Former ABCUSA President Roger Fredrikson Dies; Was Noted Ecumenist and Social Justice Advocate

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Former ABCUSA President Roger Fredrikson Dies; Was Noted Ecumenist and Social Justice Advocate

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 6/21/16)—Rev. Dr. Roger L. Fredrikson of Sioux Falls, S.D., president of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) from 1970 to 1971, and a long-time parish pastor and social justice advocate in the Midwest, died Thursday, June 16 in Sioux Falls after a short time in hospice care. He was 95.

During his denominational presidency, Fredrikson traveled more than 100,000 miles throughout the denomination’s territory and overseas, addressing state conventions and other meetings and conducting a series of pastors’ conferences in which channels of communication and trust were opened up among an estimated 1,600 pastors.

His affiliations/involvements with ABCUSA and the larger church included President, National Baptist Youth Fellowship (1944-46), Vice President (ABCUSA) 1960-61, President and Chair, Board of Managers, Board of Education and Publication; Chair, Committee of Seventeen, which studied and made recommendations for theological education in ABCUSA; Youth Committee, Baptist World Alliance; and Youth Committee, World Council of Churches.

“Roger Fredrikson helped me put feet under my faith,” says Susan Gillies, interim general secretary for ABCUSA. “He was my pastor during my college years and the beginning of my career and continued to encourage me through the years. He also made a huge difference in this denomination and will be remembered as an ABC legend.”

On the occasion of Fredrikson’s 90th birthday celebration in Sioux Falls, S.D., in 2010, recently retired ABCUSA General Secretary A. Roy Medley spoke of Fredrikson’s great love for God and for people. “It shows through in everything he does,” Medley told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper in a story about Fredrikson. “He’s one of those people really looked up to, really wise and godly people in our denomination. There have been key moments in our denominational life – the issues of civil rights, women in ministry – when his voice has been key in in helping us move in a very positive direction.”

Born in Mission City, British Columbia, Canada, as the son of a pastor, Fredrikson attended Salem (S.D.) High School and graduated in 1942 from Ottawa (Kan.) University before pursuing seminary studies at Andover-Newton (Mass.) Theological Seminary, where he received his Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1948. He was ordained May 15, 1948 and was engaged in graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1953. After his ordination, Fredrikson headed the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Ottawa University (1949-54) before becoming pastor at First Baptist Church in Ottawa (1954-59), where he and his wife, the former Ruth Evelyn Beaver, were married.

Returning to Sioux Falls in 1959, he served as pastor of First Baptist Church for 16 years. The congregation named him pastor emeritus in 1992. Throughout his life Fredrikson was deeply concerned about social justice issues such as juvenile justice reform. During 1966-67, Fredrikson chaired the Minnehaha County Citizens’ Committee on Problems of Youth, during which time the county voted to build a Juvenile Court Center. Fredrikson was also active in working at the Minnehaha County Juvenile Detention Center. He helped to found Glory House, a halfway house initiative for men leaving prison and was active in serving mental health and alcohol treatment centers in the area including the Carroll Institute for chemically dependent people.

In his ministry he was an involved ecumenist. He was known for his role on the “Open Door” television program that featured leaders of various faiths discussing issues from a religious perspective. In 1989, Fredrikson received the Luke Mowbray Ecumenical Award from ABCUSA. In nominating Fredrikson for that award, Denton Lotz, director of Evangelism and Education for the Baptist World Alliance, noted that Fredrikson had been involved in the structured ecumenical movement “since the founding of the World Council of Churches. In 1948, he was the youth representative of the American Baptist Churches to the foundational meeting of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam.”

“We had three rules,” Fredrickson said of his ecumenical broadcasting work for the Open Door program when interviewed for the 2010 Argus Leader story referenced above. “We would speak our minds as honestly as we could. We were not going to be angry with each other, and we would not convert each other.” He also appeared in another local television series entitled “A Cup of Coffee with Roger.”

Fredrikson was a powerful advocate for the church renewal movement nationally. He was influential in Renovare, a national renewal movement. He and Ruth traveled to and led many renewal conferences around the country.

Fredrikson left Sioux Falls in 1975 to accept a call at First Baptist Church, Wichita, Kan., where he remained until he retired in 1988. He and Ruth then returned to Sioux Falls. Ruth died in 2003.

Fredrikson authored several books including Mastering the New Testament: John (The Communicator’s Commentary Series #4) Word, 1985, and The Church that Refused to Die, Victor, 1991. He received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Sioux Falls, Ottawa College in Ottawa, Kan., and Judson College in Elgin, Ill.

Visitations are set for 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 23 at the Family Life Center, First Baptist Church, 1401 Covell Avenue in Sioux Falls. A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Friday, June 24 in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Sioux Falls. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to First Baptist Church, Sioux Falls; First Baptist Church, Ottawa, Kan.; the University of Sioux Falls, or Ottawa (Kan.) University.

American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.