Jim Bakker

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Jim Bakker
Born James Orsen Bakker
(1940-01-02) January 2, 1940 (age 78)
Muskegon, Michigan, U.S.
Children Tammy Sue Bakker Chapman
Jay Bakker
Church Assemblies of God (1960-1988)
Charismatic (2003-present)
Congregations served
The PTL Club
Heritage USA
Heritage Village Church
Morningside Church

James Orsen Bakker (/ˈbkər/ "baker";[1] born January 2, 1940) is an American televangelist, convicted fraudster, a former Assemblies of God minister and a former host (with his then-wife Tammy Faye Bakker) of The PTL Club, an evangelical Christian television program.

An accusation of rape made by his secretary led to his resignation from the ministry. Subsequent revelations of accounting fraud brought about his imprisonment and divorce. He later remarried and returned to televangelism.

Early life[edit]

Bakker was born in Muskegon, Michigan, the son of Raleigh Bakker and Furnia Lynette "Furn" Irwin.[2][3] Bakker attended North Central University, a Bible college affiliated with the Assemblies of God, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where in 1960 he met fellow student Tammy Faye LaValley.[4] He worked at a restaurant inside the Young-Quinlan Department Store in Minneapolis, and she had a job at a nearby boutique called The Three Sisters.[5]

On April 1, 1961, Bakker and Tammy Faye married. They left the Bible college to become evangelists. They had two children, Tammy Sue "Sissy" Bakker Chapman (born March 2, 1970) and Jamie Charles "Jay" Bakker (born December 18, 1975). Jim and Tammy Bakker divorced on March 13, 1992.


In 1966, the Bakkers began working at Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, which at the time barely reached an audience of thousands. The Bakkers greatly contributed to the growth of the network, and their success with a variety show format (including interviews and puppets) helped make The 700 Club one of the longest-running and most successful televangelism programs.[6]:6 The Jim and Tammy Show was broadcast for a few years from their Portsmouth, Virginia, studio and was aimed at young children. The Bakkers then left for California in the early 1970s.

By the early 1980s, the Bakkers had built Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina (south of Charlotte), then the third most successful theme park in the U.S., and a satellite system to distribute their network 24 hours a day across the country. Contributions requested from viewers were estimated to exceed $1,000,000 a week, with proceeds to go to expanding the theme park and mission of PTL.[1] In justifying his use of the mass media, Bakker responded to inquiries by likening his use of television to Jesus's use of the amphitheater of the time. "I believe that if Jesus were alive today, he would be on TV," Bakker said. [7][citation needed]

In their success, the Bakkers took conspicuous consumption to an unusual level for a nonprofit organization. In an April 23, 1990 New Yorker article, Frances FitzGerald quoted Dave Barry, who wrote "they personified the most characteristic excesses of the nineteen-eighties—the greed, the love of glitz, and the shamelessness—which in their case were so pure as to almost amount to a kind of innocence."[7]

Jim Bakker was dismissed as a minister of the Assemblies of God on May 6, 1987.[8]


The PTL Club's fundraising activities between 1984–1987 were scrutinised by The Charlotte Observer newspaper, eventually leading to criminal charges against Jim Bakker. From 1984 to 1987, Bakker and his PTL associates sold $1,000 "lifetime memberships," which entitled buyers to a three-night stay annually at a luxury hotel at Heritage USA. According to the prosecution at Bakker's later fraud trial, tens of thousands of memberships had been sold, but only one 500-room hotel was ever completed. Bakker sold more "exclusive partnerships" than could be accommodated, while raising more than twice the money needed to build the actual hotel. A good deal of the money went into Heritage USA's operating expenses, and Bakker kept $3.4 million in bonuses for himself.

