Friday, June 17, 2011

Breaking! Richard Dortch of Jim Bakker's PTL Club Dead at 79

by Rev. Austin Miles
A news alert just arrived from our Spokane, Washington contributor, Richard Lee, a pastor and rising radio talk show host, informing us of the death of Rev. Richard Dortch whom we both knew for many years.  My acquaintance with Dortch began when I was an evangelist and he was the Illinois Superintendent for The Assemblies of God (AG) duirng 1970 to 1983. He also served as the Executive Presbyter for AG from 1971-1985 and I would later work with him when he took the helm for Jim Bakker's PTL Club, where I was a regular guest.
When the PTL Club became embroiled in a financial controversy which sent Bakker to prison, collapsing the PTL Club. Dortch. also tainted by the scandal, went oiut of sight for a time while he got himself back together. The PTL Club had sold more time shares to their Heritage Hotel than they could ever accomodate while Dortch was paid a huge salary which was excessive for a minister even though not criminal. 
Other revelations of the Bakkers having an air conditioner in their dog house was front paged in The Charlotte Observer, which constantly attacked PTL and Jim Bakker from the first signs of its success. And that was a time when they were doing everything right.  But jealous ministers in and around Charlotte began pounding their pulpits against the PTL Club when they should have been proclaiming the Gospel.  And Jim Bakker, deeply hurt by this,  began to change. The innocence he came in with began to slowly vanish.
In those early days, reporters of the Charlotte Observer would go to the PTL live studio programs to find something to "expose." Problem was that the reporters that went there with an ax in their hands came back with a sword of truth.  One reporter after the other got saved while spending time on the grounds of PTL until the exasperated editors of the Observer stopped sending them there.
Basically,  Bakker, with a lot of agitation by the newspapers,  was convicted for….overbooking a hotel.  As for Dortch's salary, and other staff members, it was indeed an inflated payroll which should not have been.  But the organizaation was making millions of dollars and since it was coming in faster than it could be counted, the trap sprung.
Dortch, who served as a pastor early in his ministerial career, was also a missionary to Belgium (1959-1964), where he helped found and lead Emmanuel Bible Institute in Andrimont.  In 1967, while pastoring in Alton, Illinois, he was elected as secretary-treasurer for the Illinois District, serving in that capacity until 1970.
Later in life, after the collapse of PTL, Dortch would write several books about personal integrity and restoration. Until just prior to his death, he hosted a long-standing two- to three-hour prayer service on weeknights on the Christian Television Network.  Pastor Richard Lee guested on that program. This writer was looking forward to visiting with him and appearing with him.  This should remind us all to keep in closer touch with people we know. We can never take their being here for granted.
Richard Dortch passed away on Tuesday, June 14th in Palm Harbor, Florida. He is survived by his wife, Mildred; his two children, Deanna Collins and Richard; three grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.  Again, we thank Rev. Richard Lee for sending this information.