The Rev. Dr. Lavern Gerhard Franzen died on May 24, 2016 in Venice, Florida. He was 90 years of age.
Pastor Franzen was born in Lehigh, Nebraska and graduated from Concordia Teacher’s College in 1948. He served as a teacher at Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod schools in Omaha, Nebraska and Detroit, Michigan. He attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and was ordained in 1964. He served at Messiah Lutheran Church in Saginaw, Michigan, until moving to Florida to serve Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Temple Terrace in 1969.
Pastor Franzen and Our Redeemer were part of the Seminex movement in the 1970’s. In 1976 Our Redeemer became a member of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), and the following year, Pastor Franzen was elected auxiliary bishop of the synod, serving the Southern Region.
In 1984 Our Redeemer merged with Christ the King Lutheran Church (LCA) to become Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and School. In 1988 Christ Our Redeemer became a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
At its 1987 Constituting Convention, the Assembly called Pastor Franzen to be the first Bishop of the Florida (later renamed the Florida-Bahamas) Synod of the ELCA. He served as bishop from 1987 to 1995–years of transition and formation for the ELCA and its Florida Synod.
Upon his retirement, the Synod Council conferred the title of Bishop Emeritus to Bishop Franzen. Although retired, he did not slow down and served at Lutheran Services of Florida as a Regional Development Associate and as an interim pastor at several congregations.During his years of ministry Lavern authored several books of children’s sermons, wrote children’s songs, and developed a community choir in Temple Terrace known as The Lutheran Choir.
Bishop Franzen is survived by his wife of 68 years, Mary Ann Langevin Franzen. They have four children, Katherine, Frank, Sheryl and Deborah, and several grandchildren.
Two memorial services for Bishop Lavern G. Franzen have been planned as follows:
- Friday, June 24, 10:00 a.m. – Emmanuel Lutheran Church,
790 Tamiami Trail South, Venice, FL 34285.
- Saturday, June 25, 11:00 a.m. – Christ Our Redeemer Lutheran Church,
304 Druid Hills Road, Temple Terrace, FL 33617.
Notes may be sent to Mary Ann at 900 Tamiami Trail South, Apt. 222, Venice, FL 34285.