FORT MILL, S.C., APRIL 28 -- The Rev. Jerry Falwell today placed himself firmly in control of the PTL empire and barred its founder, Jim Bakker, from retaking the pulpit.

Beneath crystal chandeliers in the ballroom of the grand hotel built by Jim and Tammy Bakker with money from their flock, Falwell announced that the board had cut all payments to the Bakkers, who have received $4.8 million since January 1984 in salaries and bonuses.

But Tammy Bakker, in a telephone interview from her Palm Springs, Calif., home, disputed the account of their salaries. "The lies have hurt us the worst, because it's so hard to prove a lie is false," she said, and suddenly laughed: "We haven't sweated blood yet, and Jesus sweated blood."

Said Tammy Bakker, "In the last four years, they {PTL officials} say we would have made $9.5 million if we had taken royalties from our books and records, but we gave it all back to PTL." She said her husband was not home, but was in California today.

As a team of outside accountants examined the books of the embattled $129 million ministry, Falwell also announced that in a "tearful, heart-rending meeting," the Rev. Richard Dortch, Bakker's successor as PTL president, had stepped down and that another top Bakker aide, David Taggart, had been dismissed. Dortch negotiated the $265,000 hush-money payment to Jessica Hahn, the church secretary with whom Bakker committed adultery.

Falwell, asked by Bakker to take over PTL last March when Bakker resigned, said, "We intend to stay and will not step aside . . . His ministry here has ceased." And Falwell added: "If God Almighty had let me quit, I would have told you that today. I am going to lovingly and scripturally lead on until God says, 'Get out of there.' "

He added that all bonuses to other executives had been stopped as of today, and that all compensation will be scrutinized.

Harry Hargrave, a Dallas businessman who took over as chief operating officer today, said five accountants from the firm of Arthur Andersen are studying the books.

"We've reviewed operating statements through February," Hargrave said, "but we're going to have to break it down further" to understand the cash flow. Also underway are physical audits to track down titles to cars, land and homes in possession of the Bakkers.

At a packed news conference at the Heritage Grand Hotel in the sprawling 2,300-acre Heritage USA, a Christian resort carved from a cow pasture, Falwell pledged to honor debts to creditors and "prayer partners." And he said that another PTL board member close to the Bakkers, evangelist Rex Humbard, had quit.

Humbard, he said, told him, " 'I'm just a little bit older than you are and I'm not willing to ride this horse.' " Humbard left the board meeting before it ended and was seen carrying luggage to his car.

Falwell looked puffy-eyed. "I slept two hours last night. Not because I didn't have a bed, but because I couldn't sleep," he said.

The Lynchburg, Va., evangelist did not respond in detail to questions of reported financial irregularities, nor to charges that Jim Bakker had used prostitutes and engaged in homosexual activities -- charges Bakker has denied. But PTL counsel Norman Roy Grutman, who said he spent hours poring over tapes and other documentation of the allegations presented by the Rev. John Ankerberg, said later, "It was not evidence that could be cavalierly disregarded. It came from credible people."

Falwell said he had met twice with Ankerberg, a Chattanooga, Tenn., evangelist, but that some board members were unfamiliar with the charges until this morning.

"Those charges were discussed and it was the consensus of the board to leave those discussions and opinions we all share inside the board," Falwell said. But over the next two weeks, Falwell added, the charges would be presented to the board in more detail. "Let me tell you, that has been a voluminous undertaking," Falwell said.

He invited Bakker to face his accusers. "If I were Reverend Bakker, I'd want to meet every one of them." He also said, "I have nothing but love and appreciation for the Bakkers. I look around and see so many good things they have done. I thank God for what is here."

Falwell today also confirmed that $265,000 paid to silence Hahn came from PTL funds. The unwitting donor, said Falwell, was contractor Roe Messner, who is owed $14 million by PTL and has built $60 million in projects at the complex. Messner, said Falwell, "is the man most hurting of all around here."

Grutman, at the press conference, said he had recommended to the board that payments to Hahn stop -- and that she may be asked to pay back what she has already received. He accused the 27-year-old woman of breaching the covenants of the agreement by talking to the press. But Hahn tearfully told reporters outside her West Babylon, N.Y., home, "I have done everything I've been asked to do. I've kept quiet."

Today was the second time Falwell and the new board faced the public in the midst of the scandal. On March 26, he promised new openness and financial accountability, and did so again today. "It's a different ball game now. We don't know the depth of the problems," Falwell said, adding that he feared "revelations very staggering for us" lie ahead. Falwell said he still lacked information to respond to specific questions about allocations of money donated to the ministry.

He said PTL was $50 million in debt. Last year, the ministry took in $129 million in donations, including $1,000 "lifetime partnerships" from believers who in return receive a three-night stay a year in a Heritage USA facility. Falwell cut off that form of giving today. "We're not selling any lifetime partnerships or offering any at this time until counsel advises us," Falwell said. He said there were 120,000 lifetime partners.

Falwell outlined a financial settlement with the Bakkers that involved paying them royalties for books and records, but deducting unauthorized monies paid to them, or paid on their behalf -- such as the money to Hahn.

"We're going to deal with that in a way that's legal and aboveboard," said Chief Operating Officer Hargrave.

