Despite his abrupt departure from the PTL ministry, Jerry Falwell does not believe he wasted his time as chairman there.
According to spokesman Mark DeMoss, Falwell “believes we established a good relationship with many in the Christian family who we had not previously had much relationship with. He feels he was able to expose … ‘prosperity theology’ as wrong teaching and something that is prevalent in the modern charismatic movement.
“We were able to at least begin to clean up a house that was way out of order,” DeMoss added. “So those were not wasted months, in spite of being unable to complete what we had started.”
The ministry, more than $60 million in debt, filed for reorganization in June under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Last month, Falwell, the entire PTL board of directors, television program cohosts Gary McSpadden and Doug Oldham, and several other ministry officials resigned after a judge ruled that PTL creditors and contributors could file their own reorganization plan. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Rufus Reynolds said he allowed the competing plan because he saw no evidence that PTL officials had consulted with either creditors or PTL contributors in their reorganization plan. Many creditors and contributors are said to support deposed PTL founders Jim and Tammy Bakker.
Reynolds said he had hoped the two proposals could be negotiated into a compromise plan. But Falwell said at a news conference, “We will not sit down with Bakkerites.” He said the Bakker scandal had turned PTL into “the Watergate of evangelical Christianity.”
DeMoss said in an interview that Falwell and other former PTL officials “were not willing any longer to raise money if the court was not going to allow us the necessary control to complete the task.” Falwell said he feared the court’s action could lead to the return of Bakker and make the ministry “the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history.” He predicted that, “barring a miracle of God,” Bakker would come back to the ministry within six months—a situation he called “tragic.”
Before stepping down, Falwell and the board inserted a clause in the PTL bylaws that would give the Assemblies of God denomination control of the ministry. At press time, however, church spokeswoman Juleen Turnage said the denomination had not been given prior notice of this change and had not been contacted by PTL or the bankruptcy court.
DeMoss said Falwell will concentrate on his own ministries, based in Lynchburg, Virginia. DeMoss said financial support for Liberty University, Thomas Road Baptist Church, and the Liberty Godparent ministry have increased. But support for Falwell’s television ministry, the Old-Time Gospel Hour, has dropped by $5 million in the wake of the PTL scandal.
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