Who were the pioneer charismatic leaders?
Who were the principal charismatic leaders who emerged during the 1960s and 1970s in both the Roman Catholic Church and the mainline Protestant denominations and what was their contribution to the worldwide renewal movement?
Described by some church historians as the “Second Wave of the Spirit” the charismatic movement is a spin-off from classical Pentecostalism among the mainline denominations, which became widespread in the 1960s and 1970s. It has profoundly affected both Protestant and Roman Catholic Christianity.
When the National Association of Evangelicals invited several Pentecostal groups to join in 1943, this signaled that the neo-Pentecostal/charismatic movement had become accepted as a part of Christian orthodoxy.
As Pentecostal believers participated in the general economic prosperity in postwar America and were increasingly seen in professional positions, the “charismatic” type of Christianity was no longer seen as a phenomenon restricted to the lower classes. Prominent business leaders and middle class adherents fostered the interest in divine healing that swept North America in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Prominent Pentecostal evangelists and early charismatic leaders held mass healing/evangelistic crusades and pioneered television ministries such as Oral Roberts, William Branham, Jack Coe, T. L. Osborne, Kathryn Kuhlman, and A. A. Allen.
Early charismatic leaders
The first of the pioneering charismatic leaders I became interested in during the mid 1970s was Kathryn Kuhlman (1907-1976). Beginning in the 1940s, she traveled extensively around the United States and internationally holding healing crusades.
Kuhlmann also hosted a weekly national television program in the 1960s and 1970s called I Believe In Miracles. It was through her book by the same name that I became interested in Kuhlman's ministry.
Kuhlman acknowledged her lack of theological training. Nevertheless, thousands claimed to have received divine healing through her ministry. Some have disputed the claims of miraculous cures.
One study conducted by William A. Nolen M.D. (1928-1986) in Philadelphia in 1967 investigated 23 people who claimed to have been healed during Kuhlman's services. Nolen's long term follow-ups concluded there were no cures in these cases. Critics allege that Kuhlman intentionally deceived her audiences because there is a lack of scientific evidence to prove the validity of faith healing.
In spite of the criticisms, Kuhlman influenced other charismatic leaders; especially Benny Hinn, who has adopted some of her techniques and has a written a book about her.
Shakarian had sponsored evangelistic tent campaigns, which he observed mainly attracted women. He launched the FGBMFI to encourage more participation by men by providing a platform for businessmen to give testimonies concerning their experiences with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The FGBMFI provided one of the major impetuses for the worldwide spread of the charismatic movement.
I became aware of Shakarian and the story of the FGBMFI through the book The Happiest People on Earth, written by John and Elizabeth Sherrill and published in 1975. Shortly thereafter, a chapter of the fellowship was formed close to my home in the city of Bedford, England. I immediately joined the Bedford Chapter and was member of the FGBMFI for five years.
In 1978 I joined the Baton Rouge, LA chapter. I attended the FGBMFI World Convention in New Orleans in July 1979 where I personally met Demos Shakarian as well as other prominent North American charismatic leaders including Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Jim Bakker, John Osteen and Kenneth Hagin, Sr.
Du Plessis attributed his ministry among non-Pentecostals to a prophecy given to him by Pentecostal evangelist Smith Wigglesworth in 1936 that he was to leave home and take the Pentecostal message to the far corners of the earth, for God was going to do a work which would dwarf the Pentecostal movement. During the 1950s du Plessis became Pentecostalism’s unofficial ambassador to mainline Christianity.
According to historian Richard Quebedeaux, “by the 1950s, some mainline church leaders had even come to regard Pentecostalism as a ‘Third Force’ in world Christianity,” thanks to du Plessis’ efforts.
North American charismatic leaders
As a young Lutheran pastor Harold Bredesen (1918-2006) received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at a Pentecostal camp-meeting in 1946. He proffered his resignation, but it was rejected by his Lutheran superiors. In 1957 he became pastor of Mount Vernon Dutch Reformed Church in New York City, which became a center for charismatic ministry.
Bredesen’s 1963 mission on the Yale campus attracted national publicity and it was at this time that he coined the designation “charismatic renewal” as an alternative to “neo-Pentecostal.”
Bredesen's growing worldwide ministry was often financed by the FGBMFI. As one of the most widely respected of charismatic leaders, Bredesen was instrumental in the early development of the Roman Catholic charismatic renewal in Latin America. According to David L. Smith, vice president for academic affairs and professor of Christian theology at Providence Theological seminary, Bredesen “maintained a constant testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit in human life.”
On Passion Sunday 1960, Bennett publicly testified to his congregation about his experience. When challenged by antagonistic church members, Bennett voluntarily resigned. The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles forbade any speaking in tongues in church-related meetings. The controversy gained national attention in Time and Newsweek.
In 1960, Bennett became rector of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Seattle. This was a tiny, struggling mission work. Within a year most of the leadership had experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Under Bennett’s leadership St. Luke’s grew into one of the denomination’s strongest churches. It became a major center for the promotion of the charismatic renewal among mainline churches and Bennett became one of the most well known charismatic leaders in the world.
In 1968, Bennett and his wife Rita founded the Christian Renewal Association to promote worldwide evangelism, healing, and renewal in all denominations.
Along with hundreds and thousands of people, I was introduced to the charismatic experience through Bennett’s book, Nine O’clock in the Morning (1970).
While serving with the British army in World War II, he began to study the Bible and experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. He was baptized in the Holy Spirit a few days later. Out of this encounter he formed two conclusions...
