William A. Janson Jr., Former Lutheran Synod Bishop, Dies

5/2/2000 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA)   The Rev. William A. Janson Jr., who served as the first bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the former Lutheran Church in America, died April 13 in Phoenixville, Pa.  He was 77.
     Services were held April 18 at St. John Lutheran Church, Phoenixville, Pa.  A memorial Celebration of Life will be held May 10 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Lansdale, Pa., a congregation Janson served as pastor.
     Janson, a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), was synod bishop from 1969 to 1983.  The synod he served included more than 180 congregations in Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania.
     While he was bishop, he led a 1971 "March of Penitence" after shootings in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.  That same year, the paper said, he joined other religious leaders in an ecumenical service for peace.  In 1976  Janson organized a symposium on the nature of a humane society and the lessons of history.  In 1981 he was one of several religious leaders who marched with 1,000 people through the streets of Philadelphia to draw attention to hunger, the Inquirer said.
     Janson was ordained in 1946.  He served congregations in Lovettsville, Va.; New York;  Springfield, Ohio; Tiffin, Ohio; and Lansdale.  Janson was also professor of religion at Cedarville (Ohio) College.
     "Bill Janson brought a contagious joy and determination to his ministry during the 15 years he served us as president of the synod and then as our first bishop," said the Rev. Roy G. Almquist, current bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod. "We are diminished by his death."
     Janson was president of the synod when the church changed the designation to bishop.  He was elected to three five-year terms.
     After he retired in 1983, Janson and his wife, Margaret, traveled throughout the country and served as volunteers at various national parks and historic sites, Almquist said.
     Janson earned a bachelor's degree in 1944 from Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pa.   He completed seminary training at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.) in 1946.  Janson later received masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, New York.     Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., awarded him an honorary doctorate of divinity and Susquehanna University awarded him an honorary doctor of letters. Muhlenberg and Susquehanna are higher education institutions of the ELCA.
     In addition to his wife, Janson is survived by a daughter, Sandra L. Spengel, Chester Springs, Pa.; a son, William A. Janson III, Horsham, Pa.; and five grandchildren.

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