The Westfield House Story
Westfield House is the home of the theological training programme of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE). It is also a centre for theological research for Lutherans from around the world sharing our convictions that the Scriptures are the Word of God, that they are best understood within our confessional framework, and that the church is well served by diligent and serious scholarship.
The House itself was built around the middle of the nineteenth century, as an elegant Victorian home, and retains its historic character, despite having been extended to meet its present function. It was inaugurated as a house of theological studies on 22 February, 1962, when Bishop Bo Giertz of Sweden delivered the inaugural lecture. Westfield House has enjoyed an historical relationship with Fitzwilliam College as an attached house.
The situation of Westfield House is fitting for the first Lutheran studies in England took place in Cambridge. English Reformers such as Robert Barnes, Hugh Latimer, and Thomas Bilney gathered to read and discuss the writings of Martin Luther in the White Horse Inn, not far from the site of Westfield House today.
The programme of theological studies in Cambridge has its roots in the work of the late Dr William Arndt in the 1950s. The formal beginning was brought a step closer by the appointment of Normal Nagel as the first Preceptor in 1958. Currently, the teaching staff includes two full-time tutors, two adjunct instructors, and one to two visiting instructors per semester.
From the earliest days it was clear that Westfield is a resource with a value reaching far beyond the ELCE. In addition to training UK students, Westfield House helps to train students from countries where there is limited access to confessional Lutheran training, or who require a higher qualification in order to teach in their home seminary. It also has a very active study abroad programme, whereby students from Lutheran Colleges, Universities and Seminaries in other countries may spend one or two semesters studying at Westfield House. Westfield is a Tier 4 Sponsor under the UK Visas and Immigration Tier 4 points based system, and thus is able to sponsor students to apply for a short-term study visa or a Tier 4 (general) student visa.
On 25 February 2012, Westfield House celebrated the 50th anniversary of its inauguration as a Lutheran house of theological studies in Cambridge with a thanksgiving service at which Archbishop Janis Vangas of Riga, Latvia preached to the faculty, students, alumni and many guests.
On 25 November 2013, Westfield House was informed that the University of London International Academy had endorsed the recommendation that Westfield House be awarded Affiliate Centre status for the Ceritificate and Diploma of Higher Education in Theology and for the Bachelor of Divinity. An Affiliate Centre is “an independent teaching institution that, in the view of the University of London, demonstrates a sustained commitment to developing and maintaining high standards in respect of the teaching, support and administration of our students”.
Westfield House received Letters Patent granting arms, crest and badge at a presentation ceremony held on 22 April 2014 in the Westfield House library, where Bishop Bo Giertz had delivered the inaugural lecture 52 years before.
History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England
The ELCE began in 1896 when six young bakers from Germany requested a pastor from Concordia Seminary in St Louis, each pledging 20 percent of their income to support him. Their congregations, first in Kentish Town and then also in Tottenham, quickly became bilingual and then fully English-speaking, recognizing the importance of the local language for the mission of the church. From 1954, mission activity began in other parts of Great Britain. The ELCE has congregations in England, Scotland and Wales. Initially, pastors were called from overseas to serve these missions, but increasingly the church looked to its seminary programme at Westfield House in Cambridge to supply its pastors. More about the history of the ELCE can be found in The Story of the Lutheran Church in Britain.
The ELCE is a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a worldwide council of confessional Lutheran churches.