Paula Michelle White-Cain (née Furr; April 20, 1966), better known as Paula White, is a "Prosperity Gospel" pastor. Prior to May 2019,[1][2][3] she was senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center, in Apopka, Florida, a non-denominational, multicultural megachurch. She hosts a television show, Paula White Today. She was the co-pastor of Without Walls International Church in Tampa, a church she co-founded with pastor and then-husband Randy White.

Paula White
Paula White.jpg
White in 2011
Paula Michelle Furr

(1966-04-20) April 20, 1966 (age 53)
  • Dean Knight (m. 1984)
    ; div.)
  • Randy White
    (m. 1990; div. 2007)
  • Jonathan Cain (m. 2015)
ReligionNondenominational Christianity

White became chair of the evangelical advisory board in Donald Trump's administration.[4] She delivered the invocation at his inauguration, on January 20, 2017.[5] She was listed number three on the "50 Most Powerful 2017: Philanthropy & Community Voices" list in the Orlando Magazine July 2017 issue.[6]

Early life and youth

White was born Paula Michelle Furr on April 20, 1966 in Tupelo, Mississippi, the daughter of Myra Joanelle and Donald Paul Furr III. Her parents owned a toy and craft store.[7] Donald and Myra Furr's marriage began to fail when White was five years old. White's mother left Tupelo and took her to Memphis; her separation from her husband and his subsequent suicide drove Paula, her brother, and her mother into poverty.[8] Paula's mother became an alcoholic. While her mother worked, White was looked after by caregivers. White has said that she was sexually and physically abused between the ages of six and thirteen by different people on different occasions. Paula has also said that during that time, she battled with bulimia.[9][10][11][12]

Paula's mother remarried to a two-star admiral in the US Navy when White was nine years old. Her family moved to the Washington, DC, area when her stepfather became stationed at the National Naval Medical Center. White is a graduate of Seneca Valley High School in Germantown, Maryland.[12][13]

In 1984, while living in Maryland, she converted to Christianity at the Damascus Church of God. She later claimed to have received a vision from God shortly after her conversion: "When I was just eighteen years old, the Lord gave me a vision that every time I opened my mouth and declared the Word of the Lord, there was a manifestation of His Spirit where people were either healed, delivered, or saved. When I shut my mouth, they fell off into utter darkness and God spoke to me and said 'I called you to preach the gospel.'"[7]

Religious ministry

Without Walls International Church

Without Walls International Church, originally named South Tampa Christian Center, was founded in Tampa, Florida, by the then-spouses Paula and Randy White in 1991.

The church struggled financially at first, and it could not afford to pay the Whites a salary for the first two years. As a result, the couple lived on government assistance and the kindness of others. Soon, the church began to grow quickly through the various outreach programs. From 1991 to 1998, the church changed locations three times until it secured the property at 2511 North Grady Avenue in Tampa, and changed the name of the church to Without Walls International Church.[7]

While the church was holding services in an outdoor tent in 1999, it reported 5,000 attendees a week and 10,000 ministered to outside of the church by 230 outreach ministries.[14]

Without Walls International Church then purchased the property next door, at 3860 West Columbus Drive, to expand its Tampa campus. The property acquired was a Canada Dry warehouse, which was remodeled and became the main sanctuary for the church until September 2014.

In 2002, Without Walls International Church began to expand to its second location in Lakeland, Florida. At the time, the church reported 14,000 members and 200 ministries including job training, evangelism among public housing projects, and a teen club. Without Walls International Church also began to hold Saturday night services at Carpenter's Home Church in Lakeland renting the property.[15][16] Carpenter's Home Church would later be purchased by Without Walls International Church in 2005 for $8 million, with the church renamed to Without Walls Central Church.[17]

In 2004, Without Walls International Church reported a congregation of 20,000, the largest congregation in the area and the seventh-largest church in the United States.[18] An audit later made public by a US Senate committee showed that Without Walls received $150 million from 2004 to 2006.[19]

On July 12, 2009, White became the senior pastor of the church that she had cofounded, Without Walls International Church, replacing her former husband, Randy White, who stated that he was stepping down as pastor for health reasons but would remain connected with the church in a different position.[20][21]

On January 1, 2011, after the resignation of Scott Thomas, White became the senior pastor of Without Walls Central Church in Lakeland, Florida, making her the pastor of both church locations.[17] By August of that year, services ceased when electricity was disconnected after failure to pay over $50,000 in bills [22]. One year later, on January 1, 2012, she became senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Church as well. On June 20, 2012 her ex-husband Randy White took back over leadership of the Tampa location[23] while the Lakeland location had been abandoned a year prior. Since then, White has not been listed as staff at Without Walls International Church.


