OBITUARIES : David J. du Plessis; Force in Pentecostal Movement

Times Religion Writer

The Rev. David J. du Plessis, 81, a world-traveling minister who convinced the Vatican and major Protestant denominations to respect tongues-speaking, faith-healing Pentecostalism as a valid Christian movement, died Monday in his Pasadena home, it was announced Tuesday.

Du Plessis, known as “Mr. Pentecost” for his theological diplomacy, had been suffering from cancer since last summer, according to a Fuller Theological Seminary spokesman.

However, Du Plessis spoke last October on the Fuller campus at the first-ever theological conference between the National Council of Churches and several Pentecostal church bodies. A few months earlier, the continuing International Roman Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue, traditionally held in Europe, convened at Fuller to honor Du Plessis. He was co-chairman of the international dialogue from 1972 to 1982.


“He was one of the distinguished world Christians of our era,” said Fuller Seminary President David Allan Hubbard.

Born Feb. 7, 1905, near Cape Town, South Africa, Du Plessis was a general secretary of the Apostolic Faith Mission, a prominent South African Pentecostal denomination, when he helped organize the World Pentecostal Fellowship (now the World Pentecostal Conference).

Du Plessis, who came to the United States in 1949 and became a U.S. citizen in 1968, affiliated with the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination. In the 1950s, the Pentecostal churches were disdained by mainstream churches for their emotion-charged services punctuated by ecstatic behavior and claims of miraculous healings. Pentecostal leaders, in turn, often said that their “baptism in the Holy Spirit” and supernatural “gifts” made them superior to the rest of Christianity.

But Du Plessis, on his own, sought to be an ambassador for Pentecostalism and, starting in 1954, attending World Council of Churches conferences. His outspoken manner led his conservative denomination in 1962 to rescind his clerical standing, a ban that lasted 18 years.

However, Du Plessis was listed as a world missionary first by the Assemblies-affiliated Faith Center in Glendale, then by the First Assembly of God Church in Oakland. He was the only Pentecostal invited to the third session of the Second Vatican Council in Rome in 1964.

By 1980, when Du Plessis was readmitted to the Assemblies of God, Pentecostalism was regarded a legitimate wing of evangelical Protestantism and its practices and beliefs were accepted in most Protestant and Catholic churches under the name “charismatic renewal.”


Funeral services will be held at Pasadena Presbyterian Church at 11 a.m. Saturday. Du Plessis is survived by his wife, Anna, and five of their six children.