Monday, 6 April 2009

Kathryn Kuhlman 1907 – 1976, 'I believe in miracles, because I believe in God'

Nobody could accuse Katheryn Kuhlman of being lazy. For nearly thirty years she constantly held public healing services attended by thousands. Most meetings lasted three hours, some five – and she never sat down. In Pittsburgh she filled the 2,000 seat Carnegie Hall three times a week for ten years; in Los Angeles 7,000 came to her monthly meetings at the Shrine Auditorium for twenty years. And when she travelled to new places, the crowds were bigger. In 1952 she visited Akron in Ohio and a shocked police had to deal with 18,000 wanting to see her. As well as her public preaching, she was famous on radio,
she started broadcasting in 1946. Later millions saw her on TV, on both her own programmes (Your Faith and Mine; I Believe In Miracles), and on national talk shows. And in between the meetings, the radio and TV shows, she wrote ten best selling books and founded and directed two foundations after her name, one in the USA, the other in Canada. With such a gruelling schedule, it is not surprising her heart suffered. She died after surgery in early 1976: she was 68.

Miracles
Until 1946 Kathryn Kuhlman was one of thousands of travelling evangelists in America, albeit a successful one. Then at a meeting in Franklin, Pennsylvania, a woman testified she had been healed of a tumour. Kathryn Kuhlman said: ‘It happened without the laying on of hands, without any special prayer; it just happened as a woman sat in the audience while I was preaching on the power of the Holy Spirit.’ Kathryn Kuhlman continued preaching the Gospel, insisting salvation was the most important healing - but her name now became synonymous with miracles.

There were in fact four miracles at her meetings; there was ‘the word of knowledge’ she exercised, calling out the diseases of the people being healed from the vast crowd, then the physical healing; the third was the spiritual miracle of salvation; and finally, when she prayed most people were ‘slain in the Spirit’, they would fall over.

There are hundreds of testimonies of all these miracles at her meetings. Here is one of a healing and salvation. Seated a few rows ahead was a teenage girl with a terrible skin condition. Kathryn Kuhlman called her out and described her condition. As she rose something wonderful began to happen. She and her friends began to weep, to shout, to tremble. By the time she reached Miss Kuhlman on stage, her skin condition had totally cleared up! Oh, how those girls worshiped! The whole troop ran to the altar to receive Him as their Lord, Savior and Friend![1] Tonya Reed, a Christian counsellor from Pittsburgh writes this about a meeting she attended in 1972 –‘I saw many get out of wheel chairs and walk. I saw the blind receive their sight, I witnessed the deaf receiving hearing and I saw many come to faith in Jesus Christ…’[2]

Delores Winder at 48 was dying of a rare bone disease. A friend showed her a Kathryn Kuhlman meeting on TV and she was not impressed: ‘I was just revolted by what I saw. I did not believe in divine healing at all, and I felt at the time that these television ministries were making a mockery of faith’. Yet while praying intensely about who would look after her children after her death she heard the name ‘Kathryn Kuhlman’. Still skeptical, she went to hear the evangelist, very sick, and in a body cast. During the service, while Kuhlman spoke on the Holy Spirit, she had a vision of Jesus Christ and felt assured over her children. This for her was enough and not believing in healing, she now wanted to leave. ‘My friend was about to get me up to leave, when I noticed a man standing next to me. He said, ‘Something is happening to you.’ I told him, “My legs are burning like fire and I am dying, and I need to get out of here right now.” But the man knew she was being healed, as indeed she was, and instead of helping her leave, he encouraged her to go to the stage where Kathryn Kuhlman prayed for her. “When we left, I walked off that platform - no cast, no cane, no assistance. This was medically impossible. Delores Winders is now over eighty, and still testifying[3].

Nearly everyone Kathryn Kuhlman prayed for was ‘slain in the Spirit’. A Catholic priest wrote this about a friend he took to a meeting – ‘She moved back towards him and he fell backwards onto the floor of the stage. It was the first time I’d seen someone ‘slain in the spirit.’ He wasn’t hurt and he got right back up. I think that she might have sent a couple of more prayers toward him and each time he would fall down backwards.’[4] He saw this many times, and though he had no idea why it happened, he is adamant it is a genuine and has nothing to do with the power of hypnosis or auto-suggestion.