A $279,000 pay-off for the silence of Jessica Hahn who claims Bakker and Fletcher drugged and raped her was paid with PTL's funds to Hahn through Bakker associate Roe Messner.[9][10] Bakker, who made all of the financial decisions for the PTL organization, allegedly kept two sets of books to conceal the accounting irregularities. Reporters from The Charlotte Observer, led by Charles Shepard, investigated and published a series of articles regarding the PTL organization's finances.[11]

On March 19, 1987, following the revelation of a pay-off to Hahn, Bakker resigned from PTL.[9] Bakker acknowledged he met Hahn at a hotel room in Clearwater, Florida, but denied raping her. Following Bakker's resignation as PTL head, he was succeeded in late March 1987, by Jerry Falwell.[12] Later that summer, as donations sharply declined in the wake of Bakker's resignation and the end of the Bakkers' popular PTL Club TV show, Falwell raised $20 million to help keep the Heritage USA Theme Park solvent, including a well-publicized waterslide plunge there.[13] Falwell called Bakker a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant, and "the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history."[14] In 1988, Falwell said that the Bakker scandal had "strengthened broadcast evangelism and made Christianity stronger, more mature and more committed."[15][16] Bakker's son, Jay, wrote in 2001 that the Bakkers felt betrayed by Falwell, whom they thought, at the time of Bakker's resignation, intended to help in Bakker's eventual restoration as head of the PTL ministry organization.[6]

Fraud conviction and incarceration[edit]

Following a 16-month Federal grand jury probe, Bakker was indicted in 1988 on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy.[9][17] In 1989, after a five-week trial which began on August 28 in Charlotte, the jury found him guilty on all 24 counts, and Judge Robert Daniel Potter sentenced him to 45 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine.[6]:52[18] He served time in the Federal Medical Center, Rochester, in Rochester, Minnesota, sharing a cell with activist Lyndon LaRouche and skydiver Roger Nelson.[19]

In February 1991, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld Bakker's conviction on the fraud and conspiracy charges, but voided Bakker's 45-year sentence, as well as the $500,000 fine, and ordered that a new sentencing hearing be held. The court held that Potter's statement at sentencing that Bakker's actions resulted in "those of us who do have a religion" being lampooned as "saps from money-grubbing preachers or priests" was evidence that he had injected his own religious beliefs into considering Bakker's sentence.[20]

On November 16, 1992, a sentence reduction hearing was held. Bakker's sentence was reduced to eight years.[6]:104 In August 1993, Bakker was transferred to a minimum security federal prison in Jesup, Georgia, and then he was granted parole in July 1994, after serving almost five years of his sentence.[6]:116, 130 Bakker's son, Jay, spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to the parole board on his father's behalf, urging leniency.[6]:106–115 He was released from Federal Bureau of Prisons custody on December 1, 1994.[21]


Bakker has renounced his past teachings on prosperity theology, saying they were wrong. In his 1996 book, I Was Wrong, he admitted that the first time he actually read the Bible all the way through was while he was in prison, and that it made him realize he had taken certain passages out of context — passages which he had used as "proof texts" to back up his prosperity teachings. He wrote:

The more I studied the Bible, however, I had to admit that the prosperity message did not line up with the tenor of Scripture. My heart was crushed to think that I led so many people astray. I was appalled that I could have been so wrong, and I was deeply grateful that God had not struck me dead as a false prophet![22]

On September 4, 1998, Bakker married Lori Beth Graham, a former televangelist, 50 days after they met.[23] Bakker released another book that same year, Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse ISBN 978-0-7852-6987-8, and, in 2000, he published The Refuge: The Joy of Christian Community in a Torn-Apart World ISBN 978-0-7852-7459-9.

His son, Jay, who is now a minister at Revolution Church in Minneapolis, wrote of the PTL years in his book, Son of a Preacher Man: "The world at large has focused on my parents' preaching of prosperity, but ... I heard a different message — one of forgiveness and the abundance of God's love. I remember my dad always seating a mentally handicapped man in the front row and hugging him. And when vandals burned an African American church down, Dad made sure its parishioners got the funds to rebuild. His goal was to make PTL a place where anyone with a need could walk in off the streets and have that need met."[6]

Later career[edit]

