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Jim Bakker

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Jim Bakker
Born James Orsen Bakker
(1940-01-02) January 2, 1940 (age 78)
Muskegon, Michigan
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, former Assemblies of God minister, convicted felon, and former host (with his former wife, Tammy Faye Bakker) of The PTL Club, an evangelical Christian television program. Bakker is also known for building Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina, a former Christian theme park which opened in 1978 and closed in 1989. He has written several books, including I Was Wrong and Time Has Come: How to Prepare Now for Epic Events Ahead.

A cover-up of hush money paid to Bakker's secretary, Jessica Hahn, for alleged rape led to his resignation from the ministry. Subsequent revelations of accounting fraud brought about his conviction, imprisonment and divorce. Bakker later remarried and returned to televangelism, where he founded his new ministry Morningside Church in Blue Eye, Missouri and currently works on The Jim Bakker Show. He sells buckets of food to his audience on the show, in preparation for the end of days.

Early life[edit]

James Orsen Bakker was born in Muskegon, Michigan, the son of Raleigh Bakker and Furnia Lynette "Furn" Irwin.[2] Bakker attended North Central University (a Bible college affiliated with the Assemblies of God in Minneapolis), where he met fellow student Tammy Faye LaValley in 1960.[3] He worked at a restaurant in the Young-Quinlan department store in Minneapolis; Tammy Faye worked at the Three Sisters, a nearby boutique.[4]

They married on April 1, 1961, and left college to become evangelists. The Bakkers have two children: Tammy Sue "Sissy" Bakker Chapman (born March 2, 1970) and Jamie Charles "Jay" Bakker (born December 18, 1975). They divorced on March 13, 1992.[5] On September 4, 1998, Bakker married Lori Beth Graham, a former televangelist, just fifty days after they met.[6]


In 1966 the Bakkers began working at Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, which had an audience in the low thousands at the time.[7] They contributed to the network's growth, and their success with a variety show format (including interviews and puppets) helped make The 700 Club a company staple.[8] The Jim and Tammy Show, aimed at young children, was broadcast for several years from their Portsmouth, Virginia studio.

Heritage USA sign in 2007; the site is now abandoned.[9]
Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye during a PTL broadcast, circa 1986.

The Bakkers built Heritage USA in Fort Mill, South Carolina (south of Charlotte), the third-most-successful theme park in the U.S. at the time, and a satellite system to distribute their network 24 hours a day nationwide by the early 1980s. Viewer contributions were estimated to exceed $1 million a week, with proceeds to expand the theme park and The PTL Club's mission.[1][10] Bakker responded to inquiries about his use of mass media by saying: "I believe that if Jesus were alive today, he would be on TV".[11]

The Bakkers had a lavish lifestyle.[8] In an April 23, 1990 New Yorker article, Frances FitzGerald quoted Dave Barry: "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."[12] Bakker was dismissed as an Assemblies of God minister on May 6, 1987.[13]

Later career[edit]

He began broadcasting the daily Jim Bakker Show at Studio City Café in Branson, Missouri in January 2003 with his second wife, Lori;[14] it is carried on the Daystar and CTN networks.[15][16] Most of Bakker's audience receives his program on DirecTV or Dish Network.[17] His show has a millennial, survivalist focus, and Bakker owes the IRS $6 million.[18] On his program, he sells buckets of freeze-dried food to his audience in preparation for the end of days.[19] In 2013, Bakker wrote Time Has Come: How to Prepare Now for Epic Events Ahead about end-time events.[20]

Prophecies and statements[edit]

