print marketing. This effort was the first to be designed as a logotype of graphic drawing and typographic name. The typography played up the unique character and location of Gettysburg, preferring Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary to the more formal Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. This complexity of architectural elevations anchored brochures, printed resources, and publications at a time when the seminary was producing more marketing materials than ever. Seminary files record much criticism of the mark.

The emergence of social media platforms pushed the seminary staff over the edge, and so by 2013, Katy Giebenhain created what has become the last logotype of Gettysburg Seminary. The mark included two shapes representing the shape of Seminary Ridge, an abstract figure of part of the campus map, doubled, and tied together with a horizontal slash capturing the “crossroads of history and hope” vision statement that had taken hold at the turn of the 21st century. New typography updated the name to Gettysburg Seminary, the most commonly used name for the school in all its 191 years.   

In 191 years of history, Gettysburg Seminary employed three official seals and three logotypes, with one playing both roles. The seals followed church body changes for a time, and then the logotype changes followed similar schedule. And when United Lutheran Seminary becomes the new name of the new seminary, a new chapter in this history will begin. 


This week, Dr. Mark Oldenburg connects the present ending of a chapter with its beginning. A brick building on Middle Street is where Samuel Simon Schmucker realized the dream of creating a space for Lutheran theological education on the North American continent 191 years ago. What were Schmucker's thoughts as he began his first lecture? We can only speculate.

On May 17, 2017, the last regularly scheduled class of Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary gathered, not in Valentine Hall or the Library Lecture Room, but at 68 West High Street, thanks to the generous invitation of the present owner. It was a homecoming.

When, in 1826, Lutherans were looking for a location for a proposed seminary,
Gettysburg offered the use of this structure, which had been built circa 1813 to house a classical assembly. In the fall of that year classes began there, with students sleeping and eating in the same building. It continued to serve as the home for Gettysburg Seminary until Old Dorm was constructed on the Glorious Hill in 1832. In addition, it housed a prep school, also headed by Samuel Simon Schmucker; the prep school purchased the property in 1829, offering free tuition to the sons of any family which contributed $50. After the Seminary moved on, the prep school transformed itself into what is now Gettysburg College, and moved to its own present home in 1837. The property, however, continued its educational service, serving as home the Gettysburg Female Institute until 1870.

Linwood, as the property became known, then passed into private hands, soon being owned by the Reuning family.  Jane English, the present owner, grew up in the building and moved back to it with her husband David. They have cared for the building and its grounds with imagination and dedication, making sure that its history was documented (including publishing a history of the structure). Among many other gatherings, they hosted the 175th anniversary celebration of Gettysburg Seminary.  It will be wonderful to return to the place where Schmucker first taught his seminary students. “If these walls could talk,” they’d easily pass an oral exam in systematic theology!

We stand on the shoulders of our sisters who came before us

Dr. Kristin Largen shares a timely entry on the life and ministry of the Rev. Beth Platz who recently presided over a legacy eucharist in the Church of the Abiding Presence during Spring Academy week. 

Those of us who attended the festive Eucharist service for the alumni and others gathered for Spring Academy Week, were treated to something really special.  The service was fantastic in every way:  a wonderful liturgy, beautiful music, six bishops in regalia, a great sermon, and one extraordinary presider.  Presiding that Wednesday was one of Gettysburg Seminary’s most noted alumna, the Rev. Elizabeth Platz.  

Pastor Platz is the first woman ordained by a Lutheran church body in North America.  She was ordained into the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) on November 22nd, 1970, one month before the American Lutheran Church (ALC) ordained their first female pastor, Barbara Andrews, in December. While other women had studied at the seminary and received other degrees in music or Christian education, Rev. Platz was the first woman to receive what was then the bachelor of divinity degree, in 1965.  

When the LCA changed its bylaws to allow for the ordination of women, the president of the Maryland Synod, Paul Orso, asked her to be the first.  Amazingly enough, Rev. Platz was ordained into the same call, in the same place where she served her entire career, which lasted over 47 years: the University of Maryland’s Memorial Chapel. When she retired, she was honored with the title “chaplain emerita.” 

