ST. LOUIS, March 24 (RNS) -- The Rev. A.L. Barry, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, died Friday evening after suffering from kidney and liver failure in a Florida hospital. He was 69.

Barry was the conservative Lutheran denomination's 11th president and the first to die in office.

Barry, who lived in St. Louis, went to Florida late last month to visit his daughter and planned to stay a week but was admitted to Orlando Regional Medical Center Feb. 25 for pneumonia. The pneumonia was successfully treated, but while in the hospital Barry contracted an antibiotic-resistant staph infection.

Wednesday evening the church officials announced Barry's kidneys had failed; later his liver also failed. Barry died with family members at his side.

Barry had been the LCMS president since 1992 and earlier in the week was still telling staff he planned to run for a fourth term at the denomination's Synodical Convention scheduled for July in St. Louis, headquarters of the second largest Lutheran denomination in the United. States.

The LCMS has nearly 2.6 million members in more than 6,100 congregations around the world.

In 1995 Barry was diagnosed and treated for a form of leukemia. A spokesman for the LCMS said the therapies Barry received to battle the leukemia made it difficult for doctors to treat the staph infection known as methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which is caused by staph bacteria that have developed a resistance to methicillin, the medication Barry was taking.

"Doctors had to use a combination of powerful antibiotics to fight the staph infection and the antibiotics overwhelmed his kidneys," said David Strand, the church's director of public affairs.

The synod's first vice president, Robert T. Kuhn, 64, will lead the denomination until a new president is elected at the denomination's July convention. Kuhn had announced last May is intention to retire after his present term expires and is not expected to stand for election this summer.

"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."

The Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America extended his sympathies to Barry's family and to the LCMS.

Anderson 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 added.

Barry was known for publicly voicing his strong views on everything from rejecting the Vatican's declaration that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true Christian church to strongly condemning human cloning.

Most recently Barry had taken to task the popular series of "Left Behind" books by collaborators Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Barry wrote, "the fascinating book of Revelation is not meant to be read as a literal account. Unlike the 'Left Behind' view of the `end times, St. John's vision of what will occur when Christ returns is not chiefly characterized by mass confusion, chaos and hysteria."

Prior to serving as president of the LCMS, Barry was president of the church's Iowa District East for 10 years. He also spent many years working with missions and stewardship programs, both at the district and national levels.

Barry began his career as a parish pastor for 11 years in various congregations in Minnesota.

Barry was born Aug. 4, 1931 in Woodbine, Iowa. Ordained in 1956, Barry earned the Master of Sacred Theology degree from Lutheran Seminary in St. Paul Minn. and finished his training through the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Seminary in Thiensvill, Wis. In 1960 he requested a transfer of pastoral membership from the Wisconsin Synod to the Missouri Synod.

Barry is survived by his three children, Kristin Becker of Merritt Island, Fla., Beth Miko of Cleveland and Keith Barry of Cranston, R.I. and two grandchildren. His late wife Jean died in 1996 after a long struggle with cancer. Funeral and burial arrangements are pending.

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