DESMOND TUTU quickens his pace. He is running, 22 floors above West Street in lower Manhattan, on the jogging path in the Vista Hotel's Executive Fitness Center. Sweat appears on his face, dampening his inexpensive gray running suit. It is 6:15 a.m. and this is Tutu's private time. It is now that he organizes his thoughts and plans his day. It is now that he talks intently to his God.

For more than 30 years, the Anglican clergyman has prayed each morning for the 23 million disenfranchised blacks in South Africa. He also has prayed for the 4.5 million whites who dominate them. Often, the prayers for the whites have not come easily.

"Sometimes I get angry," Tutu explains later. "Sometimes that feeling of anger is so intense that I have to ask myself if it isn't, you know, bordering on hatred."

Still, Desmond Tutu, the first black bishop of Johannesburg, prays -- earnestly, unrelentingly.

"I pray for the government by name every day," he says. "You see, if you take theology seriously, whether you like it or not, we are all members of a family -- God's family. They are my brothers and my sisters too. I might not feel well disposed toward them, but I have to pray that God's spirit will move them."

Tutu puffs as he rounds a banked corner of the rectangular jogging path. It is the rapid breathing of a 54-year-old man pushing himself. His face is drenched, yet he speeds up. Nearby, more than a dozen men and women contort their bodies in front of a mirror, twisting to the beat of aerobic exercise music; others gaze at magazines while pedaling stationary bikes. Tutu ignores them. He pushes himself harder, alone in his silence.

Finally, after he has run more than two miles, he slows and slips to the side of the concrete track where he begins cooling-down exercises. His breathing returns to normal, but he doesn't leave. He stands alone, watching runners pass. All are white. It's a long way from the gold-mining town of Klerksdorp in South Africa's province of Transvaal, where Tutu was born. This is a world vastly different from the one where he once sold peanuts at railroad stations and caddied at the white golf course.

Do they know, really understand, what is happening in South Africa? Do they hear my message?

Tutu wipes his face on a towel and leaves the club.

There is so much to do and there is so little time.

TWO DAYS EARLIER, Lia Belli, phone pressed to ear, was listening to a television reporter's spiel. She was scheduling Tutu's appearances during his whirlwind 12-city, 18-day U.S. tour planned to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Everyone wanted Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and apartheid fighter. A prison support group opposed to the death penalty wanted him to protest the execution of murderer James Terry Roach. American Indians in Arizona wanted him to visit a reservation and speak out about the economic plight of Native Americans. Dozens of politicians called. "Jane Fonda is hosting a reception at her home," Belli gushed.

The bishop, meanwhile, was eating lunch with his wife, two daughters and son-in-law. Seated around an isolated table in the Baltimore Belvedere Hotel, the family members instinctively bowed their heads in prayer when the food arrived.

"Will the bishop please pass the bread and butter?" Tutu's younger daughter, Mpho, 22, asked in mock haughtiness -- and then giggled. Her request came in the midst of a family discussion about the red-carpet treatment they were receiving during the tour. Despite his eminence, Tutu is not a wealthy man. He earns 2,000 rand a month -- about 900 -- as a bishop and has never become accustomed to limousines, complimentary luxury suites and police escorts. ("You know, back home when you hear a police siren, you figure that they are coming to get you," Tutu said at one point. "It still makes me a bit nervous riding with them.")

"I asked him what he planned to do with the prize money," said Tutu's son-in-law, Mthunzi Gxashe, refer ring to the $193,000 check the king of Norway handed Tutu in December 1984. "He told me, 'Pay the bills from your wedding.' elder daughter, Thandi, were married only a few weeks before the prize was announced. (In fact, Tutu put most of the prize money into a trust fund for indigent blacks.)

Tutu removed his jacket when he sat down for lunch, revealing two brown rubber bands holding up the sleeves of his magenta bishop's shirt. He or. "Leah, this is that marvelous drink I was telling you about," he said to his wife. When the concoction arrived, he passed it to her, but he refused to share it with his daughters as well. "Get your own, this is mine," he said, waving them away.