An Experience
Whether you received a miracle or not a Kathryn Kuhlman service was clearly an experience in its own right. There was the sheer number of people in the congregation; there was the choir, usually 250 strong, who started the service with great choral anthems backed by a huge piped organ; then came the congregational worship and during this Kathryn Kuhlman would come on stage, both hands raised high above her head, always dressed in a beautiful gown[5]. The crowd would clap ecstatically, and then she would join in the singing, her voice via the microphone, heard clearly above the thousands of others. She would then ask everyone to sit down, welcome them, and introduce her musical team, who would perform some solos. Kathryn Kuhlman did not allow any disturbances, so ushers were instructed to make sure screaming babies were taken out, and if any over excited people started shouting, or speaking loudly in tongues they were asked to calm down by ushers, or leave. After the musical solos, Kathryn Kuhlman would preach and then start to mention what the Lord was doing in the audience and calling people out. The miracles had begun[6].

Unfair Accusations
There is no doubt that thousands were healed or touched in some positive way through her ministry[7]. But as a lady miracle worker she attracted scepticism from a society which believed leadership was male and divine healing rare. Her situation was not made easier by the fact that America’s last famous lady healer, Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), had ended up surrounded by scandal. McPherson had claimed she was abducted for thirty five days from a Californian beach, but when the newspapers probed her story, it was clear she had had an adulterous adventure. Those hostile to Kathryn Kuhlman’s ministry sniffed for the same scent of scandal.

They found it in a disastrous marriage. While leading the ‘Denver Revival Tabernacle’ in the 1930’s she became fond of fellow evangelist, Burroughs Waltrip, who, unfortunately for Kathryn, was married with two sons. Waltrip divorced his wife, and to the fury of church and friends, Kathryn married him in 1938. The couple never established a viable ministry as news of the divorce dogged them wherever they went. Kathryn Kuhlman realised she had sinned and left Waltrip in 1944: four years later he divorced her. All through her life, and still today, over thirty years after her death, critics use this romantic relapse as evidence against her, implying her whole ministry was fake, even demonic. This is unfair. When Burrough Waltrip swept into Denver with his good looks and deceitful charm[8]., Kathryn Kuhlman was young, 27, and vulnerable, as her father had just died in an accident. It is easy to understand why she fell for him. But it was still wrong, and Kuhlman never tried to excuse herself. She admitted the marriage was sinful, got out of it – and then remained single and totally committed to God for thirty-two years. To damn her ministry for this romantic relapse is too severe.

Another criticism thrown at faith healers, often quite rightly, is their luxurious life-style. Nobody knows how much money Benny Hinn earns, but we know he lives in a ten million dollar mansion, and owns a private jet: it’s not surprising he gets some flack. Reporters and enemies tried to smear Kathryn Kuhlman with this charge, but were unsuccessful. Certainly she lived in a comfortable house, but she drew a known salary from her organisation and apart from her fine and flamboyant dresses, very much a part of her presentation, she had no other materialistic obsessions. She was once accused of stashing away valuable jewellery and fine art in her house. She phoned the newspapers and invited them to come and look. They didn’t come.

Kathryn Kuhlman faced other unfair accusations. Anti Charismatics said she exalted the Holy Spirit above Jesus, when the Scripture says the Holy Spirit will glorify Christ[9]. Her own roots were Methodist and Baptist, but in 1946 she had an intimate experience with the Holy Spirit and it was that year she saw the first healing in her meeting. From then on, not surprisingly, she often preached on the Holy Spirit. She called Him her ‘best friend’ and ‘greatest teacher’ and quite rightly attributed all the miracles at her meetings to His power. The Christian singer Nancy Honeytree tells a story about a friend who ‘found himself back stage with Miss Kuhlman while she was in prayer. He wanted to exit the, but she was blocking the only way out. She was praying, ‘Oh, Lord, if there’s anything in my life that doesn’t please you, take it out and kill it!” My friend closed his eyes and heard her praying the same prayer, when suddenly the prayer changed to “Oh Lord, if there’s anything in OUR lives that doesn’t please you, take it out and kill it!” He could hear she had turned and was moving across the room and he that she was standing directly in front of him. She said, “The Holy Spirit is real’[10] She did then emphasize the Holy Spirit: and was right to do so as orthodox Christianity teaches that while the Father and Son are in heaven: the Holy Spirit has direct dealings with men. So the accusation is wrong: and it is mean spirited. Kathryn Kuhlman left school when she was sixteen and though she attended a small Bible school in her twenties, and studied at a night school, she was no theologian. Like all leaders she had her own emphases, but there was no heresy. Indeed at Pittsburgh the Presbyterians, no compromisers when it comes to doctrine, were happy to let her use their largest church. Another mean spirited accusation she faced was she welcomed Roman Catholics, and people of all faiths were healed at her meetings. The accusation is again a smear, implying her doctrine was not Biblical and so she and all her works was suspect. It is certainly true she welcomed Roman Catholics and people of all faiths and none – and that God touched them. The true Christian response to this is to praise the God and Father of all nations, not to darkly mutter that that this makes the ministry suspect.

