Jimmy Swaggart’s Co-Pastor Bids Farewell to Congregation
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Jimmy Swaggart attended the farewell service of his co-pastor for a Louisiana congregation and the departing preacher urged the church to support Swaggart’s crumbling ministry.
The Rev. Jim Rentz bid a gentle goodbye Sunday at Swaggart’s Family Worship Center, but made no mention of a sex scandal involving Swaggart.
″I’m not leading a parade out of this church,″ Rentz told about 1,200 worshipers. ″We’re not leaving here with bad feelings. We’re leaving here with love.″
Rentz resigned earlier this month after Swaggart was found associating with a prostitute in California. It was the second scandal involving Swaggart and prostitutes.
The episode has shaken the ministry to the point of collapse. Crusades and television programs have been canceled, workers laid off and Swaggart has said he will take a leave from the pulpit.
In his weekly taped television program, Swaggart said he will return to the pulpit and asked for contributions to keep his troubled ministry going.
″In a little while, I don’t know how long - 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, six months - whatever the Holy Spirit says, I will come back in the pulpit,″ Swaggart said.
He promised to use any donations to keep the weekly telecasts on the air and to keep the Jimmy Swaggart Bible College and seminary operating.
Swaggart and his wife, Frances, were at the church for Rentz’s farewell sermon. Swaggart praised Rentz at the farewell service for having ″had a tremendous part in all that we have attempted to do for the glory of God.″
Swaggart hasn’t preached since the Oct. 11 incident in which police in Indio, Calif., stopped his car for weaving in traffic. In the car with him was a woman who said she was a prostitute. She said Swaggart had picked her up and asked her for sex.
He said last week that ″demon spirits″ were responsible for his woes.
Swaggart’s ministry, once worth $150 million a year, shrank under the weight of the earlier scandal, and Swaggart dropped from first to seventh in national television rankings of evangelists.
The new scandal quickly took its toll and donations fell off sharply. Swaggart was on television Sunday and said some stations could continue carrying new programs that had been taped but not yet aired.
A board member of Swaggart Ministries, Dennis Brewer Sr. of Dallas, said Friday that the ministry was looking at the possibility of selling its television equipment and future programs probably would be limited to worship services.
Swaggart said on his television program that he would ″commit every aspect″ of his personal life to two laymen and two preachers at the ministry who are helping him deal with his problems.
″I have submitted myself as well to professional, Holy Ghost-filled help outside the ministry that has no connection with the ministry or the church whatsoever,″ Swaggart said.
″We’re not quitting. God told me not to quit. It’s not ending. It’s continuing,″ he said.