(1) That Jesus Christ is alive;
(2) That the Bible is a true, relevant, up-to-date book.
...these conclusions altered the whole course of Prince's career.
He planted and pastored a Pentecostal Church in London from 1949 to 1956. In 1957-1961, he served as missionary in Kenya, moving to Canada in 1961. Prince pastored in Seattle, Washington from 1964 to 1968 where he became involved in a deliverance ministry. A prolific writer and world-class Bible teacher, Prince became one of the most influential of all charismatic leaders.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s Prince gave a summer lecture series in London, England. I attended many of these lectures at the Porchester Hall and Westminister Chapel. I heard Dr. Prince lecture on subjects such as The Exchange Made at the Cross, Israel and the Nations, Spiritual Warfare, Elders and Apostles, Seven Pictures of the Church, Demonology and Deliverance, and Discipleship.
Prince’s gift for explaining the Bible and its teaching, in a clear and simple way, coupled with his non-denominational, non-sectarian approach made him one of the most influential teachers to the charismatic renewal in the world. However, he was attacked by some for his teaching on demonology and shepherding.
During the 1960s there was little structure to the growing charismatic movement. To this loose and amorphous group Prince and four other North American charismatic leaders offered a distinctive leadership style and structure. In 1974, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Prince established the Good News Church with Don Basham and Bob Mumford, from which a quasi-denomination, based on disicipling or “sherpherding” concepts formed around these leaders. Along with Ern Baxter and Charles Simpson, they were known as the "Fort Lauderdale Five".
These five prominent charismatic leaders established the Holy Spirit Teaching Mission, later renamed Christian Growth Ministries. They began producing tapes, books, and a widely circulated monthly magazine called New Wine. Their leadership style resulted in considerable controversy. In 1984, Prince, along with other members of the "Five" renounced the basic principles of the shepherding movement.
Charismatic leaders in Britain
The "second wave" of the Holy Spirit began around 1962 in Great Britain. The first charismatic leaders who emerged were largely in the Church of England (Anglican). In 1963, Rev. Michael Harper, an Anglican curate, received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. In 1964, he founded the Fountain Trust, which sponsored renewal conferences and seminars.
In November 1965, two major events led to a dramatic increase in the British renewal movement. First, Dennis Bennett spoke at several theological colleges and churches, where he was extremely well received. Second, hundreds of “Full Gospel” businessmen arrived in London for a convention and on to do evangelism throughout the country.
Urquhart resigned from St. Hughes in 1976 to pursue a national and international ministry as a charismatic teacher and writer. He founded Kingdom Faith Ministries and worked closely with Harper's Fountain Trust and Shakarian's FGBMFI.
As rector of St. Michael-le-Belfrey in York, led a nationwide ministry of evangelism, which was committed to the Spirit’s ecumenical work across all the churches. He did much to build bridges between charismatic leaders from both Protestant and Catholic traditions. Watson met the Vineyard founder John Wimber (1934-1997) in 1980, and was one of the first charismatic leaders to welcome him to the UK. Wimber is considered by some as one of the pioneers of the "third wave" of the Holy Spirit.
The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements sums up Watson’s contribution: “Possibly the spiritual leader who in life and death has made the greatest impact on contemporary Christian life in Britain.” My first introduction to charismatic teaching and spiritual gifts was through Watson's bestselling 1973 publication, One in the Spirit.
Charismatic leaders in the Roman Catholic Church
In the early 1960s Pope John XXXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, known as Vatican II. Roman Catholics worldwide were asked to pray for the success of the Council. The prayer they were asked to recite was "May there be a new Pentecost in our day".
The Catholic renewal movement began in a student prayer group at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in February, 1967. It was led by two lay theology professors Ralph Keifer and Patrick Bourgeois. Their interest in the baptism in the Holy Spirit had been aroused by two books: David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade (1963) and John Sherrill’s They Speak with Other Tongues (1964). The group spent a weekend in prayer, meditating on the Book of Acts. According to David Smith, “the result was repetition of the Azusa Street experience.”
In March 1967, the Duquesne group visited Notre Dame University. In April 1967, about 100 students and faculty from Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Duquesne met on the campus of Notre Dame to discuss their charismatic beliefs. The story of the conference was carried in major Catholic papers and sparked national interest.
They had a common expectation expect that Spirit baptism is demonstrated by an accompanying spiritual gift, although they do not insist that this must be tongues. As well as affirming the gift of tongues as a devotional language, Catholic charismatic leaders hold the gifts of prophecy and healing in high regard.
Petit conducted retreats and spoke at churches of all denominations around the world. He became a frequent and popular speaker at FGBMFI regional and national conventions.
I heard Father Petit speak at the 1979 FGBMFI World Convention in New Orleans. In his address he suggested that the term "charismatic renewal" is too narrow. He argued that while the renewal does have much to say about the charismatic gifts, greatly neglected in the Church of to-day, it is misleading, for it is about total renewal of Church life.
As a committed churchman, Petit emphasized the importance of the local church. This emphasis was widely appreciated by other charismatic leaders. According to Petit, the charismatic movement "shows God's hand working in an extraordinary way across the denominational divide." As a result Christians from very differing backgrounds were brought together and many prejudices were dispelled.
Petit was also concerned that for those not securely based in their faith the renewal has been very disturbing and there have been groups who have left their church and gone off on their own. "While one does not want such things to happen," Petit wisely writes, "it has to be faced that if we do not nourish our flocks with the gospel truth, they will go in search of it and commit themselves where they find it."
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