The American Association of Lutheran Churches began the process of establishing a seminary at its First General Convention on October 29, 1988 when it passed a resolution to establish the Lutheran House of Studies.
The Lutheran House of Studies (LHS) was a supervised network of students at various seminaries who seek pastoral ministry in The AALC. The purpose of this oversight was to ensure that these seminarians meet the requirements of The AALC. These requirements included training in the Scriptures, the Lutheran confessions, church history, Lutheran doctrine, Christian service as it applies to pastors and all Christians, and in the policies and procedures of The AALC. This program has produced twenty graduates who are serving The AALC.
At the Second General Convention of The AALC held in June, 1989, Dr. Norman J. Lund was elected Seminary President and given the responsibility both for coordinating the LHS program and for developing a residential seminary program. By the Fourth General Convention in June, 1991, Dr. Lund was elected Seminary President and was given the mandate to begin a residential seminary for The AALC in the Twin Cities (Minnesota) by the fall of 1993. Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church was chosen as the start-up site. Dr. Fred Hall was elected to the Seminary Faculty at the June, 1993 General Convention. The American Lutheran Theological Seminary got under way in the fall with an M.Div. degree program and ten students.
Faculty changes took place in the ensuing years. After Dr. Lund departed, the June, 1997 General Convention elected Dr. Hall seminary President and elected Dr. Harald Schoubye to the Seminary Faculty.
After Dr. Hall’s departure, the 2002 General Convention elected Dr. Schoubye Seminary President and an Assistant to the President was named. In the following year, the Seminary added a Director for Pastoral Formation Programs, a Library Director, and several more adjunct professors.
In January 2003, the Seminary moved to its own building in Minneapolis, providing more space to accommodate growth. In 2004, major steps were taken to accredit the Seminary.
Upon Dr. Schobye's departure in October 2004, the Reverend Franklin Hays was appointed President Pro Tempore, and Dr. Gordon Bynum was appointed Academic Dean.
Rev. Hays was subsequently elected to a full term as Seminary President at the 2005 General Convention of The AALC. The Convention also voted to accept the invitation of Concordia Theological Seminary, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, to relocate ALTS to Fort Wayne. This move allowed an expansion of course offerings to ALTS students.
At the 2007 General Convention of The AALC, Rev. Hays was elected Presiding Pastor of The AALC. Pastor Hays subsequently appointed the Rev. Richard P. Shields to succeed him as Seminary President (pro tempore).
Rev. Shields was elected at the 2008 General Convention of The AALC, and was subsequently reelected in 2012 and 2016. He was charged to explore and establish an online seminary program that would expand the training of pastoral candidates for The AALC. The first online class was taught in 2010 with one student. In late 2015 Dr. Leins and Rev. Shields set the goal to have 50 students enrolled by 2018-2019 school year. Since 2010, 36 students had begun online studies with ALTS. Some have graduated and some have left the program. However, ALTS is currently about half way to the goal of 50 students through ALTS online program.
In the last few years ALTS has received international interest for students to receive an online seminary education. Men from the following countries have contacted the seminary: Uganda, Chana, Norway, Great Britain, and Japan. Rev. Shields continues to explore the potential for such pastoral training.
A third area of exploration involves a lay academy to help pastors provide advanced lay training in several areas. This certificate program would not replace the pastor’s leadership in the congregation but would enhance what the local pastor provides. Currently the goal is to begin offering these courses in 2018.