VALLEY FORGE, PA (8/29/16)—Desmond Hoffmeister, former Region Executive Minister for American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains and a parish pastor who was a dynamic, outspoken leader for justice and reconciliation in both his native South Africa and in his adopted U.S homeland, died early Saturday, August 20, in Granada Hills, Calif. He was 56.
At the time of his death, Hoffmeister was senior pastor at Granada Hills Baptist Church, where he had served since April 2010. Prior to his call as pastor, Hoffmeister had served as interim pastor at the church for about six months. Before moving to Granada Hills, Hoffmeister served for more than five years in his capacity as Region Executive Minister.
In his invitational greeting on the web site for Granada Hills Church, Hoffmeister defined the congregation as a “neighborhood church that is part of a global village.” That expression offers critical insight to the life of a man who was a dynamic preacher, thought-provoking teacher and influential thinker who saw himself as a global citizen seeking justice through love and grace and creating equal access to God’s resources for all. During his career he traveled, preached and taught extensively around the world.
A native of Capetown, South Africa, Hoffmeister was part of a generation that paid an expensive price for advocating vigorously for the liberation of South Africa, sacrificing his education for the advancement of the struggle for freedom. Nonetheless, he earned a Licentiate in Theology from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa in 1988.
In South Africa, Hoffmeister served from 1994 to 1999 as general secretary of the Baptist Convention of South Africa. Under his leadership the convention developed strong ties with American Baptist International Ministries and other Baptist bodies worldwide. During that time he was a leading architect of reconciliation efforts between the various ethnic and religious groups in South Africa.
In 1999 Hoffmeister moved to the U.S. with his wife, Beverly, whom he married in 1982, and his three children, Sherwyn, Candice and Carmen. At that time Hoffmeister served as a New Life missionary with National Ministries (The American Baptist Home Mission Societies). In that role he met with American Baptist clergy and laity about the role of the church in bringing healing in the context of diversity, multiculturalism and alienation. He earned an MDiv. degree from American Baptist Seminary of the West, where he founded the Global Prophetic Network, an interfaith ministry designed to encourage the growth of future prophetic leaders. He also served as a Scholar in Residence at the school.
“Dr. Hoffmeister was a bridge-builder wherever he went,” said C. Jeff Woods, associate general secretary for Regional Ministries for American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). “He helped bring groups together both in the region as well as in the American Baptist family. During his time on the General Executive Council (now called the National Leadership Council), he offered several key insights and helped people with very different perspectives see one another’s views. His efforts were very helpful in setting the stage for a new national structure within the American Baptist Churches USA.”
“The leadership and churches of American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains (ABCRM) grieve the passing of Desmond Hoffmeister whose leadership here helped to make and transform us into the ministry we are today,” said the Rev. Dr. Steven C. Van Ostran, regional executive minister. “Desmond’s leadership enabled the successful sale of the Black Forest property and the establishment of an ongoing endowment that promotes and funds mission and ministry in ABCRM. We lift up and pray for Desmond’s family, friends and congregation in this time and trust God’s grace will support and sustain them.”
“I was deeply saddened upon learning of the loss of this colleague, friend, pastor, prophet and leader,” said Andy Smith, who knew Hoffmeister well when Smith served as Director of Social and Ethical Responsibility in Investments for National Ministries in the 1990s. “I remember sitting with him many times in South Africa, reflecting on the state of the church and the world. Our conversations were always deep and different than those I had with many others. He was pastor of the Baptist Church in Ennerdale but always had a much wider vision of the church. After he became General Secretary of the Baptist Convention of South Africa, he and I represented the Convention at the South African Council of Churches annual meeting when the Convention, under his leadership, became a member of the Council. Two years later in 1994 I had the honor of leading an American Baptist delegation to observe the first open and free elections in South Africa, and I accompanied Des and Beverly through the line as they voted for the first time. My heart goes out to Beverly and the rest of the family. We have lost a wonderful human being whose life was well-lived. His legacy will remain in my memory forever.”
He is survived by his spouse, children and two grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life service is set for 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 2, at First Presbyterian Church of Granada Hills, Calif. Additional details may be found at Granada Hills Baptist Church’s website.