In January 2003, Bakker began broadcasting the daily Jim Bakker Show at Studio City Cafe in Branson, Missouri, with his second wife, Lori. It is carried on the Daystar and CTN networks. By way of those outlets, the bulk of Bakker's audience comes from DirecTV and Dish Network. His show currently has a millennial/survivalist focus. He and wife Lori have since adopted and/or taken in five children from the Phoenix inner city neighborhoods Lori once frequented as a part of the Master's Commission, a worldwide discipleship program now based in Relevant Church in the Dallas Metro area. In January 2008, Bakker's ministry moved into a new television studio in Blue Eye, Missouri, near Branson. The studio is housed in a 600-acre (2.4 km2) development that resembles Bakker's former location, Heritage USA. Most or all of the property in the new development (named Morningside) is owned by associates of Bakker rather than by Bakker himself. Bakker still owes the IRS about $6,000,000.[24][25]

On his current program, he regularly pitches buckets of survival food to sell to his audience in preparation for the end of days,[26] In 2013, Bakker authored Time Has Come: How to Prepare Now for Epic Events Ahead about the end-time events.[27]


  1. ^ a b Ostling, Richard N. (June 24, 2001). "Power, Glory — and Politics". Time magazine. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  2. ^ "Charlotte: Search Results". newsbank.com. 
  3. ^ "Herald-Journal - Google News Archive Search". google.ca. 
  4. ^ Welch, William M. (July 21, 2007). "Ex-wife of evangelist Jim Bakker dies". USA Today. Retrieved November 29, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Tammy Faye Bakker's year in Minneapolis: scoping out the sites, from college to marriage and ministry". MinnPost. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Jay Bakker, Son of a Preacher Man. New York: Harper Collins, 2001 (ISBN 0-06-251698-1).
  7. ^ a b "The New Yorker Digital Edition : Apr 23, 1990". archives.newyorker.com. 
  8. ^ "Lived Experiences, Televangelism, and American Media: Lessons Learned from .." google.com. 
  9. ^ a b c Ostling, Richard N. (December 19, 1988). "Jim Bakker's Crumbling World". Time magazine. Retrieved December 5, 2007. 
  10. ^ "Larry King Live Interview with Jessica Hahn (rush transcript)". CNN. July 14, 2005. Retrieved July 29, 2007. 
  11. ^ Ostling, Richard N. (August 3, 1987). "Enterprising Evangelism". Time. Retrieved January 27, 2007. 
  12. ^ Ostling, Richard N. (May 11, 1987). "Taking Command at Fort Mill". Time magazine. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  13. ^ "American Notes: Fund Raising". Time. September 21, 1987. Retrieved November 29, 2007. 
  14. ^ Crouse, Eric R. (May 16, 2013). "The Cross and Reaganomics: Conservative Christians Defending Ronald Reagan". Lexington Books – via Google Books. 
  15. ^ "Preacher Scandals Strengthen TV Evangelism, Falwell Says". The Washington Post. March 19, 1988. Retrieved December 5, 2007. 
  16. ^ "The Rev. Jerry Falwell, returning to Heritage USA to.." 
  17. ^ U.S. v. Bakker, (C.A.4, 1991), 925 F.2d 728, 740, case no. 89-5687
  18. ^ Peifer, Justice Paul E. (April 12, 2000). "Jim Bakker's Federal Court Appeal". Supreme Court of Ohio website. Retrieved November 29, 2007. 
  19. ^ Securesite.chireader.com
  20. ^ United States v. Bakker, 925 F.2d 728 (4th Cir. 1991), at [1].
  21. ^ "James O. Bakker." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 8, 2010.
  22. ^ Jim Bakker, I Was Wrong. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1996 (ISBN 0785274251), p. 535.
  23. ^ Garfield, Ken (April 1, 2000). "The Preacher's Wife: Lori Beth Bakker says she is her own woman". The Free Lance-Star. Fredricksburg, VA. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker is hawking beans and enemas". Daily Mail. London. September 15, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Jim Bakker and the Counterfeit Hell Robbers". Huffington Post. December 20, 2010. 
  26. ^ Mohr, Kylie (December 3, 2015). "Apocalypse Chow: We Tried Televangelist Jim Bakker's 'Survival Food'". NPR. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Time Has Come". worthypublishing.com. 

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