"See how they are always after me," he said in tones of mock ruefulness to his host, Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., an associate professor of surgery at

the Johns Hopkins University

Hospital. Tutu made a slurping

noise with his straw as he finished the drink.

"I think I'll have another,"

he said.

"No, daddddeeee," Mpho

pleaded. "You have to speak at

Harvard!"

"So?"

She glared and he laughed,

admitting that he had no intention of ordering another.

When Watkins announced that

it was time for Tutu to attend a

reception, the bishop stood:

"Well, wind me up children.

Time to perform."

But before he left, he broke

away from his escorts and

shook hands with the waiters.

Everywhere he goes, Tutu

makes a point of seeking out

those who wait on him: bellhops, security guards, police,

waiters, doormen, maids.

Tutu's mother, Aletta, was a

domestic servant who spent

most of her life working as a

cook at a missionary school

for the blind in Johannes-

burg.

"My mother was hardly an

important person at all in the

way that South Africa and the

most of the world looks at

things," Tutu said. "She wasn't

educated, but she was such a

gentle and giving person that

she had a powerful influence

on me, not by saying anything,

but by just being herself. Leah used to call my mother the 'comforter of the afflicted.' Any time there was a tiff between two people, she wouldn't say who was right. She would always side with the one who was getting the worst of it."

Tutu's father, Zachariah, was a school headmaster, which meant the son had both the opportunity for an education and a family expectation that he would excel. But it was an education within a world of limits. "I didn't think it (apartheid) was peculiar for a very long time because it was just how things were . . . you didn't question it," he remembers. "But as a boy in school, one knew that there was something wrong with the universe. Deep down in your gut, you knew it."

He and his black schoolmates were taught, for example, that Victoria Falls, the great cataract on the Zambezi River on the Zimbabwe- Zambia border, was discovered by a white man. "Did they really expect me to believe that none of the blacks who lived there had seen the falls until a white man came and told them, 'Hey, this is Victoria Falls'?"

He remembers his father's embarrassment when he was stopped by white policemen and called "boy" in front of his son.

One morning, though, young Desmond was out walking with his mother when a white man wearing a cassock passed by and tipped his hat to them, a courtesy whites simply did not extend to blacks. The priest was Father Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican monk who was one of the first white voices in South Africa to speak against apartheid. (Huddleston, who later became a bishop, now lives in retirement in London.)

Shortly after the hat-tipping incident, Tutu was hospitalized for 20 months with tuberculosis. Huddleston, who had become the family's priest, visited Desmond almost daily. "The thing I remember most about Desmond during those years was that he never gave up hope," Huddleston recalled in a telephone interview. "This little boy very well could have died, but he didn't give up and he never lost his glorious sense of humor."

Tutu named his only son Trevor in gratitude for what he learned from Huddleston: that apartheid was immoral and that not all whites are evil. But the young man still lacked self-confidence. "I can remember the day that I picked up my first tattered copy of Ebony as if it were yesterday," says Tutu. "The magazine described the exploits of one Jackie Robinson, who had broken into major league baseball . . . I didn't know baseball from Ping-Pong but . . . the most important, the most liberating, the most exorcising fact was that Robinson had made it . . . and he was black."

Tutu had hoped to study medicine, but his family couldn't afford it, so he became a teacher. Three years later, when the government introduced a calculatedly second- class system of education for blacks, Tutu resigned in protest. He turned to the ministry in an attempt to follow in Huddleston's footsteps. "I didn't go into the ministry as my first choice. I didn't have any other options so I took what was the path of least resistance . . . "

In time, though, a compromise became a calling. During his religious training, when he began receiving daily communion and practicing regular prayer and meditation, Tutu began to feel "fulfilled." Eventually he took vows as a Franciscan tertiary, promis- ing to model his own life after the life of the medieval Italian friar Francis of Assisi.

