Above: The Logo of The United Lutheran Church in America
Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor
FRANKLIN CLARK FRY (AUGUST 30, 1900-JUNE 6, 1968)
President of The United Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church in America
Franklin Clark Fry comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via my interest in U.S. Lutheran history. The main source of information for this post is The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962 (1997), by E. Theodore Bachmann with Mercia Brenne Bachmann and edited by Paul Rorem, with supplementary information coming from The Lutherans in North America (second edition, 1980), edited by E. Clifford Nelson, as well as some websites, for information such as that one finds in an obituary.
Above: A Partial Fry Family Tree
Chart and Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor
Franklin Clark Fry (1900-1968) came from a family of Lutherans and a line of Lutheran ministers. His grandfather, Jacob Fry (1834-1920), was a Lutheran minister who graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1853 and taught homiletics (preaching) at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (hereafter LTS Mt. Airy) from 1891 to 1920. He wrote Elementary Homiletics, or, Rules and Principles in the Preparation and Preaching of Sermons (first edition, 1897; second edition, 1901) and The History of Trinity Church, Reading, PA., 1751-1894 (1894), of which he had been pastor since 1865. (His previous pastorate, from 1854 to 1865, had been the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.)
Franklin Foster Fry (1864-1933), our saint’s father, was prominent in the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918) then The United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962), hereafter ULCA. He graduated from Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, then LTS Mt. Airy. He married Minnie Clark (1868-1961), a widow. Franklin Foster Fry, ordained in 1888, served briefly in Reading and Easton, Pennsylvania before transferring to Grace Lutheran Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he was pastor from 1890 to 1901. Next he served as pastor of the Church of the Reformation, Rochester, New York, from 1901 to 1927. Franklin Foster Fry, who had helped to form the ULCA, served on the Executive Board for a time and as the Executive Secretary of the Board of American Missions (hereafter BAM) from 1926 to 1933. (ULCA had inherited five domestic missions agencies, which it merged in 1925 and 1926.) He also served on the board for LTS Mt. Airy in the 1920s. He died of a heart attack on December 13, 1933.
Franklin Clark Fry entered the world at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on August 30, 1900. He grew up in a loving family in which he learned duty and self-discipline. Our saint, educated in Rochester schools, grew up a physically uncoordinated bookworm. He attended Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, from 1917 to 1921, serving as captain of the debate team and graduating with his bachelor’s degree. He continued his education at the American School of Classical Studies, Athens, Greece, in 1921 and 122 then at LTS Mt. Airy from 1922 to 1925. Our saint’s time in seminary seemed to have been relatively unpleasant for him, for he noticed deficiencies in the curriculum and certain professors. He was, however, an excellent student.
Franklin Clark Fry commenced his ministerial career in 1925. The first pastorate (1925-1929) was Redeemer Lutheran Church, Yonkers, New York. Our saint, ordained on June 10, 1925, fell in love with and married Hilda Adriana Drewes (1903-1976), whom he wedded on May 17, 1927. They had three children:
- Franklin Drewes Fry (March 13, 1928-November 5, 2006), a prominent Lutheran minister;
- Robert Charles Fry (October 11, 1930-September 15, 2004), an attorney; and
- Constance Hilda Fry (February 21, 1935-1987), who died as Constance Preis.
The primary pastorate during the career of our saint was Holy Trinity Church, Akron, Ohio, where he was the senior pastor from 1929 to 1944. For 15 years his predecessor, Emor W. Simon (died in 1949), who had served there for 26 years, sat in a red plush chair in front of the pulpit. Fry, being an organized man, brought efficiency to the pastoral visitation program by dividing the parish into districts and assigning people to pay the visits.
Fry also served on the denominational level. He sat on ULCA’s Standing Committee (as secretary) from 1930 to 1938. From 1934 to 1942 our saint was a member of BAM, which his father had led from 1926 to 1933. Our saint also served as the Dean of BAM’s week-long, summer School for Home Mission Partners, starting in 1936. He also at on ULCA’s Executive Board from 1942 to 1944 and on the board of Wittenberg College and Hamma Divinity School form 1934 to 1940.
