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Franklin Nutting Parker
May 20, 1867 - March 1, 1954
|Franklin Nutting Parker, son of Linus and Ellen Katherine Burruss Parker, was born in New Orleans, May 20, 1867. He was the youngest of a family consisting of three sons. His grandparents, with the exception of his maternal grandfather, were from New England. Rev. John C. Burruss, a native of Caroline county, ~1irginia, was baptized an Episcopalian, but when he was converted he joined the Methodist Church, later becoming an itinerant minister. His labors covered Western Virginia, East Tennessee, North Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Franklin Parker’s father was born in Rome, New York, and his mother in Courtland, Alabama. When Linua Parker was sixteen, being rather frail, he was sent to live with a relative in New Orleans. Not long after his arrival, he volunteered for service in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor. After the war he returned to New Orleans and later became a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. From December 26, 1849 to May 18, 1882, when he was elected a bishop, he served appointments in Louisiana, including twelve years as editor of the New Orleans Christian Advocate. He continued to live in New Orleans until his death, March 5, 1885.
Such was the ancestral and cultural inheritance of Franklin N. Parker who received his elementary training at home and in the schools of his native city. Little is known of his college work, except that he attended “Centenary College of Louisiana, at Jackson, 1883-84; Tulane University, 1885; and Vanderbilt University, 1885.” He held no earned degree, literary or theological, but honorary degrees were conferred upon him by Centenary College, Trinity College, and Emory University. He was also elected as an honorary member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Emory University.
He was married to Minnie Greves Jones, of Baton Rouge, La., December 20, 1899, and to them two daughters were born: Mrs. Nell P. Stipe, and Mrs. Margaret P. Winn, both living in Atlanta, Georgia. Other relatives include three nephews: John Roland, Parker, New Orleans; Dr. William Paxton Parker, and Fitzgerald S. Parker, Jr., Nashville, Tenn.; and a number of grand nephews and nieces.
Dr. Parker’s religious development was somewhat different from what might have been expected. He was a son of devout Methodists of that day, and his father was an outstanding leader of the Church, but he made no profession of faith until his seventeenth year. The records of Felicity Street church show that he was received on profession of faith, Jan. 25, 1885, by S. H. Werlein, and he was licensed to preach by the quarterly conference, May 11, 1885. Between the time of his uniting with the Church and his being licensed to preach, his father died and that event had much to do with determining his subsequent course.
He was admitted on trial by the Louisiana Conference at the session in Baton Rouge, Jan. 6-11, 1886; was ordained a deacon by Bishop Joseph S. Key at Shreveport, Jan. 8, 1888; and was ordained an elder by Bishop W. W. Duncan at Baton Rouge, Dec. 15, 1889. His appointments by conference dates follow: 1886, Patterson; 1887, Morgan City and Patterson; 1888, Carrollton Ave., New Orleans; Dec. 1888-1889, Carrollton Ave. and Parker Chapel; 1890-1891, Parker chapel; 1892-1895, Rayne Memorial Church; 1896-1898, Baton Rouge; 1899-1901, Carondelet Street church, New Orleans; 1902-1903, presiding elder Baton Rouge district; 1904 Monroe; 1905, presiding elder Crowley district; 1906-1909, presiding elder New Orleans district; 1910, Alexandria; 1911-1914, professor of Biblical Literature, Trinity College, Durham N. C.; 1915-1918, professor of Systematic Theology, Candler School of Theology, Emory University; 1919-1937, dean of Candler -School of Theology; and 1938 to March 1, 1954, dean emeritus. After his retirement as dean, he taught systematic theology full time for five years, and part time for ten years until 1952.
To understand Dr. Parker, one must see him in action, not judge him by glimpses at the crossroads. At seventeen years of age, he presented himself at the altar of his church as a man with a definite experience of salvation — as having won victory over sin in his own life. At nineteen, he was a pastor in the Louisiana Conference, and when he had been fifteen years in the Conference he was In a top appointment and was a delegate to the third decennia1 Conference of the world-wide Methodism. He had gained recognition as a leader, although he was only a pastor in one of the less developed areas of the Church. His spiritual surrender was complete and effective, the beginning of his lifelong dedication to Christian service. No factual graph can explain such a record of progress, neither can it account for the stature, which he ultimately attained
A notable example of his independence and decision of character occurred at the General Conference of 1918 when he refused to accept consecration as a bishop. He was the son of a bishop and he was an outstanding leader in his own right, but he declined, simply and firmly that he did so “Solely on the ground that he deemed himself not qualified to serve in the office to which he had been elected.” Under ordinary circumstances, that statement would have eliminated him from future consideration for the episcopacy, but he received 90 votes on the first ballot for bishops at the General Conference of 1922. His friends tried to prevail upon him to accept consecration in the event of his election, but he declined to permit further consideration of his name in the voting. He had declared once and for all that he “deemed himself not qualified to serve in the office.”
