Takeover Of Bakker's Ptl May Seem Like Video Replay To Falwell

Posted: March 25, 1987

History was repeating itself when fallen TV evangelist Jim Bakker asked the Rev. Jerry Falwell to take over control of his multimillion-dollar PTL ministry. Falwell has played that role before.

A year and a half ago now, the pastor-founder of a fundamentalist Baptist Church in Bangor, Maine, resigned his ministry after confessing to adultery - just as Jim Bakker has now done. But there, Pastor Herman C. Frankland did not follow up his resignation by actually leaving, and that caused consternation in the congregation. Church attendance and donations dropped dramatically.

Alarmed members of the church board of deacons called the Rev. Falwell, head of the Liberty Foundation (the new name for Moral Majority Inc.) and asked him to take over as interim pastor. "I was at (Falwell's) house when the call came," recalls Mark De Moss, the Rev. Falwell's press spokesman. ''Some of the deacons evidently knew him personally."

After agreeing to intervene, Falwell secured the Rev. Frankland's final resignation, provided temporary preachers for six months, sent members of his staff to Bangor to counsel disgruntled church members and to sort out the church's finances, and finally, recommended a long-time associate, the Rev. Kenneth Chapman, as permanent pastor. Rev. Chapman was voted in as pastor by the membership and, just recently, an Associated Press story about the church reported that it is now rebounding as a result of Falwell's "spiritual rescue mission."

Was Jim Bakker thinking of Falwell's success in Maine when he asked him to take over his considerably larger religious domain? (Rather than, say, Pat Robertson, who 18 years ago gave Jim and Tammy Bakker their start on his Christian Broadcasting Network.)

The choice of Falwell was viewed by many as mystifying because he has been publicly critical toward the tongues-speaking Pentecostal theology generally espoused on the PTL cable network.

"We don't know why Bakker asked Jerry," replies De Moss. "We can't say it was because of what happened in Bangor." But, according to De Moss, Falwell definitely saw a connection. "One of his earliest thoughts was: ''Perhaps God was, through Bangor, Maine, preparing me for a larger task.'

Taking over the Bakker's business is certainly a much greater under-taking that reviving a single church. The PTL organization reported $129 million in

revenues in 1986; it has more than 2,000 employees, and runs Heritage USA, a 2,300-acre retreat that includes hotels and an amusement park. Falwell, who has his own Old Time Gospel Hour Program, said he would not make on-air appearances for PTL.

Bakker asked Falwell to become chairman of PTL when, after the resignation became public, Falwell went to see Bakker in Palm Beach. "When we flew to Palm Beach to see Jim Bakker," De Moss said, "it was not to offer to take over the ministry. Jerry went as a Christian brother to minister personally to Jim. He was caught off guard when it was suggested he take over.

"Actually, he doesn't have the time to do any of these things. But he has agreed because he feels strongly that the entire cause of Christ is damaged when a leader stumbles and he has a sense of responsibility to do what he can about it. He believes that while a moral default disqualifies a particular minister for the ministry, that default should not be allowed to disqualify an entire church or denomination."

Bakker resigned last week from the evangelical empire he has presided over with his wife Tammy, after reports surfaced that he had had a sexual encounter seven years ago with a 21-year-old church secretary and then paid $115,000 to keep the incident quiet. He claimed that a rival TV evangelist - left unnamed - was planning to use the incident to take over PTL. The adultery revelation came only weeks after the Bakkers revealed that Tammy has been addicted to prescription drugs since the birth of their daughter, now a teenager.

The details of Frankland's adultery have never been published. He has recently begun preaching again - although not at his old church. After an appearance in the pulpit of a church in Waterville, Maine, Frankland told reporters: "I have found, and was greatly surprised to find it to be so, that people seem to identify with me now as never before. I think, before, people saw me as a holier-than-thou, self-righteous, could-do-no-wrong, never-made- mistakes type of indvidual. I think that my sad mistake, instead of offending a vast majority of people, has caused them to empathize because they walk, and found that I walk, in the same pair of shoes."

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