As a woman who started seminary two decades after Rev. Platz, I am fortunate to have come of age in a different church.  I had a female pastor as a model, and I had male pastors who supported my calling into professional ministry.  I am aware of how much I owe to pioneers like her—and others—who cut the path I was able to walk.  

And, yet, having served in this church in a variety of roles now, I am all-too aware of how much work still needs to be done in order to realize the vision and the hopes that accompanied Rev. Platz’s ordination.  As a church, we are not where we should be with women’s leadership.  There are still congregations that resist having a woman as their pastor, and there are still individuals who reject the idea of women’s ecclesial leadership.  Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is still hard at work as well; and the naysayers and doubters are no match for Her loving, insistent, persuasive power. 

The door opened by Rev. Platz and others continues to be pushed further as more and more of us walk through.  The whole church has been strengthened and enriched by Rev. Platz, and by the gifts of the thousands of women who came after her, still serving in public ministry. We stand on the shoulders of our sisters who came before us; and we are grateful.  

Gettysburg Seminary on the International Scene

Pastor Stephen R. Herr M.Div. '94, S.T.M, '11 writes about the global influence of LTSG graduates. It is a solemn reminder to current alumni/ae that truly we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Nestled in the farmland and orchards of Adams County and the small borough of Gettysburg, the Lutheran Theological Seminary established connections beyond its humble surroundings with the international community.  On April 1, 1826, the same year as its founding, the board of directors dispatched the Reverend Benjamin Kurtz to Europe to solicit contributions of money and books for the new school.  Carrying credentials from the United States Secretary of State Henry Clay and Pennsylvania Governor John Andrew Schulze, Kurtz travelled in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia.  Kurtz secured $12,000 in pledges with $10,000 of it received before he returned to Seminary Ridge.  Kurtz’s excursion would be the first in establishing a tradition of international intersections.  Throughout the nineteenth century LTSG graduates became missionaries to India, Africa, Asia, and across the globe.  Throughout its history, Gettysburg Seminary graduates and faculty studied and served in global contexts, building partnerships around the world.

Two early twentieth century graduates, Abdel Ross Wentz and Stewart W. Herman, contributed in significant ways to Gettysburg Seminary’s participation on the world stage of Lutheranism.  Born in Black Rock, York County (PA), Abdel Ross Wentz began his theological studies at the seminary in 1904, graduating three years later in 1907.  He would later serve on the faculty and as its president.   Wentz’s involvement with the wider church within the United Lutheran Church in America and professional organizations led to his subsequent appointment to the Executive Committee of the Lutheran World Convention.  Wentz would also contribute to the life and work of the World Council of Churches.  Eventually Wentz would be the principal writer of the Lutheran World Federation’s first constitution and its first vice-president.  Next month the Lutheran World Federation prepares to mark its 70th anniversary with an assembly in Namibia. While the original constitution has been replaced, Wentz’s impact and contributions in the early days of the Lutheran World Federation established a foundation for this future communion of churches to grow and make a difference throughout the world.

Stewart Winfield Herman, Jr., a student of Wentz, would graduate from this institution in 1934 and immediately pursue advanced theological studies in France and Germany.  In 1936, he became the pastor of the American Church in Berlin and for five years witnessed first-hand the propagandistic, violent and anti-Jewish practices of the Nazi government in Germany.  Recruited by the State Department, Herman served on the U.S. Embassy staff from 1939-1941 visiting Canadian, French, and British P.O.W. camps in Germany.  Later in the war Herman would serve in the Office of Strategic Services before leaving to work with the Department of Reconstruction and Intra-Church Aid for the World Council of Churches (1945-1947).  In this role, Herman helped arrange transportation for German church leaders to attend the meeting in Stuttgart culminating in the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt.  As the Lutheran World Federation formed in 1947, Herman was called to serve as its first Director of Refugee Services.  He would spend the next five years working throughout the world to help Displaced Persons (DPs) find a new home.  From 1952-1964 Herman led the Lutheran World Federation’s ministry and work throughout Latin America.   Herman brought this deep commitment to and passion for global Lutheranism to theological education when in 1964 he became the first president of the newly formed Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.

