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Ministry Makes $150 Million a Year : Rich Life Style Reflects Swaggart Empire's Wealth

March 14, 1988|ROBERT L. JACKSON | Times Staff Writer

A family member contested Vance's will, claiming Swaggart had "exploited" her. The suit was settled in 1984 with the Swaggart ministry receiving 70% of the estate, or a total of $7 million. The remainder went to a medical foundation named for Vance's son.

Swaggart used most of these funds to build the Zoe Vance teleproduction center, one of 12 buildings that have sprouted up at his 257-acre World Ministry Center and Jimmy Swaggart Bible College south of Baton Rouge.

Ministry officials said the Bible college, with 1,400 students who pay an average tuition of $1,000 a year, is being spun off as a separate entity. The college offers state-accredited bachelor of science and associate of science degrees, and is seeking state approval of its teacher-training department.

Another controversy erupted six years ago when charges were made by a former aide, George Jernigan, that only $2.1 million was given by the ministry to provide food assistance for starving children overseas, even though millions more had been collected. Ministry officials responded that Jernigan failed to understand that such funds had to be paid out to foreign missions more slowly than they were collected.

Jernigan was dismissed by the organization after a local television station broadcast his charges. His case received scant support, and the issue soon faded.

Sociologist Martin, however, predicts that Swaggart will be subjected to increasing pressure from his major contributors and from others to begin publishing a strict, audited statement of his ministry's income and expenses each year.

"He has never felt this pressure before," Martin said. "But he's wounded now, and I believe people will demand a more adequate accounting of his affairs."

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