Harder, Leland David (1926-2013)

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Leland and Bertha Harder, 1962. Family photo

Leland David Harder was born 1 July 1926 in Hillsboro, Kansas, USA, to Menno Simon Harder (25 August 1898-10 August 1965) and Katherine Wiens Harder (11 August 1902-11 February 1986). He was the second son and third child in a family of four children. On 8 August 1951 he married Bertha Fast (26 July 1914-23 August 2008). They had two sons, John D. (1953- ) and Thomas L. (1957-).

Leland was a graduate of Bethel College (BA, 1948), Michigan State University (MA, 1950), Bethany Biblical Seminary (Chicago, BD, 1952) and Northwestern University (PhD in Sociology of Religion, 1962). From 1958 to 1983 he taught practical theology and directed the field work program at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana.

Harder served as a noncombatant in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and later became a convinced pacifist. He served pastorates at First Mennonite Church on Chicago’s south side (1952-57), and at St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship (1978-81). He became known as a scholar whose books documented and analyzed the status of Mennonite denominations in the United States and Canada. With J. Howard Kauffman, Harder undertook a major statistical survey-based research project of five Mennonite and Brethren in Christ denominations in North America, called the Church Member Profile. Their book Anabaptists Four Centuries Later (1975), comprehensively covering the religious, political and social attitudes and behavior of North American Mennonites, was a product of this study, aiming to make the data and conclusions understandable to lay people. Twenty years later, Harder, Kauffman, and Leo Driedger collaborated on Church Member Profile II. Kauffman and Driedger published Mennonite Mosaic, while Harder contributed a companion volume Doors to Lock and Doors to Open (1993), with 13 chapters suitable for a three-month adult Sunday School study.

Harder had two sabbatical leaves from AMBS prior to the three-year leave in St. Louis. In 1965 he worked as a hospital chaplain in Richmond, Virginia, and 1971-72 he worked and studied at The Irish School of Ecumenics, Dublin, Ireland.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Harder undertook the major research project of his life, an in-depth study of Conrad Grebel, one of the founders of Swiss Anabaptism in the early 16th century. For the first time, dozens of extant letters between Grebel and his mentor, Zurich radical priest Ulrich Zwingli, were translated to English, forming the basis for his book Sources of Swiss Anabaptism. In addition, as he had done with his publications following the CMP, Harder sought to make his research palatable to lay persons by writing a two-act one-man drama. He enlisted son John to play the part of Grebel. Later, he created shorter versions, suitable for a chapel meditation or Sunday church service.

Harder retired in North Newton, Kansas in 1983. He did extensive research and writing about the history of the Harder family, publishing a quarterly newsletter for 16 years, and organized several large family reunions with common ancestor his great-grandfather Johann Harder, a leader of a major Mennonite immigration from South Russia to south-central Kansas in 1874. Leland served part-time as director of the Great Plains Seminary Education Program, and as conference minister for the South Central Conference ((Old) Mennonite Church). At the Bethel College Mennonite Church he was an adult-class Sunday School teacher, and became an early advocate for LBGTQ inclusion.

Leland was not afraid to speak out against perceived injustices. At home he was a do-it-yourself carpenter and jack of all trades. He was known for playing piano by ear, making delicious pancakes, and helping family and friends to be and do their best. He enjoyed summer vacation car trips with his wife and two sons to family homes in Minnesota and Kansas. In his later years he enjoyed interaction with five granddaughters.

He suffered a stroke in April 2011, and died 21 March 2013. Leland and Bertha Harder are buried in the Gnadenau Mennonite Cemetery south of Hillsboro, Kansas.


Klassen, Mary E. "Leland Harder studied Anabaptist history and present-day Anabaptists." Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. 2 April 2013. Web. 20 August 2018. https://www.ambs.edu/news-events/news/703976/leland-harder-studied-anabaptist-history-and-present-day-anabaptists.

“Leland D. Harder.” The Kansan 1 April 2013. Web. 20 August 2018. http://www.thekansan.com/article/20130401/obituaries/130409875.

“Leland David Harder.” GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 18-03 ed. https://www.grandmaonline.org/GW-ASP-4/GWIndividual-new.asp: #20153.

Books published by Leland Harder

Plockhoy from Zurik-zee: The Study of a Dutch Reformer in Puritan England and Colonial America. With Marvin Harder. Newton, Kansas: Board of Education and Publication, General Conference Mennonite Church, 1952.

The Concept of Discipleship in Christian Education. New York, NY: Religious Education Association, 1963.

Anabaptists Four Centuries Later: A Profile of Five Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Denominations. With J. Howard Kauffman. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1975.

The Pastor-People Partnership: The Call and Recall of Pastors from a Believers’ Church Perspective. Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1983.

Sources of Swiss Anabaptism. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1985.

Doors to Lock and Doors to Open: The Discerning People of God. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1993.

Author(s) John D. Harder
James C. Juhnke
Date Published August 2018

Cite This Article

MLA style

Harder, John D. and James C. Juhnke. "Harder, Leland David (1926-2013)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2018. Web. 30 Jun 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Harder,_Leland_David_(1926-2013)&oldid=172283.

APA style

Harder, John D. and James C. Juhnke. (August 2018). Harder, Leland David (1926-2013). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 June 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Harder,_Leland_David_(1926-2013)&oldid=172283.

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