For 191 years, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg connected with the international Lutheran community and the world outside the friendly confines of this historic town.  The seminary and its graduates like Wentz and Herman contributed and helped to shape global Lutheranism.  In turn, the world Lutheran community enriched and challenged this seminary to understand itself as part of a global Lutheran communion liberated by God’s grace.

An Unfortunate Intersection of Church and Systemic Racism in 1925

Dr. Maria Erling highlights a chapter of American history that is unfortunate, but must never be forgotten. The proliferation of the Ku Klux Klan in American culture circa the early 20th Century had much to do with the overtly racist inclinations of President Woodrow Wilson (who held a screening of D.W. Griffith's infamous Birth of a Nation at the White House). Graduates of Gettysburg seminary were not immune to Jim Crow laws, whether they served north or south of the Mason Dixon Line.

Gettysburg Seminary’s graduates Charles E. Liebegott kept a scrapbook that now has been in my office for some months; I occasionally receive tributes like this from families who know quite know what to do with old treasures. This scrapbook is filled with newspaper clippings that record the history of his ministry from the time of his ordination in 1915 to his death in 1939.  Ten of those years of ministry occurred at 7th Street Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

One Sunday, Pastor Liebegott preached a strong patriotic sermon that stirred his 600 hearers to the highest Americanism, and they then viewed an impromptu pageant including the American flag and a lighted cross. The headline the next day read: “Ku Klux Klan at Seventh Street Lutheran Church: Rev. Liebegott had just finished a patriotic sermon when unannounced, the hooded klansmen in an orderly manner, marched up the aisle to the altar, handed the pastor a letter and the creed of the klan, which they requested him to read to the audience – the letter highly lauded the work of Rev. Liebegott.”  

It was a dramatic Sunday morning in the middle of a season of hyper-Americanism, and Lutherans in Pennsylvania took great pains to make sure that they were known as American Lutherans, and not as German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Slovak, Finnish, or Icelandic immigrants. The World War, Communism and new degrees of foreignness had soured Americans on immigrant diversity.  "America First" was the theme of the day. Fear of racial integration was lurking there all along. It was a shameful time for Lutherans in Pennsylvania.

Maybe Klan membership was ostensibly innocent in Pennsylvania in the 1920’s, but the message of the klan has always been exclusivist, not Christian. We remember history to be truthtellers and in order that we do not repeat the horrific mistakes of the past.

The Presidents at Gettysburg

This week, President Michael Cooper-White shares intriguing footnotes on presidents of our nation and presidents of our seminary. Not all 12 LTSG presidents are featured in this piece. Their legacies are well documented in the Seminary library and in Abdel Ross Wentz’s comprehensive history of the Seminary through 1965

The recent closing of the famous Gettysburg Wax Museum included sale of the life-size figures of U.S. presidents and first ladies.  This venue’s closure will not diminish fascination with visits and sojourns by U.S. presidents here in our small Central Pennsylvania borough.  Abraham Lincoln’s visit in November of 1863 was undoubtedly the most famous.  Historians note that on the morning of his famous address, Lincoln took a carriage ride through the Seminary grounds.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt to dedicate the eternal Peace Light atop a ridge a short distance from our campus in 1938. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower loved his farm south of town where he and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev escaped from their aides at nearby Camp David for a private one-on-one in the late 1950’s. “Ike” and Mamie retired here from the White House and spent the rest of their days as involved citizens and regular attendees at our local Presbyterian church. 

John F Kennedy gave a fright to his secret service detail when he visited on an autumn afternoon with Jackie; he insisted on driving a convertible accompanied only by his wife and a licensed battlefield guide.  When challenged by his protectors he retorted, “I’m the president.  I can drive if I darn well please!”  JFK was invited back for Remembrance Day the following year, 1963, but expressed his regret that he had “to go to Dallas to mend fences.”  After his horrific death, Jackie remembered the eternal flame at the Peace Light and requested it be replicated at JFK’s tomb in Arlington Cemetery. 