Tutu speaks with wonder of how, step by step, he experienced God's increasing guidance. "How does He take us over and possess us so that we have no determination, no part of determining what we want to do? It is really quite incredible. You often are not aware at the time that something is making an impression, such as Bishop Huddleston visiting me in the hospital, a quite remarkable thing. But that is how God works, you see, gently, suggestively. Hardly ever does He simply shanghai us."

Before he was ordained Tutu came to realize, he says, that blacks were not the only South Africans who suffered because of apartheid.

"Whites, in being those who oppress others, dehumanized themselves."

After he was ordained and had been a priest two years, Tutu was sent to London to study. "I'm sure there was racism there, but we were protected by the church. It was marvelous. We didn't have to carry our passes anymore and we did not have to look around to see if we could use that bath or that exit. It was a tremendously liberating thing."

When Tutu returned to South Africa, he began to rise in the church hierarchy. Still, the strictures of his past sometimes haunted him. He recalls boarding a flight in Nigeria in the 1970s and discovering that the pilot and copilot were black. "I was thrilled," recalls Tutu.

Black pilots! But once airborne, Tutu began shifting uneasily in his seat. He wasn't quite certain why. "I had a nagging worry about whether we were going to make it," he says.

As he squirmed and worried, the cause finally hit him. It was the pilots. "Could these blacks really fly this plane . . . without a white person at the controls?"

The real horror of apartheid, he explains, is that "it can cause a child of God to doubt that he or she is a child of God . . . You come to believe what others have determined about you, filling you with self-disgust, self-contempt and self-hatred, accepting a negative self-image."

Tutu used his increasing church power to condemn apartheid. In 1979, by then the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, he outraged the white government by suggesting that it had a "final solution" for dislocated blacks -- it intended to let them starve. Later, under pressure, he tempered the charge. His relations with the government became worse when he advocated foreign divestiture during a television appearance in Denmark. The government seized his passport after he returned home. It was later restored but revoked again when he once again called for divestiture two years later during a trip outside his country. In 1984, white and black Anglican diocesan electors in Johannesburg deadlocked (reportedly along racial lines) over whether Tutu should become the diocese's new bishop. The national Anglican hierarchy intervened and he was elected to oversee South Africa's largest Anglican diocese, with 102 parishes and 300,000 members, about 20 percent of them white.

"I think one of the greatest anguish by many whites as an ogre, as someone against whom they feel horrible hostility. This really bothers me, but then I think, well the black com- munity overwhelmingly loves me.

"I want to be liked, though -- accepted, recognized as a fellow human being."

Police received two death threats against Tutu during his U.S. tour. The possibility of assassination is always on family members' minds, says Leah Tutu, whose particular fear is that her husband will be killed by white vigilantes. So the Tutus stick together. The bishop minced no words when he discovered at the beginning of his tour that Belli had made reservations only for him for a speaking engagement in Boston. "This is not acceptable," he said, after conferring with his wife and children in Sotho, their native language, and he explained that he and his family must travel together everywhere. Belli scrambled to adjust the itinerary.

"You take all threats seriously, but I do not want to be paranoid," Tutu said later. "If someone can get an American president who is one of the most heavily guarded people, what about we lesser mortals?

"Look, if I am doing God's work, then He should jolly well protect me. It is His business to do so and if you are to be killed, then who said you were indispensable?"

THE OFFICE OF South Africa's ambassador to the United States is up a flight of stairs behind several secured doors. Ambassador Herbert Beukes is an Afrikaner, a descendant of Dutch, German and French Huguenots who colonized South Africa from the 17th century onward. When Tutu became bishop of Johannesburg, Beukes said, the government hoped he would help bind the wounds.

"Bishop Tutu, in his role as a church leader . . . can exercise a great deal of influence and play a very constructive and prominent role in the attitudes of people, specifically in reconciling differing viewpoints because we have a divided society," Beukes says. " . . . If I were to give an opinion as to what is the effect of what Bishop Tutu is doing, I think he has caused greater division than healing . . . " Specifically, Beukes and other white leaders criticize Tutu for not condemning the exiled African National Congress, which Beukes contends is a self-proclaimed "instrument of violence and revolution."

