The Rev. Dr. James Willett Kraus Sr., 51, the district superintendent of the Capital District of the Wesleyan Church since 1971 and former minister of the National Wesleyan Church in Hyattsville, died of a pulmonary embolism Saturday at National Hospital in Arlington.

Dr. Kraus was born in Newport News, Va., and grew up there and in Vinton, Va., where his parents, the Rev. and Mrs. James E. Kraus, established the Pilgrim Church. He graduated from Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky., in 1952. For the next three years, he was a teacher in Giles County, Va.

In 1955, Dr. Kraus moved to the Washington area and became a teacher at Bladensburg Junior High in the Prince George's County public school system. At the same time, he was minister of the Woodbridge Pilgrim Church in Washington, now the National Wesleyan Church. In the late 1950s, he gave up teaching to devote full time to his ministry.

Dr. Kraus was named district superintendent of the Captial District of the Wesleyan Church in 1971. For some time after taking that post, he continued as minister of the National Wesleyan Church.

In 1978, he received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Simmons Theological Seminary. In 1953, he took extension courses from the University of Virginia in Roanoake and in 1962 he did graduate work at American University.

Dr. Kraus was president of the Dransesville Camp Meeting Association in Herndon and was a vice president of the Bentleyville (Pa.) Camp, a church-sponsored organization. He lived in Adelphi.

In addition to his parents, of Hyattsville, survivors include his wife, Gladys M., two daughters, Susan Lynn and Carol Ann, and one son, James W. Jr., all of Adelphi; one sister, Jean Williams of Fulton, Md., and one brother, Richard C., of Richmond.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the James W. Kraus Memorial Fund of the Capital District of the Wesleyan Church, 9616 Baltimore Ave., Laurel, Md., 20810.