By 2008, three years after purchasing the Lakeland property, Without Walls International put both locations up for sale due to financial difficulties. The Evangelical Christian Credit Union began foreclosure proceedings on both properties later that year. Selling two parcels of land to the city of Lakeland allowed for a settlement with the credit union in 2009, modifying the mortgage through 2013. However, in November 2011, while White was still senior pastor of the location, her ex-husband Randy White said that the Lakeland property was on the verge of being sold or going into foreclosure.[24]

By October 2012, the Tampa property was under foreclosure proceedings by the Evangelical Christian Credit Union after failure to pay loans. In a counterclaim filed at that time, Without Walls International claimed that White had taken audio equipment owned by the church to her new church in Apoka.[25]

On March 4, 2014, when White was the senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Without Walls International Church filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection. In response, the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, which said the church owed it $29 million, called the filing a "litigation tactic" to prevent the foreclosure of two church locations.[26] In a television interview with Erin Burnett (CNN) Paula White stated, "I've never filed bankruptcy. I had resigned [W]ithout [W]alls. I had absolutely no part." [27]

Paula White Ministries

White recorded the first broadcast of Paula White Today in December 2001. By 2006, her show appeared on nine television networks, including Trinity Broadcast Network, Daystar, and Black Entertainment Television[7][13][28]

Ebony magazine said of White, "You know you're on to something new and significant when the most popular woman preacher on the Black Entertainment Network is a white woman."[29]

White considers T.D. Jakes her spiritual father. Jakes invited her to speak at his "Woman Thou Art Loosed" conference in 2000. She also participated in the Mega Fest, hosted by Jakes in Atlanta, in 2004, 2005 and 2008.[30][31]

White has ministered to some well-known people including Michael Jackson, Gary Sheffield, and Darryl Strawberry.[7] She was the personal pastor to Darryl Strawberry, starting in 2003 following Strawberry's release from prison for cocaine possession. Charisse Strawberry, Darryl Strawberry's wife at the time, worked as an assistant to White, accompanying her on speaking engagements.[13][32][33] She is the "personal life coach" of Tyra Banks and appeared on her show, the Tyra Banks Show, in an episode on promiscuity on October 4, 2006.[28]

White has been a personal minister to Donald Trump who discovered White by watching her TV show.[34] Trump first made contact by telephone in 2002.[35] He went on to bring her often to Atlantic City for private Bible studies, and he has appeared on her television show.[7] White was credited in June 2016 by James Dobson as having converted Trump to Christianity.[36] White was part of Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board during his campaign for US President, and she provided the invocation prayer during Trump's inauguration ceremony.[37][38] Since Trump took office, White has served as one of the president's spiritual advisors and has held Oval Office prayer circles with him.[39] White, with assistance from her own ministry board advisor, Jack Graham, has had an ongoing spiritual role towards Trump.[34] White enthusiastically supported Trump's 2017 decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.[40]

White was a 2009 Trumpet Awards honoree.[41]

New Destiny Christian Center

On December 31, 2011, the board of New Destiny Christian Church in Apopka, Florida, announced it had appointed White to succeed Zachery Tims as the new senior pastor. New Destiny Christian Center had been searching for his replacement since Tims's death, in August 2011.[42] Tims' ex-wife Riva filed a lawsuit against the board of directors but quickly dropped it, citing a hold harmless clause in her 2009 marital settlement agreement.[43]

Upon hearing of the controversy, White addressed the New Destiny Christian Center during a service that she was leading: "I'm not asking you to like me. I'm not asking you to love me or respect me, because I'll do the work to earn that. I always ask people to give me one year of your life and I promise you will be changed."[43]

On January 1, 2012, White officially became the senior pastor for New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka.[44] Her philanthropic work in the community along with New Destiny Christian Center has been publicly acknowledged by the Mayor of Apopka: "Her church's mentoring of school students, donating food to the needy, assisting families victimized by violence and ministering to help young women trapped in the adult entertainment industry has been inspiring," said Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer. "What I see her doing in the community... is of tremendous value to Apopka and northwest Orange County."[6]

Retirement from regular ministry

On May 5, 2019, she announced she was stepping down as senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center and that her son and his wife would become the new senior pastors.[2][3][1] The church would also be renamed City of Destiny. White also claimed she would be helping to plant 3,000 churches and start a university.[2][3][1] Her son, Brad Knight, and his wife were then installed as senior pastors on May 8.[2]

