Evangelists Cope With Fallout From PTL Takeover With AM-PTL-Bakker, Bjt
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The resignation of evangelist Jim Bakker from the PTL organization means other ministers who raise funds through televised appeals will have to protect their reputations, a leader of the Assemblies of God said.
″The church needs to be very cautious now in protecting its integrity,″ the Rev. Everett Stenhouse said in Sunday editions of The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.
The circumstances of Bakker’s resignation will cast doubt on the integrity of all ministers who raise funds through televised appeals, said Stenhouse, assistant general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
Bakker’s congregation in Fort Mill had been affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination until his resignation.
The Rev. Charles Bergstrom, a Lutheran minister who chairs the executive committee of the People for the American Way, said the crisis was shared by other television ministries.
″(The Bakkers) established themselves as the leaders of a religious movement and engendered the spirit that the Christian faith is built around a person and his success,″ Bergstrom said. ″This tragedy shows how hollow that kind of thing is.″
The Rev. Jerry Falwell assumed control of PTL after Bakker admitted Thursday that he had been blackmailed over a sexual encounter that occurred seven years ago.
Falwell said he took the PTL post to minimize a ″backwash that would hurt every gospel ministry in America, if not the world.″
Falwell said his new board would commission an audit of PTL. He also deflected rumors about a possible hostile takeover of PTL by pentecostal evangelist Jimmy Swaggart.
″I know of no one anywhere who is trying to wrest it (PTL) from us. I don’t know why anybody would want to,″ Falwell said with a chuckle. ″They’d have to be mentally deranged.″
Bakker’s lawyer, Ron Grutman, had said Bakker asked Falwell to take charge of the 500,000-member PTL ministry because the change could avert a ″hostile takeover″ attempt.
Grutman, however, refused to say who was attempting the takeover, saying he didn’t want to start ″a religious civil war.″
In Garden Grove, Calif., the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, according to a statement issued by an assisant, considered Bakker’s resignation ″a tragedy besetting both the PTL network and his friends, Jim and Tammy Bakker and their family.″
Schuller is senior pastor of the Crystal Cathedral and the host of the ″Hour of Power″ national television ministry.
Falwell said the PTL crisis was a ″blow to the cause of Christ and we’ve taken it broadside. Let us not be so dumb to believe that any ministry can be crushed and that we can walk straight ahead untouched.″
Jeffrey Hadden, author of the book ″Prime-Time Preachers″ and a professor at the University of Virginia, said Bakker’s troubles could result in a crisis of credibility for Pat Robertson.
Robertson, a television evangelist and potential Republican presidential candidate, gave Bakker his start on ″The 700 Club.″