The most recent presidential visit to Gettysburg was by George W. Bush, who came here to experience the new $100 million Military Park Visitor’s Center in the waning days of his presidency.  Gettysburg College president Janet Riggs and I were there to greet him. A few weeks later, President Bush and his wife hosted us at a small gathering in the White House. 

But the primary focus of this segment of “On the Glorious Hill” is not on U.S. presidents, but rather the dozen of us who have occupied the seminary presidential office these past nineteen decades.  Technically, only eight have borne the title of “president” for prior to its ascription to John Singmaster in the early 20th century, the head of school was simply called “Chairman of the Faculty.”  By the math (twelve into 190), Gettysburg Seminary has experienced presidential tenures far above the average.  A recent study by the Association for Theological Schools reveals that in recent decades a seminary presidency on average has lasted only 5.5 years.  The longest at LTSG, of course, was the first wherein our founder Samuel Simon Schmucker served for 38 years in Seminary leadership.  The shortest would come two presidencies later when Charles Augustus Stork developed serious health conditions which forced his resignation in 1883 after only two years in office (he died shortly thereafter at the age of 45). 

After Stork’s death, the Seminary pleaded with Milton Valentine that he leave the presidency of the College down the hill and return to the Seminary where he had taught a dozen years prior.  His influence as a widely known Lutheran theologian and his effective leadership at the Seminary probably explain why our most significant campus building beyond the chapel is named in his honor: Valentine Hall.

In 1900, the Rev. John Singmaster was called from his parish in Allentown, Pennsylvania to teach at his alma mater.  Being in dire straits financially at the time, however, the board insisted he spend the bulk of his time on the road raising funds.  So successful was Singmaster at this endeavor, that upon Valentine’s retirement in 1903 they promptly named him head of the school.  Three years later a new constitution was adopted, which recognized growing administrative demands and changed the chief executive’s title to President. 

When Gettysburg prepared to welcome thousands of veterans of the Civil War on the 50th anniversary of the great battle in 1913, many in the town would not open their doors to Southerners.  At its regular annual meeting, the Seminary’s board rejected a request to offer hospitality on the Ridge for distinguished veterans and other visitors.  Singmaster’s written plea for a vote of reconsideration by mail received a favorable response.  Today we house in our archives the guest register from that amazing event in which the sons and daughters of some of the great generals from both North and South shared adjoining rooms in Schmucker Hall. 

Later Seminary presidencies were marked by a series of events and influences that would have broad and lasting impact in the church and world.  Abdel Ross Wentz, who served for a decade in the 1940’s, was among the founders and framers of both the Lutheran World Federation and World Council of Churches.  Stories have it that Wentz invited ecclesiastical luminaries from around the world to his residence (in what we now call Schmucker House) and proceeded to trounce them in fiercely competitive croquet games!  We continue that legacy with the annual tournament in late April each year.

In one of the more unique chapters of presidential history, Donald Heiges served as president of both Gettysburg and Philadelphia seminaries from 1964 to the early 1970’s. Talks about an imminent merger were ongoing.  When it became obvious the two schools would continue on separate pathways, Heiges resigned from both, only to be called back by Gettysburg for another five years of service. 

Calling next from within, the Seminary elected its dean, Herman Stuempfle as the 10th president.  While serving in the office, “Herm” began his hymn-writing career, which, continuing in retirement rendered him among the most prolific author of hymn texts in the English language with over 600 to his credit. Many of his hymns can be found in the ELCA’s Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

My predecessor, Darold Beekman’s election as #11 signaled the Seminary’s broadening horizons in that he was called from his post as a bishop out of the former American Lutheran Church tradition in Minnesota.  And I came to the Seminary presidency from a background as a west coast inner city pastor, director of an urban coalition, and service as an executive in synodical and churchwide bishop’s offices.

