FORT MILL, S.C., AUG. 31 -- The Rev. Jerry Falwell pledged today to remain at the helm of PTL, saying that if he and his new board left the troubled ministry "there'd be nothing left but an auctioneer."
After a private, three-hour board meeting at PTL's Heritage USA complex here, Falwell told reporters that "frivolous and harassing" lawsuits are slowing plans to save PTL by keeping its church work nonprofit and by turning its theme park into a profit-making organization.
However, Falwell said he will stay with PTL until it is "solid, solvent and operating properly" and until people whose "hearts were right and motives were right" are leading it.
Falwell assumed control of PTL in March after its founder, Jim Bakker, stepped down amid a sex scandal. The Lynchburg, Va.-based minister said PTL has been in financial crisis every day since and needs $1.4 million by Labor Day if it is to meet its summer-long goal of raising $20 million.
The money would be used to pay television stations that carry PTL programs, employes at Heritage USA, and utility and telephone bills, he said. PTL is $68 million in debt.
Falwell said he hopes the ministry will be able to borrow enough money not only to pay its debts but to finish construction at the theme park, including the Towers Hotel.
A reorganization plan, required under PTL's Chapter 11 filing in federal bankruptcy court, is due Oct. 1 but hasn't been completed, Falwell and PTL attorney Roy Grutman said.
Falwell said "frivolous and harassing actions designed to drain us of our resources and our time" are keeping the ministry from finishing the plan.
Falwell specifically mentioned a lawsuit by Kevin Whittum, who wants to remain in an 11-bedroom house on the grounds of Heritage USA. Whittum, 18, suffers from a brittle-bone disease and has lived in the lavish house with his parents for a year.