Oral Roberts Dead at 91

In this April 5, 1987 file photo, evangelist Oral Roberts gives a sermon to members of the Church on the Rock, in Rockwall, Texas. Evangelist Oral Roberts, who rose from tent revivals to found a multimillion-dollar organization and an Oklahoma university bearing his name, died Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009. He was 91. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

In this April 5, 1987 file photo, evangelist Oral Roberts gives a sermon to members of the Church on the Rock, in Rockwall, Texas. Evangelist Oral Roberts, who rose from tent revivals to found a multimillion-dollar organization and an Oklahoma university bearing his name, died Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009. He was 91. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Breaking News from CNN:  “Evangelist Oral Roberts has died of pneumonia complications, his spokesman said. He was 91.”

Tulsa’s Fox23 has a long obit, mostly from the ORU press release:

Founder of ORU, Oral Roberts, has died at the age of 91 due to complications from pneumonia. Below is the full text from the Press Release sent out.

PRESS RELEASE:

Dr. Oral Roberts, a legendary evangelist who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 20th century, died today in Newport Beach, Calif., due to complications from pneumonia. His son, Richard, and daughter, Roberta, were at his side. The founder of Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and Oral Roberts University was 91.

[…]

“Oral Roberts was the greatest man of God I’ve ever known,” Richard Roberts said. “A modern-day apostle of the healing ministry, an author, educator, evangelist, prophet, and innovator, he was the only man of his generation to build a worldwide ministry, an accredited university, and a medical school. Beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he was not only my earthly father; he was my spiritual father and mentor. The last member of his generation in the Roberts family, he had a passion to bring healing to the sick.

“His name is synonymous with miracles. He came along when many in Christendom did not believe in the power of God and His goodness. Oral Roberts was known for sayings such as ‘God Is a Good God,’ ‘Expect a Miracle,’ ‘Release Your Faith,’ and ‘Plant Your Seed for a Harvest.’

“The Bible teaches that when a Christian dies, he or she is instantly transferred into the presence of God. The past few months, my father has talked about going home to be with the Lord on a daily basis. He has run his race and finished his course. Now he is in heaven, and we as Christians have the Bible promise that someday we will be reunited. My heart is sad, but my faith in God is soaring.”

My guess is that other obits will be far less kind.  AP‘s is far better than I’d have expected:

Oral Roberts, the evangelist who rose from humble tent revivals to found a multimillion-dollar ministry and a university bearing his name, died Tuesday. He was 91.

Roberts died of complications from pneumonia in Newport Beach, Calif., according to his spokesman, A. Larry Ross. The evangelist was hospitalized after a fall on Saturday. He had survived two heart attacks in the 1990s and a broken hip in 2006.

Roberts was a pioneer on two fronts — he helped bring spirit-filled charismatic Christianity into the mainstream and took his trademark revivals to television, a new frontier for religion.

Roberts overcame tuberculosis at age 17, and credited that triumph with leading him to become one of the country’s most famous ministers.

He gave up a local pastorate in Enid in 1947 to enter an evangelistic ministry in Tulsa to pray for the healing of the whole person — the body, mind and spirit. The philosophy led many to call him a “faith healer,” a label he rejected with the comment: “God heals — I don’t.”

By the 1960s and ’70s, he was reaching millions around the world through radio, television, publications and personal appearances. He remained on TV into the new century, co-hosting the program, “Miracles Now,” with son Richard. He published dozens of books and conducted hundreds of crusades. A famous photograph showed him working at a desk with a sign on it reading, “Make no little plans here.”

He credited his oratorical skills to his faith, saying, “I become anointed with God’s word, and the spirit of the Lord builds up in me like a coiled spring. By the time I’m ready to go on, my mind is razor-sharp. I know exactly what I’m going to say and I’m feeling like a lion.”

Unity of body, mind and spirit became the theme of Oral Roberts University. The campus is a Tulsa landmark, with its space-age buildings laden with gold paint, including a 200-foot prayer tower and a 60-foot bronze statue of praying hands.

His ministry hit upon rocky times in the 1980s. There was controversy over his City of Faith medical center, a $250 million investment that eventually folded, and Roberts’ widely ridiculed proclamation that God would “call me home” if he failed to meet a fundraising goal of $8 million. A law school he founded also was shuttered.

Semiretired in recent years and living in California, he returned to Tulsa, Okla., in October 2007 as scandal roiled Oral Roberts University. His son, Richard Roberts, who succeeded him as ORU president, faced allegations of spending university money on shopping sprees and other luxuries at a time the institution was more than $50 million in debt.

Roberts is usually lumped in with some of the more troublesome televangelists of the era, notably Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Pat Robertson.   Indeed, I had Roberts and Swaggart confused when I first saw the news. But Roberts didn’t have the personal scandals of the others, just a penchant for playing on people’s fears and tragedies to raise large sums of money.

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, Religion
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. floyd says:

    “Just a penchant for playing on people’s fears and tragedies to raise large sums of money.”
    “””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Outrageous!, First you admit that you could hardly pick him out of a crowd, then you make derogatory comments about the man as if you had some intimate knowledge of his motives and activities.
    Shame on you, you’re better than that!

    Don’t forget that the man you support as president has made his career playing on people’s fears and tragedies to raise large sums of money.
    Now he plans to do it by force, even at gunpoint!

  2. James Joyner says:

    First you admit that you could hardly pick him out of a crowd, then you make derogatory comments about the man as if you had some intimate knowledge of his motives and activities.

    I’m not claiming “intimate knowledge,” just an ability to look at the public record.

    Don’t forget that the man you support as president has made his career playing on people’s fears and tragedies to raise large sums of money. Now he plans to do it by force, even at gunpoint!

    John McCain is doing that? Since when?

  3. An Interested Party says:

    re: floyd | December 15, 2009 | 07:24 pm

    Oh my, such an indignant passion in defense of this

    In January 1987, during a fundraising drive, Roberts announced to a television audience that unless he raised $8 million by that March, God would “call him home”. Some were fearful that he was referring to suicide given the passionate pleas and tears that accompanied his statement. He raised $9.1 million. Later that year, he announced that God had raised the dead through Roberts’ ministry.

  4. He was a con man, a three card monte dealer, a dishonest predator stealing poor people’s money.

  5. 4 Borders Pundit says:

    …just a penchant for playing on people’s fears and tragedies to raise large sums of money.

    Reminds me of Al Gore.

  6. Brett says:

    But Roberts didn’t have the personal scandals of the others, just a penchant for playing on people’s fears and tragedies to raise large sums of money.

    The same certainly can’t be said for his son, Richard Roberts. Didn’t they catch him embezzling funds from Oral Roberts University along with his wife?

    God would “call him home”.

    Bill Press had the best response to that – they should have not given him the money, just to see if God would really strike him dead.

  7. Eric says:

    Don’t forget that the man you support as president has made his career playing on people’s fears and tragedies to raise large sums of money.

    I’m sorry, floyd, but are you talking about G-Dub here? I seem to remember “terists” and 9/11 being mentioned by him at every speech and right before every election–usually right before the Terrorist Threat Level would mysteriously increase.

    I suppose you could be talking about Giuliani, too.

  8. floyd says:

    Eric;
    Whether it’s “G-Dub”,or the big L-“O”-L, any further escalation of government confiscation of either wealth or liberty is unacceptable.
    “G-Dub” is now only the whipping boy of useful idiots who would support the Statist L-“O”-L administration.
    Be careful, red or blue, Kool-Aid is Kool-Aid.
    The evil of today is sufficient for today.
    SERFS UP!