FORT MILL, S.C. — A newly formed group of PTL donors Saturday called for the Rev. Jerry Falwell to hold a referendum among the ministry's regular donors on whether he should remain as the group's leader.
"We think it is a fair question that no honest man should duck," said Don Lee, spokesman for the group calling itself the PTL Partners Advisory Board. "We're challenging Dr. Falwell to send the referendum to the membership.
"Everybody's worried about protecting the grandmas and the grandpas who sent the money to support the ministry, but no one's asked them their opinion," said Lee, a 43-year-old schoolteacher in Michigan.
Falwell took over the ministry in March after former leader Jim Bakker resigned and admitted that he had a sexual tryst with a church secretary in 1980.
Denies Effort for Bakker
Lee said the group is "absolutely not" trying to bring Bakker back into the ministry, adding, "I don't know if it would be appropriate." He said had not talked to Bakker about his efforts.
In contrast to Falwell, a fundamentalist independent Baptist, Bakker is a charismatic, emphasizing such things as emotional expressiveness, speaking in tongues and laying on of hands.
Lee said the referendum should ask regular PTL donors, called "partners," whether the charismatic nature of PTL should continue and whether a new charismatic leader and board should be appointed to replace Falwell and his board.
People are enrolled as partners in PTL by contributing at least $15 per month to the ministry. Lee estimated that they number 120,000.
Falwell, in a telephone interview from Virginia, said he would "favorably entertain any suggestions from anyone."
"My only interest is to prevent the collapse of a major Christian ministry like PTL and Heritage Village," he said. "I'm sure our board will be receptive to suggestions from many groups."
Meanwhile, Bakker's wife, Tammy, said that reports of an elaborate bugging system at the PTL ministry's headquarters were unfounded.
"I don't know where they got that from," she said Friday.
"There have never been any bugs at the ministry; there has never been any need for sweeping for bugs," she told The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs, where she and her husband are staying.