While the Christian community buzzed Monday about allegations that televangelist Paul Crouch had been involved in a homosexual tryst, Trinity Broadcasting Network officials said their leader would continue "God's call" as the network's president.
They also said that Christian leaders from around the country offered private words of encouragement Monday for Crouch.
"We prepared for the worst and prayed for the best," knowing that the allegations would be made public over the weekend, said Paul Crouch Jr., eldest son of the pastor and an executive at the network. "So far our prayers are being answered. Most of the e-mails and calls have been very positive."
He said the network received unsolicited backing from dozens of Christian leaders who called or e-mailed their support, including author Josh McDowell; Doug Wead, a onetime advisor to former President George H.W. Bush; and singers Pat Boone and Carman.
On Sunday, The Times detailed the fierce legal battle that Crouch successfully fought to keep secret a 1998 agreement that paid Enoch Lonnie Ford $425,000 in exchange for staying silent about his allegations of a sexual encounter between him and Crouch in 1996 at a TBN-owned cabin near Lake Arrowhead.
When Ford wrote a manuscript last year that contained details of his allegations, Crouch went to court to enforce the 1998 agreement. An Orange County judge issued a restraining order in April 2003 that prevented the memoir's publication until a private arbitrator could rule if it violated the agreement. In June, the arbitrator ruled in Crouch's favor.
The news sparked a 650-word statement by TBN on Sunday. In it, the network called the allegations "salacious" and labeled Ford an ex-convict and longtime drug abuser.
Ford, who worked for TBN from 1992 to 1996 in a variety of jobs, served jail time in the 1990s for cocaine possession and having sex with a 17-year-old boy.
TBN officials also said that Crouch agreed to the settlement to avoid costly litigation and scandal.
"The importance of the settlement does not rest on the money paid, but rather on Dr. Crouch's vehement denial of the allegations made against him as well as the agreement of the accuser to keep confidential and refrain from repeating his false claims and accusations," TBN officials said in the statement.
TBN officials also said that the "accuser and his false claims were soundly defeated in court."
In fact, neither the civil court judge or private arbitrator ruled on the validity of Ford's claims -- only that the 1998 settlement prevented their disclosure.
Ford's allegations stirred debate on the Internet, generating nearly 1,500 comments on a Yahoo message board, for example.
Some were skeptical of Ford's allegations.
"This accuser does have motive for fraud," wrote one anonymous reader.
"I'll reserve judgment until I know all the facts. Of course, the Christian-haters will come out of the woodwork before then. Anything that discredits Christianity is good for them."
But another wrote: "If it never happened, then what is Crouch worried about? ... The 'image' is what is being protected here."