From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod President A.L. Barry dies

Date 24 Mar 2001 10:16:37

LCMSNews -- No. 28
March 24, 2001

Synod President A.L. Barry
dies in Orlando hospital

The Rev. Dr. A.L. Barry, who had served since 1992 as president of The
Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, died at at 10:15 p.m. March 23 in an
Orlando, Fla., hospital.

Barry was the church body's 11th president and the first to die in office.
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod is the second-largest Lutheran and the
eighth-largest Christian denomination in North America, with 2.6 million
baptized members in 6,121 congregations.

While on vacation, Barry, 69, had entered the Orlando Regional Medical
Center Feb. 25 for treatment of pneumonia.  During his hospitalization, he
contracted an antibiotic-resistant staph infection that required specialized
treatment.  His condition worsened March 20, when he experienced kidney
dysfunction.  He died in the hospital, with family members at his side, of
complications arising from kidney and liver failure.

Upon Barry's death, the Missouri Synod's First Vice President, the Rev. Dr.
Robert T. Kuhn, became president.  Kuhn will serve as president until a new
president is installed in September.  The new president will be elected at
the Synod's 61st Regular Convention, July 14-20 in St. Louis.

Kuhn, 63, announced last May his intention to retire after his present term
expires this summer.  He is not expected to stand for election to either

"Alvin Barry was more than my colleague -- he was my friend," Kuhn said.
"We have known each other for more than 15 years and worked closely for the
past six.  He was always ready to listen and available to help.  The church
will move forward without him, but he will be missed very much."

Dr. Donald K. Muchow, chairman of the Missouri Synod's Board of Directors,
said he and his fellow Board members "are saddened by the death of Dr.
Barry.  Not only did Dr. Barry so helpfully bring his experience and
devotional offerings to the Board, he always sought to keep the telling of
the Good News about Jesus foremost on our agenda.

"Our brother and leader who so faithfully gave himself to our Lutheran
Church--Missouri Synod in such a medley of ministries," Muchow continued,
"we release to the arms of our loving Lord.  Our prayers continue for his
family, friends and all the people of the Synod in this time of sorrow."

Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America said Barry's goal "was to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ."

"Despite his many administrative responsibilities, he never lost his
pastoral heart," Anderson said.  "I extend my sympathy to his family and to
his colleagues."

Rev. Karl R. Gurgel, president of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod,
said, "We are saddened to learn of Dr. Barry's passing.  He is now in the
Lord's gracious hands.

"Dr. Barry," he continued, "has been appreciated as a contender for
historic, confessional Lutheranism.  His voice, raising Christian concerns,
will be missed."

Barry, who succeeded Dr. Ralph A. Bohlmann as Synod president in 1992, was
re-elected twice -- in 1995 and 1998.  In October 1999, he had told Synod
executives that, if he were re-elected to a fourth term, he would be willing
to serve.

Barry was sidelined for several weeks in August and September 1995 when he
was diagnosed and treated for a form of leukemia.  He returned to work part
time in late September and resumed working full time in February 1996, when
he received a clean bill of health.

Barry enjoyed a high profile during his nearly nine-year tenure as Missouri
Synod president, often releasing to the media statements relating the
Synod's position on societal trends and the activities of other church

In recent months, he had commented publicly on the Vatican's "Dominus Iesus"
declaration, rejecting its claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the only
true Christian Church, and had written to the National Institutes of Health
urging the organization to withdraw its draft guidelines for funding
research on stem cells obtained from human embryos.

More recently, he had issued statements on human cloning, reality-based TV
shows, the popular "Left Behind" books and movie, and the FDA's approval of
the so called "abortion pill" RU-486.

Barry's office also produced a number of resource materials, including 29
"What About" pamphlets that address religious and societal topics from a
Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod perspective.  The four newest pamphlets,
available in April, discuss going to church, lodges, gambling and suicide.

Barry reportedly was delighted when delegates to the 1995 Synod convention
adopted a resolution urging all Synod members to put his "five-fold vision
statement" into practice.  That statement encourages LCMS members to "be in
the Word," care for one another, "tell the Good News," remain faithful to
the Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions, and live in peace and unity.

Barry also cared deeply about relations with other confessional Lutheran
church bodies around the world, particularly those that had lived under the
yoke of communism for many years.  Under his leadership, the Synod in 1998
declared church fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in
Russia, and expects this summer to enter into church fellowship with the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania.

But Barry may be most remembered for "Tell the Good News About Jesus," a
bold, 13-year evangelism emphasis that he introduced.  The emphasis, adopted
by the church body in 1998, urges Missouri Synod Lutherans to become more
active in witnessing their faith one-on-one to others.

"It's a challenge to our congregations, districts -- yes, our Synod," Barry
told 1998 convention delegates, "to grab hold of this ... emphasis and, with
one unified voice, say, 'As we move into the final years of this present
century, and the opening years of the next, we are going, with great zeal --
with great zeal -- to reach out to those around us who do not know Jesus
Christ and the Good News of His salvation.'"

Prior to his election as Synod president, Barry had served 10 years as
president of the Iowa District East, one of the church body's 35 districts.

Barry was born Aug. 4, 1931, in Woodbine, Iowa.  He attended Bethany
Lutheran College in Mankato, Minn., and Concordia Theological Seminary, then
located in Springfield, Ill.  He was ordained in 1956 after finishing his
pastoral training through the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Seminary in
Thiensville, Wis.  In 1960, he requested a transfer of pastoral membership
to The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.

Barry held a master of theology degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul,
Minn.   In 1986 he was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree by
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Barry is survived by three children -- Kristin (Mrs. Richard) Becker of
Merritt Island, Fla.; Beth (Mrs. Kenneth) Miko of Cleveland; and Keith Barry
of Cranston, R.I. -- and two grandchildren.

Funeral and burial arrangements are pending and will be announced as they
become available.  Barry and his late wife, Jean, were members of St. Paul's
Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.  Jean died Oct. 15, 1996, after a long
struggle with cancer.


Photos of Dr. Barry, Dr. Kuhn (his successor) and The Lutheran
Church--Missouri Synod logo cross are available for downloading at these web

* A.L. Barry --

* Robert T. Kuhn --

* Logo --


Additional information on the Rev. Dr. Robert T. Kuhn:

The Rev. Dr. Robert T. Kuhn, 63, of Ballwin, Mo., was elected to serve as
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod's first vice president at the church
body's 1995 triennial convention in St. Louis.

Before that, Kuhn served for 10 years as president of the denomination's
Central Illinois District.

Following graduation from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1963, Kuhn
served for seven years as pastor of both St. John Lutheran Church, Bath,
Ill., and Salem Lutheran Church, Chandlerville, Ill.  In 1970, he accepted a
call to serve as pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, Geneseo, Ill., where
he remained until 1977.

Called in 1977 to serve as assistant director of development at Concordia
College, River Forest, Ill., Kuhn worked in that capacity until 1979, when
he once again became a parish pastor, this time at Zion Lutheran Church,
Pleasant Plains, Ill.   He served that congregation until becoming Central
Illinois District president in 1985.

Kuhn and his wife, Judith, a registered nurse, have three grown children.

LCMSNews is published by the News and Information Division, Board for
Communication Services, of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. 

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