Dr. Walter C. Dissen, former member of the Board of Regents of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSL), and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (CTSFW), died on Aug. 2. He was 91.
Dissen was born in Garrison, N.D., on Nov. 20, 1931, to the Rev. Victor and Lydia (Baese) Dissen. His great-grandfather, Carl Johan Roemer, came to America with C. F. W. Walther, first president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and played a key role in the early days of the Synod.
Dissen was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He served as a member of the military police stationed at Killeen Base near West Fort Hood, Texas, where he worked for top brass on classified matters. After completing his military service, he earned a Bachelor of Arts at Kent State University, Ohio, in 1958, then earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Akron Law School, Ohio, in 1962. On May 19, 2023, he was awarded the Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, by CTSFW. Dissen spent most of his career in the railroad business, serving nearly four decades as legal counsel for the Nickel Plate Road, the Norfolk and Western Railway, and finally, the Norfolk Southern Corporation.
A lifelong bachelor, Dissen continued his family’s legacy of service to the church. He became widely known for his dedication to the cause of confessional Lutheranism and his support of the Synod’s seminaries. He served in many congregational leadership positions and as a member of the Board of Regents of both seminaries: CSL (1971–1983; 2013–2019) and CTSFW (1995–2007).
Dissen’s first period of service at CSL included the years surrounding the 1974 Walkout. A press release from CTSFW describes this service as “critical” as Dissen “stoutly defended the infallible truth of God’s Word against higher criticism and other false teachings.” In recognition of this contribution, Dissen was awarded the Christus Vivit Award by CSL in 1984 and the Miles Christi Award by CTSFW in 2011.
Dissen served on the LCMS Commission on Appeals from 1983 to 1995. Between 1962 and 2023, he attended all but three Synod conventions. He was a founding member of the Concordia Theological Foundation, created to support the students of CTSFW, and of the Lutheran Concerns Association, which publishes The Lutheran Clarion.
The Rev. Dr. Paul A. Philp, director of Institutional Research and Integrity for the Concordia University System, said, “Walter faithfully served on the boards of regents at both Concordia Seminary and Concordia Theological Seminary. He was a fearless and steadfast voice during the dark days of the Seminex era. During those days, he firmly fought in the efforts to return the LCMS to the sacred Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions. He continued to do the same to the very end. He was a great man to know and will be missed. See you at the Feast, Walt. Christ is risen!”
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison said, “Walt was one of a kind. He clearly recognized that in the struggle over the authority of the divine Word of Scripture, the very Gospel of Christ was at stake.
“I often think of what led to the theological drift at our seminaries and universities in the years prior to the Walkout at CSL. Walt’s constant witness was profound for me. The teachings of Scripture must not merely be tolerated among us but unapologetically asserted. Wherever that is not occurring, change must take place for the sake of the eternal life of people now and in posterity.
“I’m honored to have known Walt, and I thank God for those, like him, who fight to preserve the clear Lutheran confession of the unerring Scriptures, which teach us who Christ is and what He actually said and did for our salvation.”
Dissen was preceded in death by his parents; two stillborn sisters; and two brothers, William and James. He is survived by his siblings, the Rev. David (Judy) Dissen, Eunice Dissen, Martin (Patricia) von Dissen, and Fred (Margo) Dissen; his brother William’s widow, Marilyn Dissen; and many cousins, nieces and nephews.
A funeral service will be held in Kramer Chapel on the CTSFW campus, 6600 N. Clinton St., Fort Wayne, on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 11 a.m. Eastern, with visitation beginning at 9:30 a.m. A livestream of the service will be available at ctsfw.edu/daily-chapel.
A luncheon will follow the service (RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org or 260-452-2284). Burial will follow at Concordia Gardens Cemetery, 5300 Lake Ave, Fort Wayne, at 2:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to CTSFW.
Posted Aug. 21, 2023