Praise the Lord! Part III  

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Me with an awesome 80's haircut outside of our "lunchroom" at Heritage USA in 1987

One of my classmates and good friends at the time in front of a sign for the "Learning Center", another name for Heritage Academy

A few of my teachers out in front of the "lunchroom"

Jim Bakker resigned from PTL in the spring of 1987. The Bakkers disappeared from PTL and the press descended.

As students, we were no longer allowed to leave the building at lunch and we were barred from talking to the press. Not that it would have done much good to talk to me. I had very little idea of what was going on. I heard rumors, but I didn't know whether they were speculation or truth.

The rumors, as I remember were that Jerry Fallwell had taken over the ministry in a coup with the help of Richard Dortch. Most of the students couldn't stand either of them. Jimmy Swaggart was looked upon almost as badly for his words against the ministry. But then his own sexual misconduct was discovered and he faded fro the scene.

My impression was that Bakker had an affair with one of his secretaries in the World Outreach Center. But that was what I constructed not knowing any of the real details. Jessica Hahn was never employed by PTL, but she was a secretary for a church in New York. She also never visited the World Outreach Center, at least not in Bakker's company. But he did have an affair with her in a hotel in Florida.

I also heard whispered comments about his sex life. I remember my mom asking a friend of hers whether she thought Jim was a homosexual and then turning quickly to me as she realized I was there and asking me if I knew what a homosexual was. I had no idea what to make of them, so I mostly just ignored them. It wasn't until recently I realized all of the accusations against Bakker.

My mom had been working as a reservationist at the Heritage Grand Hotel since the summer before. She often complained to us that people with lifetime partnerships were being turned away because the hotel was booked past capacity, even as the Bakkers were selling more partnerships. Callers were often angry that their donation wasn't being honored, but there was nothing the hotel could do. The rooms were booked through the end of 1986 and then quickly to the end of 1987. That, in the end, was Jim's undoing. We stayed once in the Grand and it was a lovely experience, but if I'd understood then what the hotel had been built on I probably wouldn't have enjoyed my stay.

For more information about lifetime partnerships, Jim's scandal, and the climate of tele-evangelism at the time, watch the video below.

Other than the idea that something big was going on, my life pretty much continued as normal. I went to public school following that year at PTL, but it was a small high school in Fort Mill and I attended with friends I'd met at Heritage Academy.

I also started working part time during the summer and the school year. Several of my friends at Heritage Academy had applied for jobs as lifeguards at the water park. But I wasn't a good swimmer, so I worked at a nearby mall instead. But eventually I would return to Heritage USA.

Read the other parts of my story

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4 comments: to “ Praise the Lord! Part III

  • Anonymous
    Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 7:39:00 PM CDT  

    The Deacon and I were in Canada during the Bakker and Swaggert scandals. We watched everything from a distance. It's fascinating to read an account from someone who was much closer to the scene.

  • Nita
    Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 11:55:00 PM CDT  

    It's nice to see what you look like, even if it was years ago! :)

  • The Exterminator
    Friday, April 18, 2008 at 11:38:00 PM CDT  

    I love one of the last lines in the video: Bakker is found guilty of taking $158 million from followers on false pretenses.

    I'd like to know one religious leader who gets any money from his or her followers that's NOT taken on false pretenses.

    Oh, and about your picture: I can't see it too well, but that devilish little grin is a giveaway that a godless heathen is waiting for the right moment to break free.

  • Dikkii
    Monday, April 28, 2008 at 3:27:00 AM CDT  

    Just read the series from end to end.

    We never got Bakker in Australia, but we did get Swaggert. He was on TV early on Sunday mornings before the cartoons started. I remember that he used to scare my little sisters because he came across as an angry man.


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