Following a political battle of monumental proportions, Oklahoma evangelist Oral Roberts emerged late last month with state approval to start construction of the hospital portion of a huge medical complex on his university campus in Tulsa. The evangelist had first sought permission for a 777-bed hospital. During controversy over whether Tulsa needs or can afford another hospital, Roberts earlier this year offered a scaled-down request for 294 beds as a compromise. Authorities okayed the 294 beds with the understanding that Roberts can proceed with the other beds if the need is demonstrated and if the other hospitals in town are not hurt by the newcomer.

Roberts says God told him to build the medical center and gave him the details for it in a vision during a sojourn on a desolate California desert. He explained that he had gone to the desert to pray following the death of his daughter and her husband in a plane crash in February, 1977.

The evangelist returned from the desert and announced the launching of the City of Faith medical complex. He described it to his television audience: Arising from a common base would be a sixty-story clinic and diagnostic center, flanked on the west by a thirty-story hospital and on the east by a twenty-story research center. At the front would be sixty-foot-high sculptured hands (signifying the hand of medicine and the hand of prayer), with a wide tree-lined stream flowing from a large fountain. Further, said Roberts, God told him that it was to be opened debt free and that he should ask his “partners” (donors) to send contributions of $7, $77, $777, and $7,777.

The price tag of the complete complex: an estimated $250 million or more. So far, according to sources at the 3,800-student Oral Roberts ...

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