"When you look at the ANC's leadership you find that 19 out of 30 members of its national executive committee are also members of the outlawed South African Communist Party," says the ambassador. The ANC claims credit "for land mines, bomb explosions and the killing of innocent women and children." How can Tutu reconcile his views as a churchman with the ANC's violence? Beukes asks. "By his words and by his actions, if he propagates a certain cause and the consequences of that may lead to violence, as indeed through that organiza- tion we have seen violence, then he cannot divorce himself from that."

In Beukes view, Tutu's duty is to condemn the violence of the communist- backed ANC and to convince blacks to sit down and negotiate a peaceful end to apartheid.

"The government has changed fundamentally and dramatically," he says. "You can say, 'Well, how far will they open the door?' Well, we can talk about this, but the problem is not a refusal to negotiate. The government is willing to negotiate and Bishop Tutu knows that."

TUTU HAS answered questions about his views on ANC violence and on the dangers of communism so often, he says, that he could repeat his response in his sleep. "Communism," he observes, "is the ogre that is always dangled before us to support the status quo."

Ninety percent of the blacks in South Africa are Christian, Tutu said at one press conference. Oliver Tambo, one of the ANC's leaders, "offered himself as a candidate for ordination in the Anglican Church . . . I am not yet convinced that the guy who runs the show is the Communist Party."

He added: "The best recruiters for communism are the people who perpetuate the vicious system of apartheid."

Sometimes Tutu is backed into a corner by reporters who insist that he describe his political leanings. He acknowledges being a socialist. "All my experiences with capitalism, I'm afraid, have indicated that it encourages some of the worst features in people. Eat or be eaten. It is underlined by the survival of the fittest. I can't buy that. I mean, maybe it's the awful face of capitalism, but I haven't seen the other face."

In private, during an airplane flight, a plastic cup of orange juice in his hand, and brown Bible in his lap, Tutu explains, "My political position is really quite simple. My own position is one that is due not to a political ideology. My position is due to my faith, my Christian faith and anything that I believe is inconsistent with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ I will say it is wrong and has to be condemned."

He is asked if that means he condemns communism. "Any infringement of human rights anywhere in the world is something that I deplore. All I long for is a society that would be compassionate. A society that would be sharing. A society that would be caring. Now you can say to me, and I will admit it, that we have not seen an incarnation of that kind of society, the kind that you talk about. But we are ministers, we leave it to others to try to put flesh onto the dreams that we try to dream . . . "

Tutu continues: "I oppose all kinds of violence. I have said that over and over and I say it every time. But what you have to realize is that the primary violence in South Africa is apartheid. Let me be clear. Any death is one too many. But 1,000 of our people have been killed, most by the South African security forces, and on the whole the expression of outrage has not been commensurable with the statistics. Then when you have a few white people killed, the world suddenly talks about terrorism and it doesn't say anything about the terrorism of a 1,000 deaths that have happened when people have been trying to carry out peaceful demonstrations . . .

"Our people are patient to a fault. We have called for peaceful change and we have absolutely nothing to show for our efforts and patience."

While Tutu says he opposes violence, he is not a pacifist. "What would you have done in Nazi Germany? The church has always provided a set of criteria to determine when it might be justifiable to go to war. The church recognizes war as an evil and opposes it as an evil, but it also says that sometimes it is necessary to commit an evil to stop a greater evil . . . you Americans did not use nonviolence to rebel against England . . . "

Would Tutu ever advocate the picking up of guns in South Africa?

"If I felt the criteria of the church had been met, but these are very, very tough criteria. One of them is that your cause must be just. You must use methods to obtain your goals that are consistent with your cause, which means that you will not normally use excessive violence, you will not normally seek to kill wantonly defenseless civilians. You must have a reasonable prospect of succeeding and you must be confident that if you are successful, the result will be something better than what you are getting rid of. You must also have tried every other method short of the armed struggle to resolve the problem."

