The roots of Wartburg Seminary go back to the missionary efforts of Wilhelm Loehe in Neuendettelsau, Bavaria. Pastors sent out from Neuendettelsau founded an educational institution in Saginaw, Michigan in 1852. The following year the school moved to Dubuque, and in 1854, seminary education began. Three years later, adverse economic conditions forced a move to St. Sebald in Clayton County, Iowa, where the name Wartburg was chosen. In 1875 expansion necessitated a move to Mendota, Illinois, where the seminary remained until 1889, when it returned to Dubuque.
Wartburg Theological Seminary trains men and women for leadership service in rostered ministries in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and for leadership in partner churches around the world. Wartburg has merged with two other seminaries, Luther Seminary (Phelan Park) in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Trinity Seminary of Blair, Nebraska. Among its educational goals, Wartburg includes giving the finest theological education possible, confronting contemporary issues, providing leadership in Christian unity and contributing toward continuing education of both clergy and laity. The mission-focused curriculum prepares students to think theologically about context and contextually about theology. Wartburg offers Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Theology, Development, and Evangelism and Master of Sacred Theology degrees.
Wartburg's Hispanic Ministry Program, founded in Austin, Texas, in 1974, became the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest at the advent of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and is now jointly sponsored by Wartburg Seminary and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Wartburg has cooperated in theological education since 1962 with the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. The two schools cooperate in the Center for Theology and Land to strengthen the ministry of rural churches.
Wartburg's Center for Youth Ministries was established in 1994 and is a program that emphasizes outreach and practical congregational leadership. It features Youth Leaders' Certification Schools to develop leaders for youth ministry in congregations.
In early 1997, Wartburg established the Center for Global Theologies, a third specialization of this seminary. The Center for Global Theologies serves to focus the seminary's commitments to the global mission of the church and to infuse those commitments into the programs and policies of Wartburg Theological Seminary.
Students, faculty and staff at Wartburg work together as a covenant community in order that personal and spiritual, cultural and social needs of all may be met. The architectural style of the institution is patterned after the historic Wartburg Castle in Germany.
A statue of Martin Luther, the Great Reformer, occupies a prominent location on the campus. The present campus of some 37 acres is situated on a high ridge in southwest Dubuque, commanding a view in all directions of the rugged hill country surrounding the city.