And now we look to the future.  Within days of this blog entry, the United Lutheran Seminary Board of Trustees will meet and receive a nomination from its search committee for the first president of this “new school of theological education and leadership formation.”  That person will follow in the legacy of the twelve here and an equal number at Philadelphia who have worked in partnership with so many for the flourishing of these schools over the past two centuries.  Whomever she or he may be will have my most fervent support.  And on a final note, I conclude this brief survey of the Gettysburg Seminary presidencies with an expression of profound gratitude for all who have offered me their prayers, support and encouragement over the past seventeen years I have served in this office.  It has been a privilege beyond my deserving, an opportunity surpassing my wildest dreams, and an honor I shall treasure for the rest of my days!


Rabbinical Luther Faces Westward

John Spangler, head of Communications for LTSG, shares the backstory of our beloved Luther statue.

As early as 1934, there was a formal idea to create an appropriate sculpture of Martin Luther, with proceeds from a substantial estate gift (the Charles Cronhardt family) to the seminary’s endowment funds. The first interest of the trust fund was to be used “to purchase and place on its Seminary grounds an appropriate statue of Martin Luther.” In the depressed economy of the 1930’s, however, funds accumulated slowly, and the idea lay fallow until after the chapel was complete in 1942. With $16 thousand in hand, a committee was reactivated and commissioned a statue from celebrated sculptor Hans Schuler of Baltimore. Schuler has works all around Baltimore and in many other public spaces, including the National Gallery.

The often photographed and filmed “Gettysburg Seminary Luther” is a bronze sculpture of the seated Martin Luther.  A seated Luther statue is unique. Most are the more familiar German version of Luther, a replica of the traditional Luther as sculpted by Ernst Rietschel, which depicted Luther as he supposedly looked at the moment of his defiance in Worms refusing to recant his writings (“Here I stand, I can do no other.”). The Gettysburg Luther statue is the only statue of a seated Luther of which we are aware.

The Statue Committee chose to represent Luther in a design in keeping with the educational mission of the theological seminary. Thus, the “Gettysburg Seminary Luther” statue is an original design depicting the great Reformer as “the teacher” in a relaxed, seated position surrounded by books and documents, with the open Bible on his lap. His right hand is raised, which depicts Luther interpreting the Word while his left hand points to a passage of Holy Scripture. If one is so inclined to climb up the pedestal, one would find that his right foot is stamping on a controversial indulgence which triggered the 95 Theses in 1517.

A student tradition is to decorate the statue as one of the professors or staff members on the eve of the annual Luther Colloquy lectures (usually late in October). Luther has also sported football jerseys, Santa Lucia’s crown of candles, a croquet mallet, and a host of beloved faculty (pictured here is an homage to President Michael Cooper-White).

Since 1947, students, faculty and community have been inspired and encouraged in their search for truth as they gaze on this most beautiful monument to Martin Luther. On the north side of the monument the words of Luther encourage us to “…sit at the feet of the prophets and apostles” and as we study the Word we will learn as from John 8:32 “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” There are over 1300 statues in Gettysburg, reminding us of our place in the American historical narrative. Our seated Rabbinical Luther, from his perch on the Glorious Hill, reminds us of our calling to ministry of word, service, and sacrament, and of cherished memories here in this sacred space.

It was a ghastly sight

This week, Alumni/ae Relations Director Martin Otto Zimmann offers a reflection on the life of a young girl whose life was forever changed by the events of the battle of Gettysburg. Her connection to the seminary was not official in any sense of the word, but her story is an integral part of what makes the Glorious Hill a sacred place in our spiritual and national narrative.

When my wife and I returned to Gettysburg in the Summer of 2014, we lived in North Hall. The screened-in porch offered a stunning view of the ridge from the end of the campus. Our daughter, Chelsea, who was eleven at the time, loved the sense of space and the expanse of green grass unfolding from our front door. Seeing her cavort and play on the lawn where previously so many men had suffered provided much food for thought on the irony of this place—especially in regards to the life of a girl named Lydia Catherine Zeigler, who was thirteen-years-old at the time of the battle in 1863.