Probably the most amazing fact of Dr. Parker’s life was his role in the field of religious and theological education and education. In the twentieth century, very few men without an earned college degree have risen to such eminence in that important and difficult field. His educational leadership would not have been surprising a century earlier when the educational process was individualistic and no system of credits had been established, but the case was vastly different in 1911, when he went from a pastorate in Louisiana to a chair of Biblical literature and then, step by step, to a chair of systematic theology, to the top administrative position in Candler School of Theology, and to a place of Church-wide influence in the field of theological education and ministerial training.
He did not have the credits needed for a degree and, in that respect, his education was technically incomplete. On the other hand, education, with or without a degree, is more a matter of cultural discipline than of college credits. His formal training was sufficient for him to have acquired a practical understanding of the disciplines of education and, in addition, he had read Carlyle, Gibbon, Macaulay, and other English Classics before he entered college. Obviously, his Intellectual alertness and his pre-college cultural development made his lack of college credits less significant than it might have been otherwise. It is wide of the mark to assume an educational deficiency simply because he did not receive a certificate of graduation. He was a man of superb education and his educational leadership rests upon solid foundations. His record of service is proof of his intellectual and cultural stature. He was not an accidental find, he was a man developed by an uncanonical process.
Dr. Parker’s interest in people and his insight into human character and conduct was baffling to some of his friends, since he had made no formal study of the social sciences. While no absolute explanation is possible, it appears to have been a development which had its beginning in his early teens. At that time the stories of Charles Dickens were appearing as pamphlet serials and he was so fascinated by them that he read every one that he could obtain. Once he was asked: “How can you understand the human heart so well?” and he replied: “I ought to, I’ve had one a long time.” That modest and half evasive answer seems to have been a flashback of the days when Dickens, intriguing stories of the English poor captured his imagination and his heart. He saw the poor through the eyes and the sympathies of Dickens, and the horror on account of their sufferings turned their coarseness and crime into reason for pity. They were soiled and sordid in character, but he saw them as, “Creatures fresh from the hand of God and waiting for the breath of life.” He seems to have planned his life, met his disappointments and made his readjustments under the spell of the social impressions of his youth. Well might he have said of his rendezvous with Dickens, as Jacob said of Bethel, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.”
Dr. Parker’s preaching was individual and unconventional in style, but it was preaching at its best. It bore the stamp of his unequivocal commitment to the doctrine of salvation through the merits and suffering of Christ, but he was not a “reactionary”. He emphasized Christian experience as being essential to character, and he preached and taught the theological formulas of St: Paul, not as a mere philosophy of divine relations, but as the personal experience of an embattled soul In a struggle not unlike that in which he was himself engaged. His preaching reflected the study and massive thinking of Canon Liddon of the Anglican Church and the theological emphases of Bishops Keener and Wilson of his own Church. They influenced him because they preached with a note of authority, not as uncertain and groping explorers of mystic unrealities.
As a teacher, he used freely and understandingly the vast treasures of theological literature, but his own Christian experience provided the key for their interpretation. He accepted the New Testament as the rescript of divine authority and he was a bulwark of strength against the upsurge of rationalistic criticism, which tended to discredit that authority during the early years of Candler School of Theology.
Such was the faith and such the character of the man whom Louisiana Methodism gave to the Church and to the world. He was truly one of the remarkable men of his day and generation.
It is a great tribute to him and to his service that the only endowed chair in the Candler School of Theology bears his name and, best of all, that the endowment was given by hundreds of his students and others who knew him and loved him. The memory of his courageous faith and undeviating loyalty to Christ will continue to rest In benediction upon those who were touched by his ministry, and his fidelity to Truth will be an abiding source of inspiration for those whom he trained for service in the Master’s kingdom.
Converted and united with the Methodist Church, January 25, 1885; licensed to preach, May 11, 1885; at Vanderbilt University for theological study, September, 1885; on trial in the Louisiana Conference, January 1886; twenty-four years an itinerant minister in Louisiana; four years a professor of Biblical Literature; four years a professor of Systematic Theology, sixteen years dean, and seventeen years dean emeritus in a great “school of the prophets”; seven times a member of the law-making body of Methodism; twice a spokesman for America in the decennial Conference of world Methodism; a leader in planning and effecting the reunion of American Methodism; sixty-six years an official servant of Methodism; and for more than fifty years a trusted counselor of Methodist hosts. What a record! What an inspiring story of Christian conquest! It is no wonder that he was offered an ecclesiastical crown; but, being the man he was, it is not surprising that he chose fellowship and service with the men in the ranks rather than the miter and the crosier.
In the early morning hours of Mach 1, 1954, the old soldier passed in triumph through the heavenly gates and, as one can well imagine, to the chanting of angels:
“Soldier of Christ, well done
Praise be thy new employ;
And while eternal ages run,
Rest in thy Saviour’s joy.”
|Source: Journal of the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Church, Pages 162-166, 1954 by William L. Duren.|
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