At the ULCA convention of 1944 (October 11-17) Fry won election as President. He resigned as senior pastor of Holy Trinity, Akron, on October 22, 1944, and became the President of ULCA on January 1, 1945. He was the second of two presidents of the denominations, remaining in office until 1962. As President Fry became known as “Mr. Protestant” and became an ecumenical leader both nationally and internationally. He participated in the Lutheran World Convention’s effort to feed hungry Europeans, served as Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches from 1948 to 1954, as Chairman of the same from 1954 to 1968, and led the ULCA into the World Council of Churches in 1948 and the National Council of Churches two years later. Our saint also served as the President of the Lutheran World Federation from 1957 to 1963 and worked for greater Lutheran unity in the United States, helping to form the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987), hereafter the LCA.
Above: The Cover of TIME Magazine, April 7, 1958
Image in the Public Domain
Fry was, by the standards of his time, a man of the Left. His ecumenical activities (with the Eastern Orthodox, even!) offended many people to his right. Our saint, who spoke out for the downtrodden (also offensive to certain elements on the Right, especially in the context of the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement), also favored Higher Criticism of the Bible. He had, at the ULCA convention of 1940, spoken in opposition to proposed Articles of Agreement with The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960), hereafter TALC 1930-1960. The leadership of ULCA sought progress toward organic union with TALC 1930-1960, but the leadership of TALC 1930-1960 had a more modest goal–pulpit fellowship with ULCA. The controversial elements of the Articles of Agreement were (1) a condemnation of membership in secret societies, and (2) an affirmation that the Bible is without error. The ULCA convention approved the Articles of Agreement, but TALC 1930-1960 backed away from pulpit fellowship anyway.
ULCA passed into history by merging with three other denominations in 1962. Membership in ULCA, which stood at 1.7 million in 1945, had increased to 2.5 million, a gain of 47.1%. Fry became the first of three presidents of the new LCA, service until his death, on June 6, 1968. Membership in the LCA, which had started at 3.23 million, increased 15.48% to 3.28 million in 1968. Fry’s successor was Robert James Marshall (1918-2008), who served for ten years.
Franklin Drewes Fry (1928-2006) became a prominent Lutheran minister. He, baptized on April 15, 1928, one month and two days after his birth, graduated from Hamilton College then LTS Mt. Airy (M.Div., 1949). He, ordained on June 11, 1953, served as pastor of St. Philip’s Church, Brooklyn, New York (1952-1958); Christ Church, York, Pennsylvania (1958-1971); and St. John’s Church, Summit, New Jersey (1971-1996). Fry retired in 1996. He married twice. His first marriage, to Mary Evelyn Gotwald (1925-1991), ended with her death. They had five children. His second wife was Sharon Roth, a minister. He, like his grandfather and father, served on the denominational level. He sat on the LCA’s Executive Council and the Board of American Missions. Fry also participated in the process of forming the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and served on the LCA’s and ELCA’s ecumenical committees, attended meetings of the World Council of Churches as a delegate, sat on seminary boards, and ELCA’s Church Council from 1993 to 1999. He also sat on the board of the American Bible Society from 1972 to 2006. Fry died of leukemia on November 5, 2006. He was 78 years old. His children have devoted their lives to making positive contributions to society. For example, Franklin Gotwald Fry is the Executive Director of the Greater Syracuse Division of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. He has also been involved in efforts to find a cure for AIDS.
Franklin Clark Fry continued the legacy of his grandfather and father. That legacy continued via his children, especially his firstborn son.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
FEBRUARY 1, 2016 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF HENRY MORSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR
THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIGID OF KILDARE, ABBESS
THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE MENNONITE CHURCH U.S.A., 2002
THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGEBERT III, KING OF AUSTRASIA
Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Franklin Clark Fry,
through whom you have called the church to its ranks and renewed its life.
Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,
whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 3:11-23
–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60