Kathryn Kuhlman (May 9, 1907 – February 20, 1976) was an American healing evangelist.
Kathryn Johanna Kuhlman was born in Concordia, Missouri, to German-American parents.
Kathryn met Burroughs Waltrip, a Texas evangelist who was eight years her senior. Shortly after his visit to Denver, Waltrip divorced his wife, left his family and moved to Mason City, Iowa, where he began a revival center called Radio Chapel. Kathryn and her friend and pianist Helen Gulliford came into town to help him raise funds for his ministry. It was shortly after their arrival that the romance between Burroughs and Kathryn became publicly known.
Burroughs and Kathryn decided to wed. While discussing the matter with some friends, Kathryn had said that she could not "find the will of God in the matter." These and other friends encouraged her not to go through with the marriage, but Kathryn justified it to herself and others by believing that Waltrip's wife had left him, not the other way around. On October 18, 1938, Kathryn secretly married "Mister," as she liked to call Waltrip, in Mason City. The wedding did not give her new peace about their union, however. After they checked into their hotel that night, Kathryn left and drove over to the hotel where Helen was staying with another friend. She sat with them weeping and admitted that the marriage was a mistake. They never had issue. No one seems to know exactly when the separation took place. In a 1952 interview with the Denver Post Kathryn said, "He charged—correctly—that I refused to live with him. And I haven't seen him in eight years." That would put the separation in 1944—which is probably accurate. This means they lived together for the better part of six years." She was divorced by Burroughs Waltrip in 1948.
Kuhlman traveled extensively around the United States and in many other countries holding "healing crusades" between the 1940s and 1970s. She was one of the most well known healing ministers in the world. Kuhlman had a weekly TV program in the 1960s and 1970s called I Believe In Miracles that was aired nationally. She also had a 30-minute nationwide radio ministry of teaching from the Bible and, frequently, would feature excerpts from her healing services (both music and message).The foundation was established in 1954, and its Canadian branch in 1970. Towards her latter years she was supportive of the nascent Jesus movement, a spread of interest in Jesus among young teens formerly associated with drugs and the counter-culture.
By 1970 she moved to Los Angeles, conducting healing services for thousands of people each day as an heir to Aimee Semple McPherson. She became well known for her "gift of healing" despite, as she often noted, having no theological training. She was friends with Christian television pioneer Pat Robertson and made guest appearances at his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and on the network's flagship program "The 700 Club."
In 1975, Kuhlman was sued by Paul Bartholomew, her personal administrator, who claimed that she kept $1 million in jewelry and $1 million in fine art hidden away and sued her for $430,500 for breach of contract.
Two former associates accused her in the lawsuit of diverting funds and of illegally removing records, which she denied and said the records were not private. According to Kuhlman, the lawsuit was settled prior to trial.
Death and legacy
In July 1975 her doctor diagnosed her with a minor heart flareup and she had a relapse in November while in Los Angeles. As a result, she had open heart surgery in Tulsa, Oklahoma from which she died in February 1976. Kathryn Kuhlman is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. A plaque in her honor is located in the main city park in Concordia, Missouri, a town located in central Missouri on Interstate Highway 70.
After she died, her will led to controversy. She left $267,500, the bulk of her estate, to three family members and twenty employees. Smaller bequests were given to 19 other employees. According to the Independent Press-Telegram, her employees were disappointed that "she did not leave most of her estate to the foundation as she had done under a previous 1974 will." The Kathryn Kuhlman Foundation has continued, but in 1982 it terminated its nationwide radio broadcasting.
She influenced faith healers Benny Hinn and Billy Burke. Hinn has adopted some of her techniques and wrote a book about her.
In 1981 David Byrne and Brian Eno sampled one of Kuhlman's sermons in their album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The track was entitled "The Spirit Womb," a mis-hearing of Kuhlman's actual utterance "the spirit world." When Kuhlman's estate refused to license the use of her voice, the track was re-recorded as "The Jezebel Spirit" with an unidentified exorcist's vocal replacing Kuhlman's.
Many accounts of healings were published in her books, which were "ghost-written" by author Jamie Buckingham of Florida, including her autobiography, which was dictated at a hotel in Las Vegas. Buckingham also wrote his own Kuhlman biography that presented an unvarnished account of her life. An estimated two million people reported they were healed in her meetings over the years.
Following a 1967 fellowship in Philadelphia, Dr. William A. Nolen conducted a case study of 23 people who claimed to have been cured during one of her services. Nolen's long term follow-ups concluded that there were no cures in those cases. One woman who was said to have been cured of spinal cancer threw away her brace and ran across the stage at Kuhlman's command; her spine collapsed the next day and she died four months later.
Nolen's analysis of Kulhman came in for criticism from believers. Lawrence Althouse, a physician, complained that Nolen had attended only one of Kuhlman's services and did not follow up with all of those who claimed to have been healed there. Dr. Richard Casdorph produced a book of evidence in support of miraculous healings by Kuhlman. Hendrik van der Breggen, a Christian philosophy professor, argued in favor of the claims. Author Craig Keener concluded, "No one claims that everyone was healed, but it is also difficult to dispute that significant recoveries occurred, apparently in conjunction with prayer. One may associate these with Kathryn Kuhlman's faith or that of the supplicants, or, as in some of Kuhlman's teaching, to no one's faith at all; but the evidence suggests that some people were healed, even in extraordinary ways."
For several decades there has been serious debate regarding the authenticity of Kathryn Kuhlman's ministry. Some would suggest that she was a modern-day prophet exercising the power of God. The debate continues today with many believers upholding Kuhlman as an important forerunner (including proponents of the "Prosperity Theology" & "Faith Healing" movement, such as Benny Hinn), and with some Christian cessationist apologists.
Questions about her were raised in the Crusaders Series of Christian Comics dealing with True Doctrine in the Church, which are published by Jack Chick.
She appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1974. Also, she was mentioned on more than one occasion on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, as well as The Carol Burnett Show.
Ruth Buzzi did a character based on Kathryn Kuhlman on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In.
Books by Kuhlman
- Kathryn Kuhlman, I Believe in Miracles Bridge-Logos Publishers; Rev Upd edition (October 1992) ISBN 0-88270-657-8
- Kathryn Kuhlman, Never Too Late Bridge-Logos Publishers (August 1995) ISBN 0-88270-720-5