Notebook > Religion
Mart Green

Green makeover

Religion | ORU reforms prompt billionaire to give millions

Issue: "Our pork," Dec. 8, 2007

It was a stunning, sudden turnaround for financially troubled Oral Roberts University in Tulsa: Richard Roberts, son of ORU's 89-year-old founder and namesake, resigned under pressure as president on Nov. 23 after 15 years on the job. He was under investigation for allegedly mishandling finances. Days earlier, the tenured faculty had voted no confidence in his leadership, more than 80 percent of full-time faculty said they wanted him gone, and 90 percent wanted greater accountability and transparency in finances. The school was $52 million in debt.

ORU's board of regents on Nov. 26 and 27 accepted his resignation (Roberts can remain in the university-provided mansion for the time being), voted to separate ORU from the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (eliminating controversial overlap in staff, administration, and finances but retaining "the spiritual connection"), received a report from an independent investigation into allegations contained in lawsuits against Roberts and others (its findings will remain confidential for legal reasons), and agreed to tighten financial controls and reform itself (many of the 24 regents are ministers).

Those were among the resolves the family of Oklahoma City billionaire businessman David Green, founder of the Hobby Lobby retail chain, was waiting to hear. Green had contributed heavily to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University and other Christian schools, and wanted to help save ORU-provided there were changes. His son Mart, a retail chain owner and Christian filmmaker who belongs to an Assemblies of God church, delivered the family's response at the board meeting. It was a check for $8 million to help with immediate needs and a pledge for up to $62 million more within 90 days. The full amount was dependent on his family's satisfaction with the school's new directions and practices. At least two family members were to be added to the board.

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Tulsa pastor and ORU regent Billie Joe Daughtery will continue to serve as interim president, said board chair George Pearsons.

Bulletin Board

POLITICS: Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is sticking by his "dear friend," charismatic TV "prosperity gospel" preacher Kenneth Copeland of suburban Fort Worth. Copeland, who will turn 72 this week, has supported Huckabee, and Huckabee was a guest on Copeland's five-day TV special last week. A former Baptist pastor and two-term Arkansas governor, Huckabee told Time that Copeland operated his ministry with the utmost integrity "as far as I know." Copeland and his wife, Gloria, are leaders of one of six prominent television ministries asked by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to provide information on their finances to the Senate Finance Committee by Dec. 6 (Copeland's birthday).

CHINA: The United Bible Societies and the Nanjing, China-based Amity Foundation will formally celebrate the printing of the 50-millionth Bible in China since 1988 this month. They also will sign a new 10-year joint venture agreement to print more. The Bible is now "unofficially the best-selling book" in China, UBS leader Kua Wee Send said.

CHURCHES: American churchgoers have mixed opinions about political candidates campaigning in their churches. A new Rasmussen poll found fewer than 25 percent of those surveyed said it's OK, but 62 percent said it's not. And 70 percent said they don't want their clergy to "suggest" who to vote for, either.

Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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