In an October 2017 video, Bakker said that "God will punish those" who ridicule him;[21] he has said that Hurricane Harvey was a judgement of God, and blamed Hurricane Matthew on then-President Barack Obama.[22][23] Bakker predicted that if current President Donald Trump is impeached, Christians would begin a Second American Civil War.[24] He compared the 2017 Washington train derailment to the sinking of the RMS Titanic and stated the Amtrak train derailment was a warning from God.[25] He also claimed that he predicted the September 11 attacks of 2001, stating that he "saw 9/11 in 1999 before New Year's Eve" and that there would "be terrorism" and bombings in New York City and Washington, D.C."[26] A few days after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, he stated that in a dream that "God came to him wearing a camouflage, a hunting vest, and a AR-15 rifle strapped to his back" and claimed that God supported Trump's plan to arm teachers.[27] Following the death of Billy Graham on February 21, 2018, Bakker attended Graham's funeral and paid his respects, stating that Graham was the greatest preacher since Jesus,[28] and also remarking that Graham had visited him in prison.[29]



The PTL Club's fundraising activities between 1984 and 1987 were reported by The Charlotte Observer, eventually leading to criminal charges against Bakker.[30] Bakker and his PTL associates sold $1,000 "lifetime memberships", entitling buyers to an annual three-night stay at a luxury hotel at Heritage USA, during that period.[31] According to the prosecution at Bakker's fraud trial, tens of thousands of memberships were sold but only one 500-room hotel was ever finished.[32] Bakker sold "exclusive partnerships" which exceeded capacity, raising more than twice the money needed to build the hotel. Much of the money paid Heritage USA's operating expenses, and Bakker kept $3.4 million.[33]

A $279,000 payoff for the silence of Jessica Hahn, who alleged that Bakker and pastor John Wesley Fletcher drugged and raped her, was paid with PTL's funds through Bakker's associate Roe Messner.[34][35] Bakker, who made the PTL organization's financial decisions, allegedly kept two sets of books to conceal accounting irregularities. Charlotte Observer reporters, led by Charles Shepard, investigated the PTL organization's finances and published a series of articles.[36]

On March 19, 1987, after the disclosure of a payoff to Hahn, Bakker resigned from PTL.[34] Although he acknowledged that he met Hahn at a hotel room in Clearwater, Florida, he denied raping her. In late March 1987, Bakker was succeeded as PTL head by Jerry Falwell.[37] Later that summer, as donations declined sharply in the wake of Bakker's resignation and the end of the Bakkers' PTL Club TV program, Falwell raised $20 million to keep PTL solvent and took a promised water slide ride at Heritage USA.[38]

Fraud conviction and imprisonment[edit]

After 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.[34] In 1989, after a five-week trial which began on August 28 in Charlotte, North Carolina, a jury found him guilty on all 24 counts. Judge Robert Daniel Potter sentenced Bakker to 45 years in federal prison and imposed a $500,000 fine.[39][40] At the Federal Medical Center, Rochester in Rochester, Minnesota, he shared a cell with activist Lyndon LaRouche and skydiver Roger Nelson.[41]

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld Bakker's conviction on the fraud and conspiracy charges, voided Bakker's 45-year sentence and $500,000 fine, and ordered a new sentencing hearing in February 1991.[42] The court ruled that Potter's sentencing statement about Bakker, that "those of us who do have a religion are sick of being saps for money-grubbing preachers and priests",[43] was evidence that the judge had injected his religious beliefs into Bakker's sentence.[42]

A sentence-reduction hearing was held on November 16, 1992, and Bakker's sentence was reduced to eight years. In August 1993, he was transferred to a minimum-security federal prison in Jesup, Georgia. Bakker was paroled in July 1994, after serving almost five years of his sentence.[44] His son, Jay, spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to the parole board advocating leniency.[45] Bakker was released from Federal Bureau of Prisons custody on December 1, 1994.[46]


Jerry 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."[47] In 1988, Falwell said that the Bakker scandal had "strengthened broadcast evangelism and made Christianity stronger, more mature and more committed."[48][49] Ed Brayton called Bakker a false prophet in an article on the Patheos website, and Geoffrey Grider called him a false teacher on the Now The End Begins website.[50][51] On CNN, Jimmy Swaggart told Larry King that Bakker was a "cancer in the body of Christ".[52] On the Stand in the Gap Today radio program, Pennsylvania Pastors Network president Sam Rohrer criticized Bakker's civil-war prediction.[53] His doomsday food was also labeled as overpriced.[54] His PTL scandal was also compared to the 2017 Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations.[55] His TV show also received criticism as a "spiritual abuse", and critics stated that it has "no business" being on TV screens.[56]