A more difficult accusation was that her meetings created false hopes that soon collapsed. As Kathryn Kuhlman herself knew, thousands arrived at her meetings sick – and they left sick. Nothing happened. Dr Nolen, an usher at a Minneapolis meeting wrote, – ‘All the desperately ill patients who had been in wheel chairs were still in wheel chairs…as I stood in the corner watching the hopeless cases leave, seeing the tears of the parents as they pushed their crippled children to the elevators, I wished Miss Kuhlman had been with me.’ Dr Nolen went on to research what happened to eighty two people who claimed to be healed in Minneapolis in June 1973. His conclusions were that not one of them was actually healed, and that at least one, Mrs Sullivan, got worse. She had gone onto the stage believing she had been healed of her cancer. Encouraged by Kathryn Kuhlman she took off her brace and ran on the stage. Later that night she woke up in terrible pain as one of her vertebrae had collapsed due to her exertions. The doctor’s verdict is not that Kathryn Kuhlman was malicious or manipulative – but just ignorant, wrongly believing that God was healing through her when He wasn’t. [11]

Dr Nolen’s evidence though is not compelling evidence for rejecting Kathryn Kuhlman’s ministry. She never promised anyone they would be healed, but she knew that some were. Delores Widers, mentioned earlier, is proof of that. Was she to not hold any meetings for fear of creating false hope? This was not the example of Jesus or the apostles. And if a sick person were not healed, there are testimonies that they still left the meeting, not with shattered hope, but renewed faith in God who would give them eternal life. And there are testimonies of others who were not touched directly, but still had their life changed. A Roman Catholic priest sums this up well: ‘I saw thousands of people gathering time after time - hoping for a miracle. Some were healed. Many were not. Even though I was not directly touched during those services I saw that lives were changed and my life was changed, too.’ And Tonya Read, writes that while not everyone was healed, ‘everyone was touched by the power of the Holy Spirit…no one left the same as when they came in.’

