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TV Evangelist Quits; Falwell to Replace Him

March 20, 1987|From Times Wire Services

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Television evangelist Jim Bakker, whose wife recently admitted she was hospitalized in Southern California for drug addiction, resigned Thursday from the PTL Club television ministry and was replaced as chairman by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Falwell, whose church services in Lynchberg, Va., are televised as the "Old Time Gospel Hour," will take over as PTL board chairman at the request of Bakker, who has been embroiled in recent controversy over his finances.

The two men met this week and Bakker cited personal reasons for his departure, Falwell aide Mark DeMoss said.

'Praise the Lord'

Richard Dortch will replace Bakker as president of the television ministry and as host of the PTL television program, according to a brief statement from the Charlotte corporate offices of PTL, which stands for "Praise The Lord."

The Charlotte Observer reported in its editions today that Bakker said he resigned from the PTL organization and from his church, the Assemblies of God, "for the good of my family, the church and of all our related ministries."

In the telephone statement to the Observer, Bakker, 47, said that seven years ago he was "wickedly manipulated by treacherous former friends" who "conspired to betray me into a sexual encounter." He did not identify those people.

Then, Bakker said, he "succumbed to blackmail . . . to protect and spare the ministry and my family" and "appease these persons who were determined to destroy this ministry."

Ends Speculation

Tammy Bakker admitted on a PTL program on March 6 that she has been hospitalized for drug addiction since last year, ending months of speculation about her lengthy absence from the PTL television network's "The Jim and Tammy Show."

In a videotape shown on the PTL network on March 6, Tammy Bakker said her drug problem began 17 years ago while she was pregnant and started taking allergy pills. The medicine "kept her hyper, and then the doctors, because of this tension and nervousness, prescribed tranquilizers," her husband said on the program.

She was reported in good condition last January at Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs, recovering from flu, pneumonia and complications from medication. On March 9, she was treated for drug dependency at the Betty Ford Center, and a source said she is an outpatient at the center. The Bakkers bought a home in Palm Desert in 1984.

"The PTL ministries will continue to reflect the entire body of Christ, including charismatics and evangelicals," the PTL statement said in an apparent effort to assure its following that the charismatic, or neo-Pentecostal, variety of Christianity was not being dropped in favor of the non-charismatic beliefs of Falwell.

PTL, which reported $129 million in revenues in 1986, employs about 2,000 people and owns the 2,300-acre Heritage USA retreat near Fort Mill, S.C.

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