Zeigler lived in an apartment on the first floor of Old Dorm. Her father, Emanuel, was the steward of the seminary. One can see their kitchen hearth in what is today the gift shop of the Seminary Ridge Museum. At about 10 am on July 1st, she stood on the western edge of the campus and witnessed a portion of the battle until “a bullet flew so near my head that I could hear the whizzing sound it made” and she beat a hasty retreat to the family quarters. Later that day, the Zeigler family would flee the town for the duration of the battle.

When they returned to the ridge on the evening of July 7th, they were shocked to find most of their belongings destroyed or missing, and the building filled with the wounded of both sides. “It was a ghastly sight to see some of the men lying pools of blood on the bare floor…. How often did I receive the dying message of a father or husband to send to his loved ones whom he would never again meet on earth!” One can read this and other recollections in Zeigler’s memoir, “A Gettysburg Girl’s Story of the Great Battle” written circa 1900.

War is a damnable thing. So much more so because a young girl named Lydia, who instead of cavorting and playing on the expanse of the ridge in the summer of 1863, spent her hours in the midst of death and carnage. I am grateful for the memories I have of my daughter’s joie de vivre on display in this sacred space, and also for the bravery and resilience of another daughter whose story is an integral part of the Glorious Hill narrative.

What Could Have Been and What is

Dr. Mark Oldenburg, Professor of the Art of Worship and Dean of the Chapel, muses on the various ideas for the chapel before The Church of the Abiding Presence came to be. For most of us, it is hard to imagine this “Glorious Hill” without the silhouette of the familiar steeple, but things could have been very, very different had President Wentz not proved to be prophetically wise in his guidance of events.

Gettysburg Seminary has always had a chapel. Students gathered for prayer at the first seminary building downtown, and in Old Dorm there was a room set apart for worship. Major events, like commencement, as well as Sunday services, took place at Christ Lutheran Church. And what’s now known as the Aberly Room (Valentine 206) began its life as the chapel as well.

But when Abdel Ross Wentz became president in the 1930s, he agreed with the Board of Directors that the campus needed a larger space dedicated for the worship of the community. Even though they were in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II loomed, they were sure that both financial support and building material could be gathered for such a space. But where would it be located, and what would it look like?

The first thought was that an annex would be attached to Valentine Hall, jutting out from its southeast corner (pointing directly at Richard House), and that it would be built in Gothic style. Thank God that Wentz recognized how the architectural styles would clash, and he put the kibosh on this aesthetically horrendous mashup. The next suggestion was for a structure across the street from Valentine Hall. But the building would not have been seen from town, and Wentz already had his eyes on this site for a library. So, it was decided to locate the chapel on the highest ground on campus, where its steeple could be seen for miles.

But which way should it face? Again, the original plan was to continue the driveway from Springs Avenue which led to Valentine, until it reached Chambersburg Street, and to have the chapel face that new road. That way, it would also have faced the town, like so many of the other buildings already on the Ridge. Wentz sagely told the board how much the new road would cost; but what was a reason for them was an excuse for him. He saw that situating it to the east would require many upward steps to get into the building. More importantly, he wanted to have the building face west, toward the developing progress of the United States, and not toward what he called “the effete East!”

Finally, the building would not try to recreate the European Middle Ages, but adapt the Georgian style of colonial America. These decisions, controversial at the time, have proven wise and formative of the Gettysburg Experience. Other details about this beloved building – its flexibility, its acoustics, its windows connecting the Ridge with Biblical hills – proved wise as well. It may not be true that whatever is, is right; but in this case at least, what came to be is better than what might have been!


A Mutual History Worth Honoring

This week, Dr. Kristin Largen, Dean of the Seminary, describes the historical connection between LTSG and her neighboring institution on the other side of Buford Avenue here in Gettysburg. In the Fall of 2017, Largen will continue here as Co-Dean and Systematic Theology Professor while also serving as Associate Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life Chaplain at Gettysburg College—a new connection for United Lutheran Seminary to an old partner in education!

