Remembering Al Barry
It was my privilege to serve with Rev. Alvin Barry, during his years in office as the president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Today is the ninth anniversary of his death. Previous to my time of serving with him in Saint Louis, I served as a pastor in the Iowa District East where he was my district president. He was the pastor’s friend. We younger pastors in Iowa affectionately referred to him as “Uncle Al.” So many of us remember fondly receiving from Dr. Barry a hand-written note of encouragement and support, remembering our birthdays, or the anniversaries of our wedding, or birth of our children, or any significant event in the life of our congregation. He liked to use for his notepaper a photocopy of the Te Deum and write in a personal note with it.
During the nearly thirteen years I was privileged to know him and work with him, what I most remember about him him is his deep trust in Christ and love for our Lord and a deep and abiding concern for the people of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod: both pastors, church workers, people and congregations. The other thing I remember most about him was his eternal optimism and his cheery and joyful disposition. Always quick with a smile and a laugh, Dr. Barry was truly a “Barnabas” — son of encouragement. President Barry had a real knack for keeping close to his heart pure doctrine and a passion for outreach. Never once did Dr. Barry ever put forward any kind of “either/or” when it came to these two points, but was always pressing for the blessed both/and that they are. The other day, I ran across a copy of a book from his library, a copy of Walther’s Law and Gospel. In the front, President Barry jotted his summary reaction after reading it, something he liked to do with his books. Here is what Dr. Barry had to say:
My observations based on a reading of this book:
(1) Regarding our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod: We have been moving away from a strong emphasis on doctrine, on knowing that which the Scriptures teach, into a Reformed mode of church growth, based on books our pastors are reading from the local religious bookstore. (Touchy/feely theology).
(2) Repeatedly, Walther emphasizes he importance of a pastor first and foremost having a strong personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If a pastor neglects this or does not have this, he will not be a blessing to his congregation.
(3) Walther’s comments repeatedly reflect a strong personal concern in those students he is teaching and in their own personal faith life in the Lord. Very important. He does not just want to turn out theological “intelligencia,” but pastors who personally knwo and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
(4) The second reason #3 above is so important to him is his pastoral concern for the congregations of Synod that these men will be serving.
(5) The last chapter is an absolute jewel. In it Walther emphasizes the need for a strong/dominant emphasis on the Gospel in one’s preaching and teaching. An excellent capstone to this book.