What of Jesus, wasn't he a pacifist? Tutu pauses, "What did he do when he used that whip in the temple? Again you see you have to look at what has been taught generally, by most faiths, what is accepted by the church and has been for a long time . . . The church has said that you have to weigh between two evils, between the Holocaust and overthrowing Hitler."

Back in Washington at the South African embassy, Beukes shakes his head when told of Tutu's responses. Many of Tutu's views toward communism are "naive," Beukes says and his refusal to condemn the ANC is "illogical."

THE GRAND ballroom of the Philadephia Centre Hotel was crowded with members of SANE, an anti-nuclear weapons group that had gathered to award Tutu its annual peace prize. The bishop sat behind a long table on a huge stage.

As the meal was served, a woman walked forward and reached up from the ballroom floor to touch Tutu's hand. He leaned forward, over the table, to greet her. Soon a line formed.

"Keep doin' the Lord's work!"

"I saw you on 'Nightline,' you were very patient!"

"Dr. King would be proud of you!"

Tutu responded the same way to each: "Thank you. God bless you." His meal grew cold.

Everywhere during the first days of his tour, Tutu was surrounded by crowds. Finally, security guards started requiring everyone to stay in their seats after the bishop's speeches so that he could leave on schedule. The comparisons with Dr. King were endless, especially by blacks. Tutu demurred. "I'm not in his league."

THE REPORTERS were perched on the front rows in the circular balcony of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Harlem waiting. What better place for Tutu to attack the white government of South Africa and President Reagan than during his first major speech in New York? The front of the church was filled with dignitaries, so many that they had to be sent to the pulpit in two shifts and their opening remarks were limited to only a few minutes.

Rabbi Gunter Hirschberg, representing New York City's Jewish population, spoke of growing up in Nazi Germany. "I haven't yet forgotten what it felt to be a second-class citizen. I haven't forgotten the insults and the degradation and the beatings and this discription fits not only the Germany in the 1930s but what is happening in South Africa today."

Finally it was Tutu's turn. The church floor vibrated as a subway train passed nearby. The audience of 1,000 or more was ready. But Tutu didn't attack the South African government, he hardly mentioned it. Tutu talked extemporaneously of God.

"I have heard it said," Tutu said, "and religion!' It is almost always those who are benefiting from the status quo who say it. I have yet to hear a hungry person, someone who is in the ghetto, someone who is unemployed, saying, 'Hey, priest, you are too political.'

"God will look down someday and the people will say, 'Aren't we good? Look at us, we are fasting.' And God will say, 'You fast to bring yourself up, you are wicked and you are fools. If you love me, remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, share your food with the hungry, open your homes to the homeless, give clothes to those who have nothing to wear.'

"That is my God," he said. In the Old Testament, God ordered Moses to lead the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt. "Now if God wasn't committing a political act, what else do you call helping slaves to run away?"

Tutu preached for more than an hour. When the collection plates were passed, they were heaped with so much money that a deacon with a strong box had to walk between the aisles emptying them. (By tour's end Tutu had raised $500,000 for various antiapartheid causes and to replace white contributions South African Anglicans have lost by raising people like Desmond Tutu to high office.) Following the sermon, Tutu was cornered in the church's lounge by the media. They were, in turn, surrounded by several hundred worshipers wishing to greet the bishop. As reporters once again asked questions about the ANC, the crowd pushed closer and closer.

It was not clear whether Tutu's next action was intentional, but slowly, inch by inch, he moved to his right, shifting the media and the crowd until finally he was standing near a life-size portrait of a white Jesus with arms stretched out, eyes beckoning.

"Some of us may look like an accident," Tutu had preached, "but none of us is an accident. God wanted me. God loved me. God loves me. God loves me forever and forever and forever. I know that we will be free, not because we are good, not because we deserve it, but because God is God."