Harald Bredesen (1918-2006)

Harald was often called "the father of the charismatic movement," a movement whose adherents now number in the hundreds of millions. He and writer Jean Stone Willans coined the well-known term "charismatic renewal." He also hosted the long-running Christian Broadcasting Network television program "Charisma", and authored two books, "Yes, Lord" and "Need a Miracle?".

Harald was born on August 18th, 1918, in Rugby, North Dakota, to Alfred Bredesen and Dagne Bredesen. His father was the pastor of the Lutheran Church. He attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and was ordained into the Lutheran Church in 1944. Feeling something missing in his life, in 1946 he went to a Pentecostal camp meeting where he received what he felt was missing, namely, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by the experience known as "speaking in tongues."

Though Harald offered his resignation to the Lutheran pastorate, the authorities did not accept it. He took this to be God's call to stay in his church. He was encouraged in this challenging position by David du Plessis and the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship.

In 1957, Harald accepted a call to the Mount Vernon Dutch Reformed Church in New York City where he began a charismatic prayer meeting. Pat Boone, John Sherrill, Bob Slosser and Pat Robertson all speak of Harald Bredesen's role in their Spirit baptism. When Jean Stone formed the Blessed Trinity Society in 1960, Harald became Chairman of the Board. He was a regular speaker at the Society's "Christian Advance" events. In 1963, Jean Stone and Harald coined the phrase "charismatic renewal," a term they both preferred to "Neo-Pentecostalism."

Many well-known Christians have credited Harald with leading them into the baptism of the Holy Spirit, including Pat Robertson and Pat Boone. In his introduction to Harald's book, "Yes, Lord", entertainer Pat Boone wrote, "Abraham - Moses - Gideon - Elijah - I think I've known a man like these. His name is Harald Bredesen. Miracles trail him wherever he goes."

Harald awarded the "Prince of Peace Prize" to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1980, Mother Teresa in 1989, posthumously to King Hussein of Jordan in 1999 (with King Abdullah receiving in his father's stead), and to Billy Graham in 2004. Sadat called the occasion he received the award "the high point of my entire life, more important to me even than the Nobel Peace Prize. That was in the political arena. This was spiritual." In his book Reagan Inside/Out, Bob Slosser called Harald "minister to world leaders." In that role, he touched the lives of some of the most influential figures of his time. A call to prayer that Harald wrote and proposed to his friend Anwar Sadat was cabled by Sadat, President Jimmy Carter and Israel's President Menachem Begin, to leaders around the world on the eve of the Camp David Summit. According to pundits at the time, few summits began with so little going for them. Thirteen days later, President Carter announced the breakthrough by saying, "We began this summit with a call to prayer. The results have exceeded the expectations of any reasonable person. I am Christian. Jesus said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers.'"

Harald met and married Genevieve Corrick in 1954. In 1957, he was called to pastor the historic First Reformed Church of Mount Vernon, New York and soon invited Pat Robertson (later founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network) to join him as assistant pastor.

In 1971, Harald and Gen and their children, Dagni, Margaret, Stephen and David, moved to Victoria, B.C., Canada, where for six years he pastored Trinity Christian Centre*, an independent charismatic church. In 1977, he and his family returned to the USA, and pastored briefly at North County Christian Center in Escondido, California. Thereafter, for the rest of his life Harald focused on his itinerant ministry to churches and individuals, and also the Prince of Peace Foundation which he founded in 1980.

On December 26th, 2006, Harald fell down the stairs in his home, fracturing his skull, resulting in major bleeding in his brain. He died from complications from the fall three days later, on December 29th, 2006.

* Here follows a Eulogy provided at Harald's Memorial Service held in Victoria, BC. by John Stone, who succeeded Harald in 1975 as pastor of Trinity Christian Centre.

Who is adequate to describe this unique man? Certainly not I. But I shall endeavour to describe the impact that he had on my own life and that of my family, for which I shall be forever grateful.

How came he and his family to Victoria?

He came alone at first. About the middle of December, 1970, he was brought to Victoria by Pastor Curtis Mitchell to share in a Friday evening service at the Vic West Church which later became known simply as "Trinity." Harald was actually on his way to an appointment in Switzerland; he had asked Curtis to be "let off the hook" from his undertaking to come to Victoria for a one night stand. Curtis had replied, "I will not! God told me to book you for this night in Victoria!" And so Curtis and Harald both came to our church that Friday evening. Now during the service Curtis brought a prophecy the gist of which was, "I have seen your tears and heard your groans, and within three days, I will do something which will fill your hearts with joy to overflowing." Little did Harald know that he was to be the focus of that prophecy.

