Visitation will be held from noon-2 p.m. followed by a funeral service at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 27, in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. The service will be live streamed at www.csl.edu/live/.
“President Ralph A. Bohlmann was a gentleman, a learned theologian and a kindly churchman,” said Seminary President Dr. Dale A. Meyer. “His love for Holy Scripture was seen through his pastoral and winsome Lutheran confessionalism, a legacy that abides to this day in our church and seminaries. Concordia Seminary, St. Louis remembers with deepest gratitude his service as our seventh president and the collegiality he always showed to us who are privileged to serve on the faculty. President Bohlmann will be forever remembered and honored as a brother and father in faith who helped lead us to Jesus.”
Bohlmann served as the seventh president of Concordia Seminary, from 1975-81, directly following the confessional crisis regarding the authority of Scripture that resulted in a faculty walkout. At the time of the walkout, Bohlmann was a member of the faculty, and he was one of five professors who remained.
As Seminary president, Bohlmann immediately set about the task of resolving differences, healing wounds and maintaining doctrinal integrity while rebuilding the institution. Under his leadership, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) restored full accreditation to the Seminary, after placing it under probationary status during the crisis. By the end of his tenure, student population had surpassed pre-crisis days.
He authored “A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles,” at the request of then-Synod President Dr. J.A.O. Preus. The statement served as a guide for the Concordia Seminary Board of Regents to evaluate the teaching of the professors prior to the walkout. It eventually was adopted by the LCMS in convention and remains a definitive doctrinal statement of the Synod affirming the Lutheran teaching on the Scriptures.
Bohlmann’s time as president was also marked by significant growth in cultural offerings. In 1977, the World Mission Institute was founded, focusing attention on proclaiming the Gospel to other cultures. In 1979, work began on a pilot program to train Hispanic men and women to become lay workers in the church, with a long-term goal of also preparing Hispanic pastors. That work led to the development of the Center for Hispanic Studies, now integrated fully into the Seminary in St. Louis.
Bohlmann was then elected to the LCMS Office of President in 1981, where he served until 1992. He was the third Concordia Seminary president to be elected president of the LCMS.
Before coming to the Seminary, he served as pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Des Moines, Iowa (1958-60), and assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, Pagedale, Mo. (1961-71). He also taught at Concordia College, Milwaukee, Wis. (1957-58). He served as an assistant professor of systematic theology at Concordia Seminary in 1960. He became a professor in 1974, and was installed as president in 1975.
Bohlmann received his Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Seminary (1956, 1966). He was ordained June 29, 1958, in Des Moines by his father, Rev. Arthur E. Bohlmann. He also held a Ph.D. from Yale University, New Haven, Conn. (1968), and an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. (1982).
He was a member of several distinguished boards. He served on the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations from 1965-81, and was executive secretary from 1971-74. From 1969-81, he served on the ALC-LCMS Commission on Fellowship. He also worked for the Division of Theological Studies of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A.
Also among his written work is Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Lutheran Confessions (Concordia Publishing House).
Preceding him in death was his wife, Pat, who died Sept. 14, 2012. They were married 53 years and were faithful members of Concordia Lutheran Church, Kirkwood, Mo. Mrs. Bohlmann served as a gracious partner in Bohlmann’s ministries, and also participated in her own volunteer and service projects. The couple is survived by two children and two grandchildren.
About Concordia Seminary
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis provides Gospel-centered graduate-level theological education for pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, scholars and other leaders in the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). To learn more, visit www.csl.edu.