Bakker also did teachings on prosperity theology.[57] In his 1980 book Eight Keys to Success, he stated:

God wants you to be happy, God wants you to be rich, God wants you to prosper.[58][59]

In his 1996 book, I Was Wrong, he admitted that the first time he actually read the Bible all the way through was in prison. He wrote that he realized that he had taken passages out of context and used them as prooftexts to support his prosperity theology:[60]

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![61]

Bakker published Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse in 1998,[62][63] and The Refuge: The Joy of Christian Community in a Torn-Apart World in 2000.[64] His son Jay (a minister at Revolution Church in Minneapolis)[65] described the PTL years in his book, Son of a Preacher Man:[66]

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.[67]

Bakker described himself as a supporter of President Donald Trump in an interview with Stephen E. Strang and in the book God and Donald Trump.[68]


  • Eight Keys to Success (1980)
  • I Was Wrong (1996)
  • Prosperity and the Coming Apocalypse (1998)
  • The Refuge: The Joy of Christian Community in a Torn-Apart World (2000)

See also[edit]

  • Fall from Grace, a made-for TV film about the lives of Jim and Tammy Bakker in the 1980s


  1. ^ a b Ostling, Richard N. (24 June 2001). "Power, Glory — and Politics". Time magazine. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  2. ^ "Herald-Journal - Google News Archive Search". Google News. 
  3. ^ Welch, William M. (21 July 2007). "Ex-wife of evangelist Jim Bakker dies". USA Today. Retrieved November 29, 2007. 
  4. ^ Sturdevant, Andy (28 May 2014). "Tammy Faye Bakker's year in Minneapolis: scoping out the sites, from college to marriage and ministry". MinnPost. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Tammy Faye Bakker Gets Divorce, Custody of Son, 16". Los Angeles Times. 14 March 1992. 
  6. ^ Garfield, Ken (1 April 2000). "The Preacher's Wife: Lori Beth Bakker says she is her own woman". The Free Lance-Star. Fredricksburg, VA. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker Lived Here - in a Kit Home!". Sears Home. 23 November 2011. 
  8. ^ a b "Robertson's Bakker Connection". The Washington Post. 6 February 1988. Retrieved February 22, 2018. 
  9. ^ Jarvis, Robin (3 June 2017). "The Remnants Of This Abandoned Theme Park In South Carolina Are Hauntingly Beautiful". onlyinyourstate. 
  10. ^ Connelly, Sherryl (5 August 2017). "Televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's fall from grace". New York Daily News. 
  11. ^ Shepherd, Steve (17 April 2012). "Submit Yourselves To God". Sermon Central. I believe that if Jesus were alive today, he would be on TV 
  12. ^ "The New Yorker Digital Edition : Apr 23, 1990". The New Yorker. 
  13. ^ "Assemblies of God defrocks Bakker". United Press International. 6 May 1987. 
  14. ^ "Jim Bakker Expands Ministry in Blue Eye, MO". Ozarksfirst. 
  15. ^ "'New' Jim Bakker Returns to Christian Television". Cult Education. 
  16. ^ "The Jim Bakker Show with Jim and Lori Bakker". Daystar Television Network. 
  17. ^ Bakker, Jim. "Broadcast Listings". The Jim Bakker Show. 
  18. ^ Krotz, Daniel (20 December 2010). "Jim Bakker and the Counterfeit Hell Robbers". Huffington Post. 
