Healing and Revival


 

"Healing In Jesus' Name "

 

Not a lot is known about Ethel Ruby Willitts. We believe she was born about 1913 to Blaine and Ethel Willits. When she was younger she may have gone by her middle name Ruby. She appeared on the scene around 1928 as the "girl evangelist." Initially she traveled with Dorothea Bradway (18) and Ella K. Allen (18). When Dorothea dropped out, Ella's sister Hildred McGuire (21) joined the group in 1929. (Dorothea continued on as an evangelist with other young women.) It appears that her first evangelistic meetings were held around Indiana and Ohio. One newspaper advertisement reports 1400 people attending a meeting in Ohio. The "girl evangelists" did hold a tent meeting as far away as San Diego in June of 1930. They would take turns preaching and singing, but praying for healing seemed to be Ethel Willitts' specialty in the group. No one in the group had any denominational connections. The title that Willitts gave herself was "Famous Bible Preacher," but hearers said that her knowledge of the Bible was limited and sometimes her preaching was confused or misleading.

The first place that Willitts received national attention was during the World's Fair in Chicago, Illinois in 1933. She had struck out on her own. It was reported that she stayed for 17 weeks holding evangelistic and healing meetings. Her ministry appears to have taken off after that. Willitts purchased a movable 15,000 square foot "Tabernacle" with wooden sides and a tent top. She called it "Everybody's Tabernacle." One of the hallmarks of Willitts' meetings was that they were inter-racial in nature. In August 1935 Willitts held a meeting with a capacity of 6300, in Muskegon, Michigan and traveled to Detroit, Michigan as well. In 1937 she spoke at the Mecca Temple in Washington DC and set up her Tabernacle in Dearborn, Michigan. By 1938 she was holding meetings in Cleveland, Ohio and had a regular radio program. She held a large meeting in June of 1938 in Detroit, Michigan at the Masonic Temple, where thousands were turned away. She took her tabernacle to Akron, Ohio in the fall of 1938 and preached to large crowds for 15 weeks. In January 1939 she moved the Tabernacle to Toledo, Ohio and began once again. Wherever she went people reported healings and miracles. Her ministry was highly controversial. Her style was flamboyant, she would have large choirs with as many as 300 members, as well as full orchestras, and organ music. She elicited a strong response in her hearers, some claiming miraculous healings while others denounced her as a fraud.

In 1939 Willitts made a decision to stop traveling and settle in Detroit, Michigan where she established a permanent church called "Everybody's Tabernacle." She had a regular Sunday program on the radio in some of the mid-west cities where she was known. She stayed there at least until 1948. Willitts also started another "Everybody's Tabernacle" in Miami, Florida, going back and forth to preach. It became a large organization revolving around her. Willitts was at the height of her influence in the early 1940s. Then things started to come apart at the seams. In 1943 one father accused Willitts of holding his daughter against her will. People working for Willitts claimed she used them as personal servants. In March 1948 members of the Miami branch sued Willitts claiming she was about to sell the church building and keep the money. They also claimed she had squandered the assets of the church and she had carried away "satchels of love offerings" containing as much as $5000 for her personal use. They sued to gain possession of the church and all of its assets. Willitts counter-claimed the church and attached home were hers personally, as the majority of the money had been donated by a grateful man who had been healed in Florida. It went to court and a judge decided in in August of 1948 that the buildings should be sold and the money split between Willitts and the church members.

There appears to have been a break with the Detroit Church by the beginning of 1952. Willitts was back on the evangelistic circuit in Ohio from February through April 1952. In 1954 she reappears again as a tent evangelist holding meetings in Anniston, Alabama. Then in the midst of the most publicized healing movement in the United States a surprising thing happened. Ethel Willitts disappeared from the public eye. Someone who knew her said they had heard that she married and moved to Florida. Still that is only speculation, as no records verifying her marriage have been located.

It is hard to say what Willitts' impact was. She had little education and she was as much an entertainer as a preacher. For thousands in the mid-west she taught on the power of God to heal. It appears, however, that as she gained greater success that the lack of biblical grounding and character flaws rose to the surface and overwhelmed the biblical message. She wrote several books between 1931 and 1938 including: "Healing In Jesus' Name", "The Second Coming Of Christ", "The Holy Spirit", "When Prayer Fails And Scriptural Reasons Why", "Warnings About Riches", "To All Who Seek To Know The Truth On The Subject Of Divine Healing", "Does Faith Healing Cure?", and "Willitts Campaign Songs."

If anyone knows what happened to Willitts after 1954 we would love to hear from you!

 

Copyright © 2009 by Healing and Revival Press. WWW.HEALINGANDREVIVAL.COM All rights reserved. Duplication strictly prohibited.