But the new board reportedly has had difficulty getting information. Jerry Nims, an Atlanta businessman and PTL board member, said he was "stonewalled" by the executive staff when he asked for financial records after the first board meeting last month. "We requested the documents and we never got them," he said today. "They said, 'They're coming,' but they never came."

The Charlotte Observer has reported that PTL records show nearly twice the money needed to build the $26 million Towers hotel has been raised, but only $13 million has been paid on the unfinished high-rise. Previously undisclosed portions of PTL's 1986 financial statements show PTL has tens of thousands more "lifetime partnerships" than it once told viewers it would have.

As of May 31, 1986, the end of its last budget year, PTL collected $65.8 million in partnerships for the Heritage Grand; the total raised for the Towers had climbed to $49.3 million by November, The Observer reported.

Asked today what happened to the money donated to build the Towers, Falwell replied only, "That's a good question."

Dortch, 55, who could not be reached for comment after the board meeting, reportedly had made a quiet plea to remain. But the board refused, citing his role in the Hahn scandal. "Mr. Dortch was involved in the {Hahn} transaction," said counsel Grutman.

"It's kind of like President Nixon," said DeWitt Braud, 63, a Baton Rouge businessman and board member. "Could Nixon have stayed?"

According to a source, the former "Jim and Tammy Show," hosted by Dortch after Bakker stepped down on March 19, will be hosted by former board member J. Don George, a close friend of evangelist Jimmy Swaggart -- the man once accused of plotting a "hostile takeover" of PTL. The ministry, which has 2,000 employes, also has a television network it claims reaches more than 15 million viewers, mostly on cable.

Asked whether he would consider hosting "The PTL Club" himself, Falwell said, "I do not plan to permanently sit in that seat. All I need to do is sit in that seat and you'll be reading about a divorce between Macel and Jerry Falwell."

The Charlotte Observer reported today that the Internal Revenue Service wants to revoke the PTL's tax-exempt status for the years 1981-83 because a "substantial portion" of PTL's earnings for those years went to benefit Bakker, his relatives and other PTL officers. The report said Bakker was paid nearly $1 million more than was reasonable in those years, and that Bakker and other officers spent money lavishly, holding $8,000 dinner parties and renting $350-a-night hotel rooms. PTL also would be subject to back taxes. In a separate matter, the South Carolina Tax Commission is demanding PTL pay $5.5 million in penalties, interest and back taxes for 1984-1985, the newspaper said.

The PTL expects the two tax agencies to extend their claims to cover more recent years, according to undisclosed portions of the television ministry's 1986 financial statements, The Observer reported. Such a move would jeopardize the ministry's tax-exempt status for 1984 and 1985 and result in another South Carolina claim for at least $4.5 million in sales and accommodations taxes.

Grutman today said he "may have been mistaken" in suggesting that Swaggart had planned to take over PTL. He called Swaggart "the Laurence Olivier of TV evangelists."

An ebullient Swaggart returned the favor: "He's a whale of a lawyer. I would like to be friends with the man."

Swaggart said he was "very pleased" with today's developments. "It's like a load is lifted. Jimmy Swaggart is not now at odds with PTL. I have been at odds with it up until now. A lot of good people have supported PTL. But they have been innocent victims."

Swaggart added: "I suspect the Bakkers are going to try to start another television ministry. I don't think they'll succeed, but who knows? The National Enquirer survives."

Swaggart applauded Falwell. "Tremendous pressure was being applied to Jerry for him to quit. We had advised him, 'You're in it now. You're taking whatever heat there is. But if you don't, that cancer's going to be back.' I admire him for sticking with it. He's done the right thing."

Asked about how the board is handling the scandal, Falwell repeated a bowdlerized version of an old Cajun saying: "When you're up to your hips in alligators, it's hard to remember all you're trying to do is drain the swamp."

After the decision there was a mixture of relief and anger as rumors of a Bakker comeback died hard along Heritage Village's Main Street, an enclosed mall abuzz with visitors cruising shops hawking everything from Heavenly Fudge to Tammy Faye makeup.

"I wanted Jim and Tammy to win out," said Elizabeth Curry, 65, a widow who drove over from nearby Gastonia, N.C. "I'm very disappointed."

"I think they were railroaded," said Dorothy Hufford, of Fort Walton Beach, Fla. "Without them, this ministry is doomed. I hope the people will rally to bring them back." She accused enemies of "cooking up" evidence against Bakker. "A homosexual can be paid to say things," she said.

But Falwell got a standing ovation from visitors and staff inside the cavernous Barn, a state-of-the-art media auditorium that doubles as the sanctuary.

"Jerry Falwell is a wise and Godly man," said Ray Morris, 51, a PTL accountant who two weeks ago noticed a decline in PTL contributions. "He will lead us in the right direction."

Asked about the Bakkers' future, Tammy Faye today said, "We don't know what we're going to do with our lives. Jim's almost numb. We have no plans whatsoever. I just hope now we'll be able to get some mental rest.

"We're very sad, it's been an awful time for us. Our whole life was there, many, many years of tears and everything we have. That ministry has almost meant our marriage and our family, but a lot of really wonderful times. It's us. It's Jim and Tammy. But it's not just us anymore." Staff writers Lloyd Grove and Jeffrey A. Frank contributed to this report.