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Seminary President Emeritus Barth enters rest

Service set for Feb. 21 in Wauwatosa, Wis.

Rev. Dr. Karl Barth, president emeritus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, entered eternal rest in Jesus Sunday, Feb. 16, in Wauwatosa, Wis. He was 95 years old.

Visitation is set for 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at Harder Funeral Home, 18700 W. Capitol Dr., Brookfield, Wis. Visitation also will be held 10-10:45 a.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 10025 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, Wis., followed by a service at 11 a.m.

“Karl Barth served Concordia Seminary at a very critical time,” said Seminary President Dr. Dale A. Meyer. “The walkout that led to Seminex shook The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and cast doubt whether the Seminary could survive. After extraordinary efforts to provide a new faculty and to retain and recruit students, President Barth’s tenure brought the stability and positive prospect for the future that an institution must have. Concordia Seminary thanks our Lord for providing President Barth and we extend our condolences to his family.”

In 1982, Barth was called to be the eighth president and professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary.

During his tenure, Barth visited and spoke to churches and seminaries worldwide. He oversaw and directed the Seminary through its 150th anniversary, and was instrumental in the planning and fundraising for the construction of the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus, which was dedicated in 1992.

After eight years of distinguished service, Barth announced his intention to retire from office June 30, 1990.

“During the past eight years, the Lord has granted many blessings,” Barth wrote in the winter 1989-90 issue of Focus, a Seminary publication.

He wrote with fondness about the time he spent with seminarians and their families.

“Among the most rewarding aspects of my tenure have been the contacts with you, your wives and children,” Barth wrote in the May 1990 issue of Spectrum, the Seminary’s student newsletter. “When you do get out there, determine two things: preach Christ and love His sheep! We have only one message, you know. It is ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’”

Before coming to the Seminary, Barth served as assistant pastor at First English Lutheran Church in New Orleans, La. (1947-50); pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Centralia, Ill. (1950-52); pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in West Allis, Wis. (1956-70); and president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) South Wisconsin District (1970-82).

In 1945, he graduated from Concordia Seminary and was ordained into the pastoral ministry in 1947. He was granted an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Ill., in 1975.

Barth chaired the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (1974-81), and served on the LCMS Board for Mission Services (1982–90) and on the LCMS Board of Directors (1992-2004). He served as director of the Synod’s 150th Anniversary Committee (1994-97), and in 2004 he was awarded Concordia Historical Institute’s Distinguished Service Award.

Barth often contributed to The Lutheran Witness, among other publications.

“Just as it is ‘by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God’ (Heb. 11:3), so it is by faith we accept the fact of our Lord’s victory over death, faith in that inspired Word which brings us to Him,” Barth wrote in the June 2009 issue of the Witness.

Barth was born in Milwaukee Nov. 7, 1924. He was married to Jean L. (nee Kelly) June 8, 1947. Jean preceded him in death June 8, 2015. The couple had five children: Linda, Karl, Laurel, Kurt and Lisa; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the “G. Christian and Louis Barth Student Aid Memorial Fund” at Concordia Seminary, 801 Seminary Place, St. Louis, MO 63105 or online at csl.edu.

Concordia Historical Institute assisted in providing research for this news release.

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 csl.edu.

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