The Lesson of Her Life: Simple, Committed, Persevering Faith
Not all are given the gifts of the word of knowledge or healing that Kathryn Kuhlman had; but all can exercise the simple, committed, persevering faith she had with whatever gifts God has given. The simplicity of her faith is summed up in the epitaph on her gravestone: I believe in miracles because I believe in God. This faith led her to take risks and see what God would do. And with this faith there was total commitment. In the eyes of the world she was an unmarried woman with no education or skills. But she took all that she was and gave herself to God. That was the open secret of her success. And to stay committed, she needed brave perseverance. As a young single girl holding meetings in isolated towns in the mid-West, sleeping sometimes in cold outhouses, she had every reason to retreat to a more normal life. But she persevered. And when she made the grim mistake of marrying Burrough Watrips and was rightly accused of stealing the heart of a married man, she had every reason to give up. But she repented and persevered. And when her ministry grew and she faced sceptical sniping from the press, and innuendoes from Christians that her powers were demonic, she never lost heart, but kept on preaching and praying for the sick until she died. Her name is synonymous with miracles of healing, but it is the miracle of this sort of faith that ultimately encourages us all to run our own race.
[1] Recorded by Nick Ittzes, see http://www.angelfire.com/oh2/spiritsong/notprogram.html
[2] Sent in email to author 4th April 2009
[3] Delores Winders has her own ministry web-site, www.deloreswinder.com and there is a full summary of a recent interview with her at http://lumelonline.com/2008/05/26/the-miracle-healing-of-delores-winder/
[4] Brother Daniel Thomas, see http://www.opwest.org/Archive/2009/2009_coop_pt5.html
[5] Her manner was very theatrical, especially the way she would speak, pausing over ever syllable.
[6] A number of video recordings of Kathryn Kuhlman meetings have been posted on youtube, and are well worth watching. To see her preach visit - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocW5ovSXpZw, to see miracles - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f920NBnkyHs&feature=related
[7] You can about more healings in Time Magazine. See http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,902774-1,00.html
[8] There is no doubt that Waltrip was a colourful trickster. After falling for Kathryn, probably in 1934 he left his wife and two children in Texas, to whom he never paid a penny, and moved to Mason City, Iowa, giving the impression he was a bachelor. He held tent meetings there, and was soon collecting large amounts of money to build a novo art chapel with a pulpit that ascended out of the floor. He married Kathryn Kuhlman in Mason City – and then the trouble began: news got out about his divorce, another man wanted to kill him for cuckolding him; and he had debts in excess of $40,000. After Kathryn left him it seems he later worked selling coffins, and his brother reported that he ended his days in prison, though his son disputes this. You can see more at http://www.globegazette.com/articles/2007/01/28/local/doc45bc2c5b406ce442651126.txt
[9] John 15: 26; 16: 14
[10] Sent to author by email on April 4th, 2009. Slightly edited, and bold author’s.
[11] See ‘The Charismatic Movement’ by John Rice, found at http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=DszocvZODj8C&pg=PA227&lpg=PA227&dq=Dr+Nolen+Kuhlman&source=bl&ots=43GyV0c_h1&sig=tbzOmQLJm5eF2aeyxHNStKLLwVk&hl=en&ei=PcLUSai6K4WNjAfArKWKDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5#PPA229,M1

All Rights Reserved
T.G.S Hawksley

7 comments:

  1. You've done a great job here, Tom, in summing up and summarising her precious and complicated life - really well done! It's so important to put the record straight - rumours tend to win otherwise!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was invited to a K Kuhlman meeting in Vancouver 1974 one year before I was saved. I considered her to be a fake of some sort and did not go because of my ignorant judgmental attitude which I now regret.No doubt I would have been saved then had I went. About the time she died in 1976 I read I believe in miracles and had the following dream which gave me a heart correction: A large hand protruded out of a river and moved expressively with the current, representing her life and ministry in some way. As a vessel yielded to the Spirit god's hand manifested in her life immersed in the River of God. Since then I have been open to her legacy and have been encouraged to love God deeply and passionately and unashamedly as she did with wonders and miracles as a by product. She illustrated to me what Jesus said to his disciples: rejoice that your name is written in heaven, not that you have power over devils. She in obedience allowed her love for God and From God to extend to others and woderfull things happened to God Be the Glory.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The really sick (i.e. Joni Eareckson Tada) were removed from the meetings before they began to an out of the way room because no real healing took place and Kathryn's handlers didn't want the fake healing to be interrupted with failures.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your statement that the "real sick" were removed ? Where's your proof to make such a statement. O yea if little faith. Don't falsely accuse others

      Delete
    2. that's a lie. I was in her meeting. From 1;30 PM till 10:30 pm - my friend and I were the first to enter. Many sick people, on cots with blood transfusions in wheel chairs deaf and blind were healed. I was healed and no one there knew me nor did they had any idea of my sickness. Real sick? what is unreal sick then? you are spreading lies about a woman who added much to the human race and is now dead and cannot answer you. inhuman of you.

      Delete
    3. I think you were in the wrong meeting in the state of you mind

      Delete
  4. in July 1976 (or maybe 1975) in Vancouver BC Canada K Kuhlman had a meeting in the Coliseum. I went with a friend who was quadriplegic from birth and was in a wheelchair. I was 29. I am an Israeli born Jew who lived then in Vancouver. My friend stayed in his Wheel Chair, but that day I accepted the Lord in front of 17,000 people that were scary- to say the least. Kathryn had the coldest green eyes I've ever seen, i felt that she pushed me when she prayed and i refused to fall, I've never been to a christian anything before that and had no expectation for myself at all - it was a miraculous evening to say the least. Jesus is the one who saved me - not Kathryn but i know without a shadow of a doubt that He had used her at that time and that place to call me out. I thank God for her strength of character and her constant audacity to be in those meetings again and again. This was the last of her meetings in Canada, she died in February the year after.

    ReplyDelete

Followers