From the Worldwide Faith News archives

William Weiblen, Former President of Lutheran Seminary, Dies

Date Tue, 20 Apr 2004 14:51:00 -0500


April 20, 2004

William Weiblen, Former President of Lutheran Seminary, Dies

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. William H. Weiblen, a pastor of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and former
president of Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, died
April 19 in Dubuque.  He was 85.  Wartburg is one of eight
seminaries of the ELCA.
     "In perhaps a most appropriate sense of Lutheran irony, Dr.
Weiblen was an unusually effective force of basic Christian
humility and love of neighbor," said the Rev. Duane Larson,
president, Wartburg Theological Seminary.  "This has evoked in
return the highest regard for Bill."
     "These qualities made of his leadership in the church and at
Wartburg Theological Seminary, even through challenging times, a
style and vigor of missional pastoral identity that innumerable
colleagues and students aspire still to emulate," Larson said.
"His vision will guide us for many years to come."
     Born March 2, 1919, in Miller, S.D., Weiblen was a graduate
of Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, and Wartburg Theological
Seminary.  He earned a master's degree from Harvard University,
Cambridge, Mass., and a doctorate from Friedrich-Alexander
University, Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.  Wartburg College is one
of the 28 colleges and universities of the ELCA.
     Ordained in 1943, Weiblen served as pastor of Trinity
Lutheran Church, Bryan, Ohio.  He was a chaplain in the U.S. Air
Force from 1950 to 1953, including one year of service in Korea.
He was pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Waverly, until
Wartburg seminary called him in 1958 as an assistant professor of
systematic theology.
     In 1971 Weiblen was elected the seminary's 10th president.
During the 21 years since his retirement in 1983, he has
continued to serve the seminary as president and professor of
systematic theology emeritus.
     As president of Wartburg Theological Seminary, Weiblen gave
the seminary a global focus.  As a result, Lutheran churches
especially throughout the African continent are led by a number
of Wartburg-trained pastors, bishops and lay-workers.  Wartburg
seminary also became the organizational center for the Namibian
Concerns Network, which worked integrally for the independence of
     Weiblen represented the American Lutheran Church in its
Lutheran-Reformed Dialogue and the Lutheran Council U.S.A. in its
Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue.  He piloted an ecumenical theological
education consortium in Dubuque that included common curriculum
and faculty collaboration with the Roman Catholic Aquinas School
of Theology, the Presbyterian University of Dubuque Theological
Seminary, the Department of Religion at the University of Iowa,
and Wartburg.
     In 1970 the American Lutheran Church began ordaining women,
and Wartburg was quick to welcome women into the seminary's
master of divinity program as students and faculty under
Weiblen's leadership.
     During Weiblen's presidency Wartburg established two
extension sites for theological study -- the Denver House of
Studies and the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest,
Austin, Texas.	The Denver program closed with the formation of
the ELCA in 1988; the Austin program is sponsored jointly by
Wartburg and the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.
     A history of Wartburg seminary and Weiblen's life and
ministry are the subjects of "The Air I Breathe is Wartburg Air:
The Legacy of William H. Weiblen," a book edited by the Rev.
Craig L. Nessan, academic dean and associate professor of
contextual theology, Wartburg Theological Seminary.  Nessan said
the book "offers the memories of a man whose life links the
generations at Wartburg seminary in a unique way."
     Weiblen is survived by Ilah, his wife of 61 years, son
William, Boston, daughters Carolyn, Detroit, and Faith, Plano,
Texas, a sister, two brothers and several grandchildren.  A
funeral service is planned for 2:30 p.m., April 21, at the
seminary, followed by interment at St. John Cemetery and a
reception at the seminary.
-- -- --
     The home page of Wartburg Theological Seminary is at on the Web.

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