Doctor of Theology
University of Munich

Master of Sacred Theology
Wartburg Theological Seminary

Master of Divinity
Wartburg Theological Seminary

Bachelor of Arts
Michigan State University

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Rev. Dr. Craig L. Nessan

Academic Dean & Professor of Contextual Theology and Ethics
The William D. Streng Professor for the Education and Renewal of the Church

Faculty Biography

Dr. Craig L. Nessan is Academic Dean and Professor of Contextual Theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.  He teaches courses in the areas of contextual theology, pastoral theology, and theological ethics.  He has oversight of the seminary’s internship program.Dr. Nessan has served eleven years as a parish pastor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  He holds degrees from Michigan State University, Wartburg Theological Seminary, and the University of Munich.  His theological interests include ecclesiology, theological ethics, liberation theology, and family systems theory.In addition to other articles, reviews, and books, Dr. Nessan is the author of Shalom Church: The Body of Christ as Ministering Community (2010), Beyond Maintenance to Mission: A Theology of the Congregation (2010, Revised Edition), Liberating Lutheran Theology: Freedom for Justice and Solidarity in a Global Context (2011-with Paul Chung and Ulrich Duchrow), Doing Theology in a Global Context (2009-Editor with Thomas Kothmann),Transforming Leadership: New Vision for a Church in Mission (2008-with Norma Cook Everist), Many Members, Yet One Body: Committed Same-Gender Relationships and the Mission of the Church (2004),Give Us This Day: A Lutheran Proposal for Ending World Hunger (2003), The Air I Breathe is Wartburg Air: The Legacy of William H. Weiblen (2003), andWho Is Christ for Us? (2002-edited with Renate Wind). He is contributing author for the book, The Evangelizing Church: A Lutheran Contribution (2005-edited by Craig Van Gelder and Richard Bliese) and editor of the revised version of William Weiblen’s history of the seminary, Life Together at Wartburg Theological Seminary (2005).

Dr. Nessan has authored a study of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together entitled “Intentionally Christian” which is intended for group study by pastors and deacons. It is available for download and use here in Adobe .pdf format.

Dr. Nessan advocates for the adoption by ELCA Synods of a resolution “Calling for a Social Statement on Child Protection.” The model resolution is available for download and use here in a PDF format. Ethics students at Wartburg Theological Seminary collaborated with Dr. Nessan on the “Rationale for a Social Statement on Child Abuse and Child Protection” published in Currents in Theology and Mission available here.

Dr. Craig L. Nessan has offered the following: Guidance for the Church on the Practice of “Virtual Eucharist” in a Time of Pandemic. He was also a guest on the Digital Worship podcast episode titled “Embodying the Sacraments” hosted by WTS student Clayton Faulkner.

IN 142W             Formation for Discipleship
MN 255W           Being Body of Christ: Theology of the Congregation
HT 260W            American Genocide 1: American Indian History and Theology
HT 261W            American Genocide 2: African American History, Slavery, and Black Theology
HT 267W            Lutheran Ethics: Freedom for the Neighbor

New Book: Wilhelm Loehe and North America: Historical Perspective and Living Legacy. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2020. This book explores Loehe’s historical activity as a pastor, as a supporter of mission in North America, as an organizer (together with Friedrich Bauer) of theological education in North America, and as a founder of deaconess institutions in Neuendettelsau, Germany, that still exist today. The central themes represented by Loehe not only constitute a matrix that has significance for the church and its mission today but also constitute an agenda for the church of the future.

Intentionally Christian: A Study Guide to Bonhoeffer’s Writings for an Underground Seminary. For Educational Use. A study guide prepared for and dedicated to pastors and deacons seeking to ground their lives and leadership deeply in the person and way of Jesus Christ, using examples from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings.

Wittenberg – 1934 Case Study. For Educational Use. This case study explores issues facing those who joined the Confessing Church in resistance to Nazism. Historical, ethical, and theological information is introduced about the German church struggle and the complexity of the issues.

The Integrity of the Body of Christ: Boundary Keeping as Shared Responsibility. With Arden F. Mahlberg. Cascade Books (A division of Wipf and Stock Publishers), 2016. [Note: the link downloads an excerpt of the beginning of the book, through Chapter 1. Used with Permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers:]

“A Well-Formed Stewardship Leader is Grounded in Biblical and Theological Principles”, a chapter in the book, How Much is Enough? A Deeper Look at Stewardship in an Age of Abundance, Catherine Malotky, Editor, Columbia, S.C.: Region 9 of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America/Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary Council on Stewardship Education (2011). [Note: The above link downloads the entire e-book.]

Liberating Lutheran Theology: Freedom for Justice and Solidarity in a Global Context. With Paul S. Chung and Ulrich Duchrow. Minneapolis:  Fortress Press (2011)

Shalom Church: The Body of Christ as Ministering Community. Minneapolis:  Fortress Press (2010)

Beyond Maintenance to Mission: A Theology of the Congregation. Minneapolis:  Fortress Press (2010, Revised Edition)

Transforming Leadership: New Vision for a Church in Mission.  With Norma Cook Everist. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress (2007)

Many Members, Yet One Body: Committed Same-Gender Relationships and the Mission of the Church.  Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress (2004)

Give Us This Day: A Lutheran Proposal for Ending World Hunger.  Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress (2003)

The Air I Breathe Is Wartburg Air:  The Legacy of William H. Weiblen.  Eugene: Wipf and Stock (2003)

Who Is Christ for Us?  (With Renate Wind).  Minneapolis:  Fortress Press (2002)

Wer bist Du, Christus? Ein öekumenisches Lesebuch zur Christologie Dietrich Bonhoeffers(With Renate Wind). Gütersloh:  Chr Kaiser/Gütersloher Verlagshaus (1998)

Orthopraxis or Heresy: The North American Theological Response to Latin American Liberation Theology.  Atlanta:  Scholars Press (1989)

”Liberation Theologies in America,” Oxford Research Encyclopedias:



“Calling a Thing What It Is: Confronting the American Genocide of Indigenous Peoples, Currents in Theology in Mission (2020). 

Universal Priesthood: Keeping the Unfulfilled Promise. Theological Grounding for the Life of Faith Initiative (2017)

“Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory”: New Vistas for the Theology of the Cross”, inDialog, v. 50, n. 1, March 2011 

Mission and Theological Education – Berlin, Athens, and Tranquebar: A North American Perspective (2010) 

“The Authority of Scripture”, paper presented to the Conference of Bishops (ELCA), March 4, 2006 

Reappropriating Luther’s Two Kingdoms, Lutheran Quarterly, Volume XIX, 2005 

Rethinking Pastoral Formation at Wartburg Theological Seminary: Using Graduates’ Experiences in Parish Leadership, (with David Roozen) in Theological Education, Volume 40, Supplement 2005, pp. 1-24. [NOTE: The link brings up the entire 142 page volume as a single PDF, which also includes an introduction by David Roozen and Craig Nessan as guest editors.] 

“Surviving Congregational Leadership: A Theology of Family Systems”, in Word & World, v. XX, n. 4, Fall 2000

Dr. Nessan has extensive knowledge in the following categories and is able to serve as a resource on:

  • Theological Ethics and Contemporary Issues
  • Congregation Leadership and Pastoral Ethics
  • Interfaith Dialogue
  • The Future of Theological Education
  • The Legacy of Wilhelm Loehe and the Mission of the Church