Abdel Ross Wentz
A leading historian, teacher, pastor, administrator, and international world figure, Abdel Ross Wentz (1883-1976) utilized his literary and organizational skills to usher Lutheranism into a world arena. His efforts in authoring a Lutheran World Federation (LWF) constitution and in forming the World Council of Churches (WCC) helped establish a strong Lutheran voice in discussion about international relief, reconstruction efforts, and ecumenical church unity.
Abdel R. Wentz was born on October 8, 1883. After graduating from Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1904, Wentz received a ministerial degree from Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1907.
Wentz began his professional career in 1909 as a professor of general history at Pennsylvania College. In 1916, he transferred to his other alma mater, Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary, to teach church history. In 1940, Wentz became president of the Gettysburg Seminary, a position he held until 1951.
Wentz’s contribution to American and international Lutheranism is tied to his strong scholarship and leadership abilities. As a historian, he authored and edited numerous books and articles key to Lutheran historiography. As a member of the American Bible Revision Committee, he helped prepare the text for the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament. In addition, Wentz served as President of the American Society of Church History from 1931-32 and as curator of the Lutheran Historical Society.
As a pastor in the United Lutheran Church in America, Wentz served on this body’s executive board (1924-32) and on its Board of Foreign Missions (1940-52). In 1944, he was appointed President of the Missions Board. In addition, Wentz served on the National Lutheran Council’s Executive Committee from 1948-54.
As a world figure, Wentz is known best for his leadership in the Lutheran World Convention (LWC), LWF, and the WCC. His involvement in the LWC, an international Lutheran organization designed to coordinate Lutheran relief and reconstruction efforts, dates to its formation in the early 1920s. One of Wentz’s greatest contributions to the LWC was made as chairman of the Committee on Constitution. At the fourth convention in Lund, Sweden, the LWF was created to replace the LWC. Designed as an organization of world Lutheranism with clear purposes and well defined functions, the LWF took Wentz’s constitutional draft as its guiding document. Wentz served as a vice president of this organization from 1947-52. Wentz’s role in the World Council of Churches can also be traced to the organization’s founding.
In 1956, Wentz retired from Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary. After teaching two years at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, he devoted the rest of his life to research and writing. Description:
The Abdel Ross Wentz papers (1921-48) document his involvement in three organizations: LWC, LWF, and the WCC. These records include minutes, reports, agenda, memoranda, correspondence, official documents (such as the LWF constitution), notes, and news releases. The bulk of Wentz’s papers are held by the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The collection is also available on microfilm.