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Jim Bakker
(January 2, 1940 - living) U.S.A.

Jim Bakker

Evangelist

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James Bakker was born in Muskegon, Michigan, the son of Raleigh Bakker and Furnia Lynette "Furn" Irwin. 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. On April 1, 1961, Bakker and Tammy Faye married. They left the Bible college to become evangelists.

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. 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.

Teaming with their former youth pastors Paul and Jan Crouch, the Bakkers created the "Praise the Lord" show for the Crouches' and Bakker's new Trinity Broadcasting Network in California. While that relationship lasted only about a year, this time the Bakkers retained the rights to use the initials PTL and traveled east to Charlotte, North Carolina, to begin their own show, The PTL Club. Their show grew quickly until it was carried by close to a hundred stations, with average viewers numbering over twelve million, and the Bakkers had established their own network, The PTL Television Network (also known as PTL-The Inspirational Network). They attributed much of their success to decisions early on to accept all denominations and to refuse no one regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or criminal record.

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

The PTL Club's fund-raising activities between 1984-1987 was 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. 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.

On March 19, 1987, following the revelation of a pay-off to Hahn, Bakker resigned from PTL. 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. 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."

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. 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. He served time in the Federal Medical Center, Rochester.

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. Jim and Tammy Bakker were divorced on March 13, 1992. On November 16, 1992, a sentence reduction hearing was held and Bakker's sentence was reduced to eight years.

In August 1993, Bakker was transferred to a minimum security federal prison in Jesup, Georgia, and was subsequently granted parole in July 1994, after serving almost five years of his sentence.

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

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Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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