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Oral Roberts (born Granville Oral Roberts[note 1]) (1918–2009) was an American televangelist and faith healer best known for claiming in 1987 that, if his ministry did not raise $8 million, he would be "called home to the Lord," (an evangelical euphemism for dying), which he was, though much later, on December 15, 2009.
Originally a minister in the Pentecostal Holiness Church, Roberts switched his denominational affiliation to Methodist but still maintained a Pentecostal theology. After the deaths of his daughter and son-in-law in a fatal plane crash in 1977, his son Ronnie, who apparently committed suicide after becoming addicted to drugs in Vietnam, and two grandchildren to sudden infant death, he went on a spiritual pilgrimage and unfortunately sought the support of Kenneth Hagin, the creator of a prosperity cult he called "Word of Faith", the Prosperity Gospel, or "Name it and claim it", school of religious faith. The stress caused by these deaths seems to have sent Roberts on a wild ride of alleged visions and new doctrines. Previously an opponent of the prosperity message, Roberts was now insisting, to the chagrin of his faculty, that Oral Roberts University award Hagin an honorary doctorate. Additionally, following a series of alleged visions in the late 1970s, including one of a nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus, Roberts founded the City of Faith Medical and Research Center, a hospital focused on "merging the healing power of medicine and prayer". This project was greatly opposed by the local Baptist hospital which claimed that Tulsa already had more hospital beds than it needed. City of Faith opened in 1981 but was less than a thunderous success, costing Roberts' ministry millions of dollars, and closed in 1989. The buildings still stand as CityPlex Towers on the ORU campus. He was invited to lead the invocation at the 1977 Indianapolis 500.
Roberts died December 15, 2009 just days after being hospitalized after a fall.
Oral Roberts University
Roberts founded Oral Roberts University, a fundamentalist Christian university in Oklahoma that, though originally titled City of Faith University, was modestly changed in order to better solicit funds. ORU suffered significantly after Roberts' retirement and his insistence that they name his son Richard as the new President. Richard and his wife Lindsay brought about scandals involving him and his wife misappropriating a large amount of school funds and his wife's sexual liaisons with underage male students (which unfortunately have yet to be charged as a crime). Oral Roberts University has also granted honorary Doctorate of Divinity degrees to several televangelists such as Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Hagin, neither of whom has had any actual formal education in theology. It has also granted one to Richard Roberts himself, who had originally flunked out of both ORU and the University of Kansas undergrad programs.
The university likes to boast that it made the Princeton Review's "Best in the West" list of colleges in 2009. However, the nomination was decided by the results of students' answers to "customer (student) satisfaction surveys," not an objective or critical look at the university's ethics or academics. And seeing as this is a fundamentalist university, it's not likely that fundamentalist students would consider the espousal of young earth creationism, homophobia, or Christian historical revisionism to be a problem—that would be like asking Kevin Trudeau to review one of his own infomercial products and expecting an objective answer.
Lindsay Roberts sex scandal
In 2007, Lindsay Roberts, the daughter-in-law of Oral Roberts, was discovered to have sent over $800 in cell phone bills' worth of provocative texts to several underage male students at the university.[note 2] She was also seen spending the night in a guest house with a sixteen-year-old male on several occasions, allegedly firing a long-time employee in her office so she could give the job to one of her teenage male friends, was seen smoking at the President's residence, and was photographed riding around in a sports car at midnight with another teenage boy, past his curfew. To date, she has denied the allegations and has yet to be charged with any sex crimes; the wealthy have an easier time buying their innocence than the rest of us.
University's billion dollar embezzlement
In 2008, a lawsuit alleged that nearly 1 billion dollars were embezzled from Oral Roberts University by Richard Roberts (then president), boards of regents, and the directors of the school’s various ministries.
Richard Roberts, son of Oral Roberts, also came under fire for knowingly hiring a three-time convicted child sex predator (whose name has not been made public yet) as a "Mentor" for ORU students. The school was hit with a lawsuit after this "mentor" exposed himself to a 15-year-old-boy in a school locker room.
Richard Roberts resigned from the university after a financial scandal and was later arrested for drunk driving on the anniversary of his father's death.
- Yes, this is his name, as posted on the ministry web site.
- Really? Millions of dollars on hand and you didn't bother to get unlimited texting?
- The Legacy of Oral Roberts. Archived from oralroberts.com, 6 February 2016.
- Evangelist Oral Roberts dead at 91
- ORU Named One Of The Best In The West. Oral Roberts University, 7 August 2009.
- Pam Spaulding, Diary reveals vote tally for Pope. Pam's House Blend, 23 September 2005.
- Katherine Thompson, Lawsuit: ORU Leaders Stole $1B a Year. newser.com, 8 February 2008.
- Richard Roberts Arrested For DUI, ORU Releases Statement. ktul.com, 24 January 2012.