Criticism and allegations of heresy

White is a proponent of prosperity theology[4][45] Along with other televangelists who have made millions of dollars through the prosperity gospel, she was the subject of an inconclusive 2007–2011 Senate investigation, but she refused to co-operate.[46][47][48]

Southern Baptist theologian and ethicist Russell D. Moore said that "Paula White is a charlatan and recognized as a heretic by every orthodox Christian, of whatever tribe."[49] Michael Horton, a professor of theology at Westminster Seminary California, wrote in early January 2017 that White represented a heretical movement and that her then-upcoming address at President Trump's inauguration was helping to introduce heresy into mainstream public life. Horton addressed White's alleged denial of the Trinity and the prosperity gospel's position that Christ died on the cross not for the forgiveness of humankind but to rescue people from financial hardship.[49]

Other allegations of heresy have emerged among conservative Christians, such as that White has denied the Trinity, partly as a result of a video shared by Christian author Erick Erickson that shows White assenting to the viewpoint that Jesus Christ was not the only son of God, in contravention of the Nicene Creed.[19][50] Erickson has stated:

The President of the United States putting a heretic on stage who claims to believe in Jesus, but does not really believe in Jesus, risks leading others astray.... I'd rather a Hindu pray on Inauguration Day and not risk the souls of men, than one whose heresy lures in souls promises of comfort only to damn them in eternity.[50]

Connor Gaffey has drawn attention to a 2007 televised event at which White stated, "Anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan." Gaffey contrasts that with Jesus' words in the Gospel of St Matthew: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."[35]

White has also been denounced by rapper and Christian pastor Shai Linne in a song, Fal$e Teacher$.[51]

White has denied all allegations of heresy.[19][50] In a January 5, 2017, CNN interview, White responded to some of the criticism saying "I have been called a heretic, an apostate, an adulterer, a charlatan, and an addict. It has been falsely reported that I once filed for bankruptcy and -- my personal favorite -- that I deny the Trinity!" During her interview, she also said in her defense, "My life and my decisions have been nowhere near perfect, though nothing like what has been falsely conveyed in recent days."[52]

White has also been criticized for being introduced as having or claiming to have a doctoral degree when she has no college or seminary degree.[53]

In July 2018, White was discussing illegal immigration and said that although Jesus migrated to live in Egypt, "it was not illegal. If he had broken the law, then he would have been sinful and he would not have been our Messiah." In response, Reverend William Barber II called White a "Christian nationalist" and said that "Jesus was a refugee & did break the law. He was crucified as a felon under Roman law." Matthew Soerens of the Evangelical Immigration Table group has stated that the concept of illegal immigration did not exist at the time and also questioned White's argument that breaking a law is sinful by noting that the Bible had written about Jews defying an Egyptian ruler's order to kill children and Jesus's apostles being jailed for breaking Roman laws.[54][55]

Personal life

Marriages and relationships

White has been married three times.[19]

Her first marriage was as a teenager to the father of her son, Dean Knight.[56] In 1984, while she was living in Maryland with her newborn baby, she converted to Christianity. Her marriage ended soon after.[9]

Her second marriage was to Randy White. According to the book Holy Mavericks, a turning point in White's life was meeting Randy White in 1991, a third-generation preacher in the Church of God denomination. White had divorced his first wife and was in the early stages of reviving his career as a preacher and evangelist. They met while he was visiting the church where White volunteered as a janitor. They became friends and dated for several months, working together in ministry projects. Less than a year after meeting, Randy proposed during a tour to Israel and she accepted. Shortly thereafter they moved from Maryland to Tampa, Florida.[7] On August 23, 2007, Randy White announced that he and Paula were divorcing. According to The Christian Post, White says the divorce was amicable, and they remain friends.[11][57]

In 2010 White's relationship with married televangelist Benny Hinn gave rise to controversy after being photographed leaving a hotel in Rome holding hands. Hinn said “A friendship did develop" though "the relationship is over.” Both denied an affair. [58][59][60]

At the close of 2014 rock musician Jonathan Cain of Journey fame finalized his divorce from his second wife and became engaged to White. On April 27, 2015, Cain and White married.[61]


Paula has one son from her first marriage. She was a stepmother to the three children of her second husband, Randy White. Paula and Randy did not have children together.[9] She is stepmother to the three children of her third husband, Jonathan Cain.


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External links