At the conclusion of the service, the pastor of the church, Charles Kingsfield spoke with Harald. Pastor Kingsfield explained that he wasn't well, and that he was only hanging onto the church until God's man should arrive on the scene to take it over. Suddenly he turned to Harald and said, "I believe you are God's man! Will you take it?" Harald looked at him with astonishment and told him, in effect, "I wouldn't dream of giving up my world-wide ministry (for such it was) and taking over this little old church." But, as you all well know, "that was not the end of the story."

It came about that Harald was booked to stay at our home overnight after the service. So we took him home and he and I shared together in front of the fire in our living room from about 10 pm until 2 am the next morning, which was Saturday. During that time it seemed as if the Lord knit our hearts together in a strange and remarkable way. Here, on the one hand, was Harald, this middle-aged, much-travelled, charismatic, outgoing Lutheran minister with a silver tongue and an incredible Christ-like love for all with whom he came in contact, coupled with an amazing ability to bring God's people of every description and in every denomination into the experience known as the baptism with the Holy Spirit; and on the other hand, this youngish, rather introspective, ex-Anglican lawyer, now an elder in a small, new congregation, whose only qualification for partnership with Harald seems to have been a spiritual hunger for God and the things of the Spirit. We were so to speak, an unlikely combination, to say the least! ( Some would say "weird"!) And yet it seemed the Lord's good pleasure to knit us together in a fellowship of Christian love which has continued without intermission for some 37 years until Harald went to be with the Lord last December.

Very late that first evening in our home, as Harald would tell it, the Lord spoke to him to this effect, "For twelve years you looked at that dead hand of tradition at the tiller of [the traditional church Harald pastored in New York] and you said, 'Remove or be removed' and instead Harald I removed you. Now I am giving you a whole new chance to build a church without that dead hand at the tiller. Will you take it? It would please Me if you would." Ever one to be willing to please the Lord at whatever cost, after much soul-searching, Harald determined that his answer was to be, "Yes, Lord!" And in the morning, he promptly called Pastor Kingsfield and reversed his earlier response. The upshot of all this was that within three days of the prophecy given by Curtis Mitchell, Harald was presented to the congregation as the new pastor of the Vic West church. As Curtis prophesied three days earlier, there was indeed much joy in the camp!

And so began a new chapter, not just in Harald's life and those of his family, but in Eva's and my lives, and those of our family and our church family. After fulfilling his commitments in Switzerland and elsewhere, Harald arrived in Victoria about the middle of January, 1971, to serve as pastor of what soon became known as "Trinity Christian Centre." Pending the arrival of Gen and their children from California he took up residence in our home for about a month. Even in our home, Harald's modus operandi was, to say the least, a marvel to behold, thanks to his incredible energy, spontaneity, and his total commitment to being led by the Spirit. There came the numerous phone calls for Harald from it seemed all over the world. And then there were the guests that Harald would bring home with him. There was never a dull moment! But Eva and I both came very soon to love this man this brilliant, humble, loving, Spirit-led, eloquent, inclined-on-occasion-to-be-forgetful man of God, who indeed "made a difference for good, " it seemed, in virtually everyone with whom he came in contact.

Best of all, Harald soon made a huge and unmistakable difference in the lives of the young men and women who now began to flock to our church, leaving in many cases the "hippy" lifestyles of the early seventies, to find reality and transformation in Christ and the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

To sum up my eulogy: After only some six years among us, Harald left a deposit so rich that the thirty or so years since he left us have scarcely dimmed or dented our memory of him. Some people we might easily forget; but Harald? Not easily; not ever. But why is that? Was it his Churchillian eloquence? His ability to charm us with fascinating stories of his Spirit-led adventures? His exuberance? His willingness to reach out to all, rich or poor, to walk with kings and yet not lose the common touch? The child-like quality of his walk with His Lord? Yes, it was all of the above.

But most of all I remember him for the love with which he truly loved us, with which he truly loved virtually all with whom he came in contact. This was a man who majored in loving relationships, and whose example challenges us to do the same. This was a man who walked in love, who lived in love.

I find I cannot put into words the gratitude I feel as we take time to remember Harald, but I do thank God for him, I thank God for having sent him to live among us. I thank God for what he taught us, and for a life so well lived to the full in the service of His Master. Amen!

John Stone, January 21st, 2007

John Stone and Harald Bredesen at Lake Cowichan BC Canada circa 1972

Other References to Harald's Life

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