Gettysburg College and Gettysburg Seminary are little more than a stone’s throw away from one another.  It seems longer by automobile—there is no direct road, but if one is walking, especially with someone like Dr. Maria Erling, who knows all the back-paths, an adventerous pedestrian can get back and forth in ten minutes. 

This physical proximity is no accident, of course, and was designed quite intentionally by Samuel Simon Schmucker, founder of both institutions. As readers of this blog know, Schmucker founded Gettysburg Seminary in 1826 to train young men for the ministry. However, quickly he realized that they needed a more foundational education on which they could base their ministerial studies.  Consequently, in 1832, Schmucker founded Pennsylvania College (which would be named Gettysburg College in 1921). The first building of the new institution was Pennsylvania Hall, which was founded on land that abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens provided. The college moved into that building five years later. Schmucker never served as president of Gettysburg College, however; the first president was Charles Philip Krauth, who served in that office from 1834 to 1850.

After the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Hall also became a Civil War hospital, much like Old Dorm; and students and faculty were among those who went down to the National Cemetery to hear Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address.  It was a Gettysburg College alum, David Wills, who had invited Lincoln to make a speech.  This tradition is still followed every year, as first-year students recreate this walk through town to hear a faculty member or honored guest read the Gettysburg Address and offer some remarks of their own.

Over the course of their long history together, countless students have continued to study at both institutions; and there has been a rich tradition of cooperation in music programs, academic offerings, and worship services.  This is a history that United Lutheran Seminary honors, and looks forward to perpetuating in new ways in the coming years.



Like Branches on a Tree

This week, Rev. Stephen Herr, ’94/’11, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Gettysburg, reflects on the institutions emerging from Gettysburg Seminary. An astute reader might notice the omission of the formation of Gettysburg College. This connection will be featured in next week’s entry by Dr. Kristin Largen.


On July 1st of this year, a new venture in theological education commences with the United Lutheran Seminary. The new seminary will draw on the long and distinguished heritages of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

This new venture is not the first institution to emerge from Gettysburg Seminary. Like branches on a tree, creation of institutions to meet new challenges in theological education and the needs of the church has long been a part of the Gettysburg Seminary story. The same three individuals (Samuel Simon Schmucker, Charles Philip Krauth, and Benjamin Kurtz) assigned by the Maryland and Virginia Synod to organize a theological seminary in 1825 played pivotal roles in the development of two subsequent institutions—new branches.

Kurtz served as the editor of the Lutheran Observer in Baltimore and was a member of the board of directors at Gettysburg Seminary. An ardent advocate for “American Lutheranism” that emphasized revivals and “new measures,” he believed there was a need to train untraditional students for mission work. Kurtz wanted tosupplement Gettysburg Seminary with an institution providingtheological education for married men and unmarried men already established in their professions to take a full course load. Kurtz saw the need for more ministers of the Gospel and wanted to educate men from the working class to help spread the Gospel. In 1858 the Missionary Institute of the Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. 

The same year Kurtz helped found the Susquehanna Female College, initially sharingthe same building as the Missionary Institute. Kurtz’s support for these two institutions embodied his commitment to provideeducation for those underserved by the church and education in the mid-nineteenth century. The Missionary Institute became co-educational in 1873 when its sister school folded and was renamed Susquehanna University in 1895.

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia emerged swiftly on the heels of the formation of the Missionary Institute. Schmucker’s contributions to the formation of the Missionary Institute and later Philadelphia Seminary—whether intended or not—lay in his American Lutheran theological perspective as articulated inthe Definite Synodical Platform (1855) and the critical revision of the Augsburg Confession. 

Charles Philip Krauth opposed Schmucker and his seemingly unorthodox theological view. His son, Charles Porterfield Krauth, became one of the founders of the General Council and a professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1864.  This new institution met the theological education needs of those Lutherans who maintained a more orthodox and conservative perspective towards both the Lutheran Confessions as well as the interplay between the Lutheran Church and American society. 

As the United Lutheran Seminary begins its tenure on this Glorious Hill and in Philadelphia, the school marks yet another development in the formation of new institutions out of the one planted in 1826.


