Jan Crouch, the cotton candy-haired televangelist known to viewers as “Momma Jan,” passed away Tuesday after a massive stroke.
“Laurie and I have just watched the transition of our precious mother from this world to the next; watched her step into the presence of Jesus and into her heavenly reward,” wrote Crouch’s son Matt. “[She] loved many things, but most of all she loved Jesus, and now has seen him face to face and has experienced his grace in fullness.”
Crouch cofounded the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) with her husband Paul in 1973 and spent decades on-air sharing testimonies, offering prayers, and participating in the network’s “praise-a-thons.” TBN broadcasts messages from preachers such as Joel Osteen, T. D. Jakes, and Benny Hinn around the world via 78 satellites and more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates, according to its website.
“Today Jan Crouch enters heaven as @hillsongchannel commences tomorrow. It's only possible because of her legacy,” tweeted Hillsong senior pastor Brian Houston.
In addition to the global television network, Crouch directed the Holy Land Experience, a Bible theme park that opened in Orlando in 2001.
Her husband Paul passed away about two and a half years ago after chronic heart problems.
Their 43-year-old ministry has been plagued with legal trouble.
- In 2013, a Pentecostal minister was sentenced to prison after selling a fake cancer cure—actually made of suntan lotion and beef flavoring—on TBN. Six patients died because they trusted her as a minister, the Wall Street Journal reported.
- In 2012, the Crouches’ granddaughter Brittany Koper accused some of the network's directors of illegally distributing "charitable assets" worth more than $50 million for their personal use. In response, TBN filed half a dozen lawsuits nationwide accusing Koper and her husband of engaging in a smear campaign to divert attention from their own financial sins. The filings prompted a California federal judge to threaten to brand the network a "vexatious litigant" and the Trinity Foundation, a group long critical of TBN, to call for evangelical ministries to withdraw from the network’s airwaves.
- A year earlier, TBN cut ties with a popular End Times broadcaster after he accused Rick Warren and Robert Schuler of uniting Christianity and Islam.
- In 2004, the broadcaster refuted a Los Angeles Times in-depth series alleging that Paul and Jan lived separately, that Paul had a homosexual encounter with an employee, and that TBN’s $583 million in assets “have prompted questions about why the network continues to plead for contributions.” Paul pulled in an annual salary of $413,700, while Jan made $361,000, the newspaper reported.
- In 2000, a Christian writer filed a $40 million lawsuit against Paul, Jan, and TBN, claiming that the Crouches’ 1999 apocalyptic movie The Omega Code was originally her story. The Crouches eventually settled.
Evangelicals have struggled with the question of whether to abandon or reform the broadcaster.
“Prosperity theology is a false theology,” Al Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, toldThe New York Times. Between its message and its reputation for high spending, Mohler said, “TBN has been a huge embarrassment to evangelical Christianity for decades.”
Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, appeared on TBN both as a guest and as a host. “I’m glad I did it,” he wrote. “[I] think we made great shows that made much of Jesus.”
With its Pentecostal preachers, TBN draws in a racially and internationally diverse crowd of Christian viewers by the millions. Leaders of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference tweeted their condolences.
”Paul and Jan changed the world,” said Sam Rodriguez, NHCLC president. “Now it's our turn to lift Jesus high.”
[Image courtesy of TBN Facebook]