The man called the "father of charismatic renewal," one of the fastest-growing movements in Christendom," was born in North Dakota.
Harald Bredesen was a third-generation Lutheran minister who later became the first to successfully introduce the Pentecostal experiences into a traditional Christian church. Bredesen met with many world leaders and had prayer sessions with at least four U.S. presidents: Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. He was a mentor to Pat Robertson and an early director of the Christian Broadcasting Network. Pat Boone likened Bredesen to "Abraham, Moses, Gideon, (and) Elijah."
Elmer Harald Bredesen was born Aug. 16, 1918, at the Rugby Hospital to Alfred and Dagny (Knutson) Bredesen. Alfred was pastor of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Leeds and went on to be pastor at Morris, Minn., in 1919, Bricelyn, Minn., in 1922 and Decorah, Iowa, in 1930. Elmer proudly used his middle name, which was given to him in honor of his uncle Harald Knutson, a powerful and well-respected U.S. congressman from Minnesota.
Harald Bredesen was an excellent student but rebelled against becoming a minister like his father and grandfather. After attending a sermon by his father that appeared to be directed at him during his senior year at Luther College in Decorah, Bredesen enthusiastically embraced becoming a minister.
Before being ordained in 1945, he believed he could make a spectacular movie depicting the life of Jesus Christ and sent out a letter to American church leaders asking for their support. Most of them liked the idea and invited him to New York City to discuss the project. In the meetings, it was learned that he had not raised any of the $8 million needed to finance the project, and their support was rescinded. However, they liked his moxie, and Bredesen was given the position of public relations secretary for the World Council of Christian Education.
Bredesen's job was to enlist sponsors who would help raise money to restore Christian educational systems in war-torn countries after World War II. Bredesen started at the top and called Vice President Harry S. Truman, who agreed to be the U.S. sponsor of the overall project. Shortly after accepting, Truman became president. Bredesen also enlisted American business leaders and received agreements from the monarchs in Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as Chiang Kai-shek of China.
With this success, Bredesen was asked to establish the Foreign Trade Corp. with retired Admiral Charles Freeman and William Kuo, the brother of Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Bredesen was named secretary-treasurer. They also formed the China Import-Export Co. in August 1947, with Bredesen serving as vice president. The companies floundered, and Bredesen lost money.
In the early 1950s, Bredesen began evangelizing as a Pentecostal in Florida and Arkansas. He eventually went to work for the Gospel Association for the Blind in New York, where he met Pat Robertson, a young lawyer who was attending the seminary. The two became good friends.
In 1957, Bredesen was called to be pastor of the First Reformed Church of Mount Vernon, N.Y. He invited Robertson to join him as his assistant pastor. Bredesen at first delivered traditional sermons but later introduced Pentecostal experiences. Eventually, his congregation began to grow.
In the late 1950s, Bredesen visited a small church in a Brooklyn ghetto where he helped the Rev. David Wilkerson launch a ministry to teenage gangs. The result was the popular book "The Cross and the Switchblade," which was later made into a motion picture. In 1961, Bredesen helped Robertson found CBN and later became head of the network.
Bredesen began visiting colleges in the 1960s, and the Saturday Evening Post dubbed him the "Charismatic envoy to the Campuses." He met with singer Pat Boone, whose marriage was in peril because of excessive partying. During a prayer to God, Boone related, "I had the feeling he was all around me. With the sense of his presence came a feeling of release, as though I were suddenly freed from the restraints and limitations of the world below me." Boone later introduced Bredesen to many of his Hollywood friends.
With a letter of introduction from Boone, Bredesen met with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Bredesen and Sadat soon became friends, and the Egyptian president was encouraged to meet with President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Premier Menachem Begin at Camp David in 1979. For this brave move, Bredesen created the Prince of Peace Prize and awarded it to Sadat in 1980.
After serving as a pastor in Victoria, British Columbia, and Van Nuys and San Marcos in California, Bredesen retired. He died on Dec. 29, 2006.
"Did You Know That" is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at email@example.com.