Healing and Revival
"Healing and Marriage"
John and Olive Kellner were unusual in the healing movement of the 1950s. Most of the healing evangelists were men and a small number were women. The Kellners were one of the few couples listed as a married husband and wife team of healing evangelists. They were pastors for 32 years before taking up their healing evangelist ministries.
John Knox Kellner was born on December 20, 1890 in what is now Besa, Slovakia to Johann and Sarah (Mathis) Kellner. At the time the city was part of German speaking Romania. It changed country affiliations through WWI and WWII as national boundaries were realigned. Kellner immigrated in 1907 to Pennsylvania, which had a large German speaking population. He ended up in New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1916. There he came into contact with fledgling Pentecostal church members. He experienced a healing and a baptism of the Holy Spirit. He committed to preparing for the ministry.
In February 1916 Kellner was invited to minister to a small group of people who were holding prayer and seeker meetings in local homes in Binghamton, New York. His plan was to stay and encourage the group for a short time. However, the group grew and he was asked to Pastor the fledgling congregation. Kellner was ordained in Assembly of God (AOG) movement in August 1916. The church became an official church under the AOG in May of 1917 as the Faith Pentecostal Society. While pastoring the new church Kellner met and married Olive Maude Youngs in the early part of 1917. Olive was born on December 6, 1899 to Durwood Erve Youngs and Blanche Goldie Fisk. John also was a speaker at the 1919 AOG Convention in Chicago. He gave a series of talks titled "Beyond Pentecost."
The church grew and prospered under the Kellners. They moved several times into successively larger buildings. Olive initially stayed in the traditional setting of supportive wife. However, she was later to say that she began to preach in 1924. The couple taught the Pentecostal message of salvation, healing, and baptism of the Spirit. As time progressed they were seen as a preaching team and Olive was ordained as an AOG minister in May of 1944. The Kellners held public healing meetings in the local area and spoke in New York Pentecostal conventions. They remained in Binghamton as pastors until 1930. At that time they received a call from John's home town of New Castle, Pennsylvania and went there to take over a small congregation. In 1934 the Binghamton, New York church requested that they return as pastors, and the couple accepted and moved back to New York. The couple retained close ties with New Castle and held meetings there many times in the following years.
1947 was an electric year for many Pentecostals. There was a remarkable break out of healing, words of knowledge, and miracles through a little known minister named William Branham. The Kellners got a copy of the Voice of Healing (VOH) Magazine in 1948 and were thrilled with what they were reading. They flew out to California to a large healing meeting held in Calvary Temple in Los Angeles, California. Olive was ill and describes having two life threatening attacks while she was there. God asked her if she was willing to give up her preaching ministry and she agreed. Her health improved from that time forward.
The Kellners moved to Genesee, New York to rest and pray. Olive thought her ministry time was over, but God had other plans. In the summer of 1950 while she was praying the presence of the Lord came upon her. She felt called to the ministry of deliverance and laying on of hands for the sick. The couple began to hold evangelistic and healing meetings. Both John and Olive would preach. Olive appears to have had more of an anointing during ministry. She would get words of knowledge by feeling things in her body that were similar to an ill person. She would give specific words of knowledge about conference attendees while they were sitting in the meetings. John was assigned to the New York - New Jersey General Council for the Assembly of God as a General Presbyter. The couple led youth camps, evangelistic meetings, and revival events.
The Voice of Healing magazine listed meetings with the Kellners for the first time in February 1953. From that point on their meetings were regularly listed under "additional healing meetings." This meant they weren't regular article contributors, but healing testimonies were sent from their meetings to the magazine and would be published. Their ministry was being acknowledged as valid and supported by the VOH organization. March 1954 was a turning point for the Kellners. The March magazine reported on the Kellners as "Featured Evangelists" and they were acknowledged as associate Voice of Healing ministers, which meant they would be regular contributors. A pastor in Niagara Falls, NY wrote an article describing Olive having a strong word of knowledge ministry. She would call people from the attendees telling them their illnesses before they received prayer. Many miracles occurred in the Kellner meetings.
One funny situation was that Olive was part of a very early reality show event on television. As an ordained pastor she performed the marriage ceremony for her youngest daughter and her groom in 1954 on a New York TV station. The couple got a free wedding and honeymoon out of the deal. The television station must have thought having a woman preacher was quite unusual and would draw an audience.
Although the Kellners were listed as VOH evangelists they primarily operated as Assembly of God evangelists reporting on meetings to the VOH magazine. Their meetings, except for national VOH conventions, were held in Assembly of God churches. They also tended to minister in the areas where they were already known. The majority of their meetings were held in New York State and Pennsylvania, although a few were held outside of those areas. The couple had deep roots in the AOG, and were highly regarded in the denomination.
By 1957 there had been a shift in the healing movement. There was a break within the VOH organization and many evangelists had started their own ministries. There was a break with many local churches, especially the AOG, due to moral failures and a perceived lack of support of local churches. The Voice of Healing magazine was renamed to World Wide Revival and the focus shifted from US based meetings to overseas meetings. The Kellners continued to be listed as ministers, but not quite as frequently. The couple was also getting older and holding meetings was getting more difficult for them. By 1960 John Kellner was 70 years old and still holding healing meetings on an infrequent basis. 1961 publications only listed one meeting they held that year. The couple shifted into retirement and moved to Batavia, NY to be close to one of their daughters and son-in-law. They were no longer listed as evangelists by the VOH magazine. The last article printed by the VOH was an article on Deliverance by Olive Kellner in in January 1962.
Although John was 10 years older than Olive she was the first to go home to be with the Lord. She died on March 2, 1967 in Batavia, New York. John would occasionally speak at his son-law's church, Friendship Assembly of God, in the mid-1960s through 1970s. He even acted as interim Pastor for the church in 1973 for a short time. John remarried in the early 1970s to Hazel Young. He occasionally still held evangelistic and healing meetings. John died on October 27, 1981. John and Olive are buried with their eldest son, John Mark Kellner, who died in WWII at the age of 37. They were survived by several children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
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