key christian leaders who died in 2023

Over the course of 2023, the world lost a number of Christian ministers, faith leaders and church prelates who left an indelible mark on international religious dialogue.

Here is a short list of Christian heavyweights the world lost in 2023 who shaped the culture across denominations.

Charles Stanley — Southern Baptist

Dr. Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries is pictured during a sermon. Stanley died April 18 in his home. (FOX 5 WAGA)

In April, In Touch Ministries announced the death of Dr. Charles Stanley. 

Stanley, 90, was an internationally renowned minister with over 65 years experience preaching the Bible around the world. 

Born in the middle of the Great Depression in 1932, he began feeling called to ministry at age 14, following the same path as his father and grandfather.

CHARLES STANLEY, ATLANTA PASTOR, TELEVANGELIST AND IN TOUCH MINISTRIES FOUNDER, DEAD AT 90

Stanley received a bachelor of divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, before continuing his education with a graduate degree and doctorate in theology from the Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta.

A devout Southern Baptist, Stanley founded In Touch Ministries in 1977 and struck a syndication deal with the Christian Broadcasting Network in 1978. 

From there, In Touch Ministries expanded into a multimedia network of broadcasting, publishing and public speaking with content provided in over 50 languages.

Stanley was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1985 and left an indelible mark on the denomination’s character.

He is survived by his son, Charles Andrew Stanley, who serves as senior pastor at the multi-site North Point Community Church based in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Timothy Keller — Presbyterian

Portrait of Pastor Tim Keller

Tim Keller, celebrated Presbyterian minister and spiritual author (José A. Alvarado Jr. for the Wall Street Journal)

Timothy Keller, a vanguard of conservative Presbyterianism, died at the age of 72 this year. 

Keller was ordained in 1975 and founded the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in 1989, which eventually expanded into the Redeemer City to City network.

THOUSANDS ATTEND MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR TIMOTHY KELLER, BELOVED CHRISTIAN PASTOR: HE WAS ‘FULL OF JESUS’

Redeemer City to City reports 112,988 leaders trained through the program, and approximately 1,633 churches were established around the world.

Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Keller held a doctorate of ministry and a doctorate of divinity from Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

Keller authored 31 books on spirituality and ministry.

He is survived by his wife, Kathy, three sons and seven grandchildren.

Jack Hayford — Pentecostal 

Jack Hayford

Pentecostal minister Jack Hayford inside his office (Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Pastor Jack Hayford, 88, died Jan. 8. 

Born in 1934, Hayford struggled with infirmities his entire life after being born with a life-threatening muscular condition in his neck. 

He miraculously healed from the affliction and attributed his unlikely recovery to the intercession of God. Later in his youth, he was struck by polio and once again overcame the affliction against all odds.

These traumatic experiences formed his faith and drove him to pursue ministry and obtain a degree from L.I.F.E. Bible College.

Hayford became the pastor of the struggling First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys — also known as The Church on the Way in California in 1969. He served the same congregation for decades, retiring in 1999. 

Over the course of his pastorate, the church became one of the first mega-churches in the U.S. At its height, it boasted over 10,000 members and remote followers across the nation.

Hayford was eventually elected president of the entire International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell

Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell attends the Synod of Bishops for The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith at the Synod hall in Vatican City.  (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Cardinal George Pell of Australia, 81, died Jan. 10 of a heart attack. 

Pell, born in Ballarat, Australia, in 1941 to a non-practicing Anglican father and devout Catholic mother, was a remarkable player of Australian rules football in his youth.

Despite briefly signing with a professional franchise, he felt called to the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1966. Following a rise through the dioceses and working in a number of clerical positions, he was consecrated a bishop in 1987. He was made cardinal by Pope St. John Paul II and participated in the conclaves that elected both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. 

The cardinal was controversial in his home country, where he drew ire from secular groups and liberal activists for his aggressive defense of traditional marriage, sexual morality and the importance of religious belief to the soul of a society.

CARDINALL PELL, EX-ADVISER TO POPE FRANCIS, DIES AT 81

Toward the end of his life, Pell was brought to court and convicted of molesting two boys while serving as prelate in Melbourne despite the case relying on testimony alleging an incident at the church that judges eventually found to be logistically impossible.

Pell, maintaining his innocence, served over 13 months in Australian prison as his attorneys appealed the case to the High Court of Australia, which ruled unanimously (7-0) to overturn the conviction and quash all charges against the prelate. 

An unearthed email exchange from 2014 showed Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton of Victoria discussing with media assistants how charges against Pell could deflect public scrutiny from an unfolding corruption scandal in the police department.

Following his death, the cardinal lay in state in Rome before a Requiem Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson

Rev. Pat Robertson poses a question to a Republican presidential candidate during a forum at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Marion “Pat” Robertson died June 8 after decades of ministry as a broadcaster, educator and businessman.

Robertson, one of the most iconic televangelists in history, was born in Lexington, Virginia, in 1930. 

After graduating from the military prep McCallie School, he attended Washington and Lee University and eventually joined the Marine Corps in 1948. 

In 1961, Robertson established The Christian Broadcasting Network, the first-ever Christian-focused television network in the country. 

With only 700 regular viewers, Robertson ran the network on small donations, asking his “club” of watchers for monthly donations of $10. 

CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK FOUNDER PAT ROBERTSON DIES AT 93

This intimate broadcasting startup grew to become “The 700 Club,” one of the most famous Christian TV programs in U.S. history. 

Robertson hosted “The 700 Club” and oversaw production at CBN for 60 years, announcing his retirement Oct. 1, 2021.

Over the course of his career, Robertson had a hand in dozens of successful ventures, including the evangelical Regent University, humanitarian organization Operation Blessing, the advocacy group Christian Coalition and International Family Entertainment.

He is survived by his wife and four children.

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