  19. ^ Mohr, Kylie (3 December 2015). "Apocalypse Chow: We Tried Televangelist Jim Bakker's 'Survival Food'". NPR. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  20. ^ Bakker, Jim (15 January 2013). "Time Has Come". Amazon. Self-published by Jim Bakker on Amazon. 
  21. ^ Mazza, Ed (17 October 2017). "Jim Bakker Says God Will Punish You For Making Fun Of Him". HuffPost. Jim Bakker: One day, you're going to shake your fist in God's face. And you're going to say, 'God, why didn't you warn me?' He's gonna say, 'You sat there and you made fun of Jim Bakker all those years. I warned you, but you didn't listen. 
  22. ^ "Disgraced pastor Jim Bakker says Hurricane Harvey was 'judgment' from God while selling his Tasty Pantry bucket for $175". Daily News. New York. 5 September 2017. 
  23. ^ Tashman, Brian (17 October 2016). "Jim Bakker Blames Hurricane Matthew On Obama". Right Wing Watch. 
  24. ^ Delk, Josh (29 August 2017). "Televangelist Jim Bakker: Christians will start a civil war if Trump is impeached". The Hill. Jim Bakker: If it happens, there will be a civil war in the United States of America. 
  25. ^ Mantlya, Kyle (3 January 2018). "Jim Bakker: Washington Train Derailment Was A Warning From God". Right Wing Watch. Jim Bakker: The great preachers of all times have said the Titanic is God's warning 
  26. ^ "Televangelist Jim Bakker claims he predicted 9/11 disaster". Jolt Left. 23 August 2011. Jim Bakker: I saw 9/11 in 1999 before New Year's Eve... I said there's going to be terrorism; there's going to be a bombing in New York and Washington DC. I said it would be at a high defense location in DC... 
  27. ^ "Jim Bakker Supports Arming Some Teachers: 'Jesus Loves AR-15'". Nova. 22 February 2018. To me, that is a sign that he is against gun control. God ordained Donald Trump and he supports his plan to arm teachers. 
  28. ^ Marusak, Joe; Funk, Tim (27 February 2018). "Fallen evangelist Jim Bakker and wife pay their respects to Billy Graham in Charlotte". Charlotte Observer. 
  29. ^ Dyches, Chris (27 February 2018). "Fallen PTL pastor Jim Bakker recalls prison visit from Rev. Billy Graham". Charlotte, N.C.: WBTV. 
  30. ^ Miller, Hunter (September 28, 2017). "How a Sexual Assault Scandal Led to the Uncovering of a $158 Million Crime in a Televangelist Empire". 
  31. ^ Schmidt, William (May 16, 1987). "For Jim and Tammy Bakker, Excess Wiped Out a Rapid Climb to Success". The New York Times. 
  32. ^ Harris, David (September 29, 1997). "Former Heritage USA resort is again up for sale". The Business Journals. 
  33. ^ "Top 20 Church Scandals: #9 Jim Bakker PTL Scandal". July 1, 2015. Bakker kept $3.4 million in bonuses for himself 
  34. ^ a b c Ostling, Richard N. (December 19, 1988). "Jim Bakker's Crumbling World". Time. Retrieved December 5, 2007. 
  35. ^ "Larry King Live Interview with Jessica Hahn (rush transcript)". Larry King Live. CNN. July 14, 2005. Retrieved July 29, 2007. 
  36. ^ Ostling, Richard N. (August 3, 1987). "Enterprising Evangelism". Time. Retrieved January 27, 2007. 
  37. ^ Ostling, Richard N. (May 11, 1987). "Taking Command at Fort Mill". Time. Retrieved November 9, 2008. 
  38. ^ "American Notes: Fund Raising". Time. September 21, 1987. Retrieved November 29, 2007. 
  39. ^ Applebome, Peter (October 25, 1989). "Bakker Sentenced to 45 Years For Fraud in His TV Ministry". The New York Times. 
  40. ^ Peifer, Justice Paul E. (April 12, 2000). "Jim Bakker's Federal Court Appeal". Supreme Court of Ohio website. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2007. 
