Bakkers Return To Television Ministry
PINEVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ PTL founders Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker returned to the television pulpit Monday for the first time in two years with an appeal for ″hurting people″ to keep the faith, but no direct pleas for donations.
″If Jim and Tammy can survive their holocaust of the last two years, then you can make it,″ said Bakker, who left PTL in March 1987 amid a sex-and- money scandal.
″The Jim and Tammy Show″ originated in the living room of the Bakkers’ borrowed home in this Charlotte suburb. They said it was sent by satellite to a half-dozen stations in California, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Louisiana, with the couple’s new ministry paying for air time.
The hourlong telecast is scheduled Mondays through Fridays.
″We bought time,″ said Mrs. Bakker. ″We had a certain amount of money and that’s all the time we could buy, and it’s not a lot of money, but it got us back on the air and we are so grateful.″
In their prime at PTL, the Bakkers and their ″PTL Club″ could be seen on about 180 television stations.
As in their old show, the Bakkers sat on a couch. Mrs. Bakker wore her trademark heavy eye makeup and broke into tears several times, the first just two minutes into their show.
The couple made no direct appeal for funds, but gave an address and telephone number so viewers could request prayers.
And the show’s guest, former PTL songwriter Mike Murdock, gave Mrs. Bakker a card which he said he had been asked to deliver by a supporter. Mrs. Bakker said the card contained a $1,000 check.
John Bland, a volunteer at Jim and Tammy Ministries, said Monday’s show drew ″a beautiful response.″
″A lot of people called in who said they were partners (supporters who gave $1,000 or more to PTL) and glad to see that they were back on TV,″ Bland said.
The Bakkers’ last appearance as television evangelists was in January 1987, two months before the scandal that drove them from PTL. They had left the air because Mrs. Bakker was receiving treatment for dependency on prescription drugs and for pneumonia, the couple said at the time.
″Jim, I think this is probably the happiest day of my life,″ Mrs. Bakker said as the show began.
Bakker told viewers that his last television appearance was to break ground for the Crystal Palace Church at Heritage USA, the home of PTL.
″I believe that was the last straw for Satan,″ Bakker said. ″I think the devil was mad that something so beautiful was being built. ... I believe the devil said, ’I have to smash Jim and Tammy Bakker.‴
Bakker resigned from PTL following disclosure of his 1980 sexual encounter with a church secretary, Jessica Hahn, and that she had been paid for her silence.
In June 1987, the ministry sought protection from creditors in bankruptcy court, and last month a judge approved the sale of PTL’s chief asset, the Heritage USA theme park at Fort Mill, S.C.
Also last month, Bakker and a top aide were indicted on charges they used PTL funds for private gain.
But the only mention of his legal troubles during the show came when Murdock noted a song he said he wrote in a lawyer’s office. Murdock said he knew Bakker ″didn’t know anything about lawyers.″
″Oh no-o-o-o,″ Bakker said with a pained chuckle.
Fred Wuenschel, general manager WOCD in Amsterdam, N.Y., one of the stations broadcasting the program, said he would show it ″as long as they keep paying.″
He said the station has a 30-day contract for the show, but declined to say how much the Bakkers are paying except to say it was ″the usual rate per hour.″