Deny Bakker Claim Denomination Cleared Him On Homosexual Charges
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) _ Former PTL evangelist Jim Bakker said in an interview broadcast today that an Assemblies of God official found no truth to charges of homosexuality against Bakker and he could return to the pulpit in six months.
But Assemblies of God officials, reacting to the interview, said Bakker’s contentions were not true.
Bakker, interviewed on ABC-TV’s ″Good Morning America,″ said he and wife, Tammy Faye, are ″hurting so much″ from losing the PTL ministry that he did not yet know if he would seek to regain his preacher’s certificate.
″We’ve been hurt so bad that we’re just not sure we want to go back,″ said Bakker, who again denied allegations he had had homosexual experiences. The interview was taped Wednesday night.
Bakker said he spoke a week ago to the superintendent of the North Carolina district of the Assemblies of God church, the Rev. Charles Cookman.
″He told me they also had researched all these accusations and found them not to be true, and he said, ’Jim, if you want to go through our rehabilitation, you have our backing and you’ll be back in our pulpit in six months.‴
In Dunn, N.C., the Rev. Charles Kelly, an assistant to Cookman, said today that Bakker did talk recently to the superintendent.
But Kelly said the church had not reconsidered its decision to dismiss Bakker and had not determined that the allegations of homosexual activity were unfounded.
″If that’s what he said, that’s not accurate,″ Kelly said.
A spokeswoman at the Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Mo., said Thursday that Bakker had not contacted them about regaining the right to preach.
″I see the chances of him trying to come back as remote,″ said Juleen Turnage, the denomination’s secretary of information. She said Bakker would have to face his accusers, a meeting he has already passed up once.
The Bakkers remained secluded at a Gatlinburg residence where friends say the couple was recuperating from the lengthy interview that is being shown in three parts on ″Good Morning America.″
In the first part, broadcast Thursday, Bakker said he was not afraid of grand jury investigations reportedly looking at his tax records from the Fort Mill, S.C.-based ministry.
Bakker said the investigations would only cause him problems if ″Jerry Falwell and the group has altered the records.″ Bakker turned over control of PTL on March 19 to Falwell and a new board, which then repudiated him.
″I pray to God they haven’t played tricks,″ Bakker said in the interview, which was taped Wednesday night.
In a Thursday address in Schroon Lake, N.Y., Falwell criticized what he called ″prosperity theology.″
″I certainly wish Jim and Tammy well. I would hope they could find religious-based counseling out there somewhere with a family,″ Falwell said.
Bakker said his attorney, Melvin Belli, had not determined officially if there was a probe of his stewardship of the PTL ministry, which includes the lucrative Heritage USA Christian theme park.
″If there is, we hope that ... that investigation will be extended to take in the illegal takeover of PTL, the con game that was used to deceive us and to steal PTL from us,″ said Bakker.
Bakker has accused Falwell of tricking him into surrendering the television ministry in order to avoid a ″hostile takeover″ of PTL by those threatening to expose a 1980 sexual encounter Bakker later admitted having with a church secretary.
The new PTL leadership accused the Bakkers of helping to drive the ministry $72 million in debt through lavish spending. On June 12, PTL applied for bankruptcy protection from its 1,400 creditors.
A committee representing PTL’s unsecured creditors held an organizational meeting Thursday in Columbia, S.C., and learned that it has the right to question the ministry’s executives under oath and look for possible fraud.