  41. ^ Witt, April (October 24, 2004). "No Joke". The Washington Post. 
  42. ^ a b "U.S. v. Bakker". Google Scholar. 1991. 
  43. ^
  44. ^ "Jim Bakker Freed From Jail To Stay In A Halfway House". The New York Times. July 2, 1994. 
  45. ^ Bakker, Jay (December 24, 2001). "Son of a Preacher Man: My Search for Grace in the Shadows". Jay Bakker on Amazon. 
  46. ^ Smothers, Ronald (December 2, 1994). "Ex-Television Evangelist Bakker Ends Prison Sentence for Fraud". The New York Times. 
  47. ^ Crouse, Eric R. (May 16, 2013). The Cross and Reaganomics: Conservative Christians Defending Ronald Reagan. Lexington Books – via Google Books. 
  48. ^ "Preacher Scandals Strengthen TV Evangelism, Falwell Says". The Washington Post. March 19, 1988. Retrieved December 5, 2007. 
  49. ^ "The Rev. Jerry Falwell, returning to Heritage USA to..." United Press International. October 9, 1987. 
  50. ^ Brayton, Ed (October 5, 2015). "Time to Stone False Prophet Jim Bakker". Patheos. 
  51. ^ Grider, Geoffrey (February 21, 2018). "False teacher Jim Bakker wants to sell you freeze-dried food so you can survive the coming apocalypse". Now The End Begins. 
  52. ^ "Son of Jim and Tammy Faye Finds His Own 'Grace'". All Things Considered. NPR. January 15, 2011. Jim Bakker is a cancer in the body of Christ 
  53. ^ Gryboski, Michael (August 31, 2017). "Pastors Network Pres: Jim Bakker Is Wrong, Christians Won't Start 'Civil War' Over Trump Impeachment". The Christian Post. 
  54. ^ Reeve, Elspeth (May 17, 2012). "Jim Bakker's Doomsday Survival Gear Is Way Overpriced". The Atlantic. 
  55. ^ Carter, Joe (October 14, 2017). "4 Lessons for Christians from the Harvey Weinstein Scandal". The Gospel Coalition. televangelist Jim Bakker, who served an eight-year prison term for fraud, returned to a broadcasting ministry nine years after getting out of jail. 
  56. ^ Saunders, Martin (1 May 2018). "Jim Bakker's TV show amounts to spiritual abuse – so why is he still broadcasting?". Christian Today. 
  57. ^ Guest Contributor (July 26, 2017). "Prosperity Gospel Apocalypse: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's PTL Empire". Patheos. 
  58. ^ Wigger, John (2017). "PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Evangelical Empire". Google Books. John H. Wigger. p. 7. 
  59. ^ Bakker, Jim (January 1, 1980). "Eight Keys to Success". Amazon. 
  60. ^ Bakker, Jim (1996). "I Was Wrong: Excerpt From Jim Bakker's Autobiographical Book. Bakker admits to study the Bible". Spiritwatch Ministries. The more I studied the Bible 
  61. ^ Bakker, Jim (1996). "I Was Wrong: Excerpt From Jim Bakker's Autobiographical Book". Spiritwatch Ministeries. 
  62. ^ Bakker, Jim (November 8, 1998). "Prosperity and the Coming Apocalyspe". Self-published on Amazon. 
  63. ^ "The Re-education of Jim Bakker". Christianity Today. December 7, 1998. 
  64. ^ Bakker, Jim (April 19, 2008). "The Refuge: The Joy of Christian Community in a Torn-Apart World". Self published on Amazon. 
  65. ^ French, Rose. "Jay Bakker, son of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye, to start church in Minneapolis". Star Tribune. Retrieved April 8, 2013. 
  66. ^ Bakker, Jay (December 24, 2001). "Son of a Preacher Man". Jay Bakker on Amazon. 
  67. ^ Bakker, Jay (July 13, 2011). "Book Excerpt: Jay Bakker". ABC News. 
  68. ^ Strang, Steve (November 2, 2017). "'God and Donald Trump' Impresses Avid Trump Supporter Jim Bakker". Charisma News. 

External links[edit]