ALEXANDRIA, La. — United Pentecostal Church International leader Tom Fred Tenney, credited with greatly increasing the denomination’s missionary work abroad, died Friday at age 84.

Tenney was a minister for more than 65 years. He was in his late 20s when he became the denomination’s national youth president in 1960. Ten years later, he was named its head of foreign missions (now global missions). He was also the church’s Louisiana District superintendent for 27 years, starting in 1978.

“He was an innovator. He introduced many new plans and ideas, one being the concept of partners in missions, whereby individual churches would sponsor missionaries around the world. That created a tremendous increase in giving and a tremendous increase in world missions,” denomination general superintendent David K. Bernard said Saturday. The denomination has 40,000 churches in 190 nations and 35 territories.

He said Tenney was also a well-known speaker, teacher and mentor, and the Louisiana District is “one of our leading districts.”

He was called Bishop Tenney – an honorary title rather than an official one, Bernard said.

The current district superintendent, the Rev. Kevin Cox, said Tenney had health problems for years, but spoke Sunday in his church, The Pentecostals of Alexandria, speaking from a wheelchair because of a broken ankle.

Cox said Tenney’s wife of 65 years, Thetus Tenney, told him Friday, “It was as if it was 10 years ago, he felt the anointing of the spirit and spoke so well.”

Tenney was 19 and his wife was 18 when they were chosen to lead a Home Missions church in Monroe in 1953, months after their wedding. They worked together from then on.

“Both were influential and they worked very closely together,” Bernard said. Tenney is also survived by two children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Cox described Tenney as a friend to all, from U.S. presidents he met to “the most unfortunate person around.

He also seemed to remember almost everyone in any church he’d ever visited, greeting them by name and asking after relatives by name, Cox said.

The national denomination, Louisiana District, and church all posted Facebook messages about his death.

Cox said Tenney’s memorial service will be Tuesday at The Pentecostals of Alexandria, with visitation starting at 1 p.m. and the service at 7 p.m.

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