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PCA founding member and megachurch pastor Frank Barker dies at 89: 'Loved all that His Savior loved'

Frank Barker
Frank Barker, the late founder of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama. |

Frank Barker, one of the founders of the Presbyterian Church in America and founder of the Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, has died. He was 89.

The church announced on social media that the longtime pastor passed away on Monday, calling him a "faithful Pastor with a servant’s heart."

Barker planted Briarwood Presbyterian Church in 1960 as a storefront church with less than 20 members, according to the PCA magazine By Faith. He led the church — which today has over 4,000 members — until his retirement in 1999, according to the church website. He pastored the church through the creation of Briarwood Christian School in 1965 and the Birmingham Theological Seminary in 1972. 

Barker was also a founding member of the PCA, serving as a member of the organizing committee responsible for defining standards and principles of the new denomination.

Along with the committee, he drafted constitutional documents that served as a foundation for the PCA returning to Reformed doctrine, By Faith reports.

Dubbed “the flagship church” of the PCA, Briarwood became the host church for the first PCA General Assembly in 1973. Barker was elected Moderator of the 14th General Assembly in 1986, held in Philadelphia.

Barker, the author of several books, including A Living Hope, Encounters with Jesus and First Timothy, was also known for his passion for missions. He helped found Campus Outreach, a network of interdenominational ministries targeting college students without faith in the U.S. and worldwide. 

In a 2018 profile published by The Gospel Coalition, Barker’s daughter, Peggy Townes, estimated her father led 10,000 to Christ personally and hundreds of thousands through his ministries.

News of Barker’s death sparked an outpouring of reactions on social media. The Rev. Harry Reeder, who replaced Barker as senior pastor at Briarwood Presbyterian after his retirement, remembered Barker as a “Father in the faith, mentor in Gospel ministry and friend” in a Facebook post on Monday.

“Pray for the Briarwood family as we remember and celebrate this humble, godly, visionary friend and Pastor who loved the Christ who first loved him and loved all that His Savior loved. He loved His Word, His Church, the lost and he loved living the Great Commandment and fulfilling the Great Commission,” Reeder wrote.

On Twitter, author and PCA pastor Kevin DeYoung said he was “sad” to hear of Barker’s passing, but said he was “grateful for all that the Lord accomplished through his faithfulness over many years.”

Ligon Duncan, chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, wrote on Twitter he was “thankful for the life and ministry of this faithful, Gospel man.”

Bill Armistead, former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, described Barker as a mentor in a Facebook post Monday.

“I was blessed to be in the last small group Bible Study he conducted which concluded just a couple of months ago. Rev. Barker was truly faithful to the end and he was anxiously anticipating the day he would be face to face with his Savior,” he wrote.

Randy Pope, the founding pastor of Perimeter Church outside Atlanta, told By Faith how Barker became an informal mentor, particularly during his early ministry as a PCA pastor. “He was a strong example of what a pastor and godly man should be. I saw in him what the walk of faith was like.”

Barker graduated from Auburn University in 1953; Columbia Theological Seminary in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in divinity and master’s in theology; and Reformed Theological Seminary in 1988 with a doctorate in divinity.

At the time of his death, Barker was pastor emeritus at Briarwood.

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: leah.klett@christianpost.com

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