KING OF PRUSSIA, PA (1/12/24)—Dr. Richard K. Gladden, 92, former deputy general secretary for Research and Planning for American Baptist Churches USA, died on Friday, November 17, 2023, at Warren Memorial Hospital, Front Royal, Va.
Gladden retired on June 30, 1996, after a denominational career of 34 years. For more than a quarter century Gladden was a strategic resource person for the ABCUSA Office of the General Secretary, General Board and other American Baptist boards and agencies. He researched, wrote on, and provided expert advice in such matters as the denomination’s polity, bylaws and standing rules, policy planning, evaluation and assessment of programming. He served as staff to the denomination’s Standing Rules Committee, Planning and Evaluation Committee and Reference Committee.
ABCUSA General Secretary Dr. C. Jeff Woods said, “I am extremely grateful for having known Dick Gladden. He served as Director of Research and Planning and as Deputy General Secretary for American Baptist Churches USA during my term on the General Board which began in 1988. Dick and I had several enriching conversations about research and evaluation and he always encouraged me to continue to be involved in the wider American Baptist family.”
Gladden, who joined the staff of American Baptist Educational Ministries in 1962, was engaged as the first person to head an office of research and planning for the denomination in 1969. He became a staff member of the ABCUSA Office of the General Secretary in 1973. He previously had held positions in curriculum development and research for Educational Ministries, where he was involved in the development of the Christian Faith and Work Plan curriculum that was introduced in 1969.
The author of numerous articles, Gladden also was the co-author of the Local Church Planning Manual (1977) and Key Steps in Local Church Planning (1980), both published by Judson Press. He received bachelor of Science, Master of Education and Doctor of Education degrees from the University of Virginia.
Commenting on Gladden’s career at the time of his retirement, former American Baptist Churches General Secretary Daniel E. Weiss said: “Dick Gladden’s unique ministry has helped to guide the work of American Baptist Churches USA across four decades. His knowledge of American Baptist history, and his astounding comprehension both of the denomination’s structure and that structure’s application for our churches and organizations, have provided innumerable reference points for planning and programming. We who have worked closely with Dick have readily sought his counsel and advice. He is irreplaceable, but his legacy will inform our work for years to come.”
Gladden was ordained in 1950. From 1952-1961 he served as pastor of Mountain Plain Baptist Church, Mechum’s River, Va. He was also a longtime member of the Baptist Church in the Great Valley, Devon, Pa.
Dr. Gladden was born June 30, 1931, in Salisbury, Maryland, the son of the late Richard Calvin Elwood Gladden and Althea Krause Gladden. He married Jane C. White on April 5, 1952, in Newport News, Va. Surviving with his wife is a son, John C. Gladden (Andrea) of Winchester, Va.; three daughters, Rebecca G. Burton (John “Phillip”) of Fairmont, W.Va., Susan G. Devaney (Michael) of Westfield, N.J., and Kathryn G. Barnds (Larsen) of Kansas City, Mo.; a sister, Annette G. Keith (Richard) of Annapolis, Md.; eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. A grandson, Seth A. Burton, preceded him in death.
A memorial service for Dr. Richard Gladden will be held this Sunday, January 14, at 2 p.m. in the Meeting House at The Baptist Church in the Great Valley in Devon, Pa. A committal will follow in the cemetery that surrounds the Meeting House.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Baptist Church in the Great Valley, 945 North Valley Forge Road, Devon, Pennsylvania, 19333, https://www.bcgv.org/.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.