Delightful Communion with the Blessed Saviour

This week, Dr. Maria Erling, Professor of Modern Church History, shares pivotal moments from the life of Ezra Keller.

Gettysburg seminary graduate, Ezra Keller avidly read theology during his discernment in the years 1836-37. His June 22, 1836 diary entry gives us a glimpse of his complex emotional spirituality. “This morning I had delightful communion with the blessed Saviour.” This language is reminiscent of Rev. Jonathan Edwards, whose book, Religious Affections, also touted the “witness of the spirit” that Ezra felt strongly since the time of his conversion. From this reading, Keller learned to cry out to God as a Father. Later that summer, he received an appointment to be an itinerant missionary from the Pennsylvania Synod to points further west. He wrestled with this call while praying in the sacred grove next to Old Dorm. Though he did “somewhat dread the mission,” Keller made plans for his departure. The human Ezra struggled with the spiritual Ezra to come to terms with his vocation.

Before coming to the seminary, Keller’s pastor had encouraged him to study, but Keller never received his father’s blessing. When he first arrived on the Ridge, he was an eighteen-year-old pilgrim in tattered garments, with a few books, and hardly any money. By the time he departed for his mission in the West, this beloved student of theology could quote the psalms from memory. He was equipped for the work of ministry. Gettysburg had provided an earthly paradise in stark contrast to his troubled background and family. The commissioning service brought everyone to tears. At the stagecoach, classmates wept as they watched him leave the "Glorious Hill."

Ezra crossed swollen streams during that initial winter, encountered drunken ferrymen, and tried to preach to hostile settlers. He later visited Alton, Illinois, where the Rev. Elijah Lovejoy ran his printing press.  According to Keller, Lovejoy was “…killed by a mob for denouncing slavery and Catholicism.” It was November 7th, 1837. Ezra Keller did not label Lovejoy as an abolitionist, but a man with a good heart, sound mind, and correct views.

In 1845, under the auspices of the Lutheran church’s English Synod of Ohio, Keller became the first President of Wittenberg University in Springfield, where he taught in the Hamma School of Theology, preparing students for ministry in the English language to Lutheran settlers in the Ohio Valley.

Gettysburg Lutherans did not avoid controversy or stand aloof from other Christians. During Keller’s work in the developing Midwest, thoughts of Gettysburg’s refined Christianity, where he could feel the witness of the Spirit, occupied his mind. He longed for his paradise in Pennsylvania. Keller died in 1848 as the result of typhoid fever. He was thirty-five years old. 

Shall I Sit Still and Do Nothing?

Some say that a committee is the place where good ideas go to die. President Michael Cooper-White highlights a piece of the Wentz history of LTSG, showing where it was proper and fitting that a committee should vote this school into existence by the grace of God.


At the meeting of the Maryland and Virginia Synod at Hagerstown in 1825, a committee was appointed “to report a plan for the immediate organization of a theological seminary.  The committee consisted of S.S. Schmucker of New Market, C.P. Krauth of Martinsburg, and Benjamin Kurtz of Hagerstown.  The plan had been drawn up in advance by Schmucker.  It was presented and adopted the same day the committee was appointed.  It outlined the method of founding and maintaining the proposed seminary.  But specifically significant is the provision that the school must “be patronized by the General Synod and be officially put into operation by that body.”  Two weeks later the full General Synod confirmed the action, decreed the first board would consist of three pastors and two laymen from each synod; it further noted that $10,000 had already been collected.  And the convention of the Synod went on to elect Samuel Simon Schmucker as the Seminary’s first professor; he was promptly then charged to develop a constitution  for the first meeting of the board on March 2, 1826.  Convention action with regard to the planned new seminary concluded by issuing its first fund-raising appeal, authored again by none other than the always-ready-with-a-pen Schmucker.  It concluded, “Ask your own conscience: Shall I sit still and do nothing?  Shall I refuse a small pittance to that God who gave me everything I possess?  No, brethren?  Remember, the Lord loveth a cheerful giver.”

Check out the library blog posting about Black History Month.