TV preacher Jerry Falwell is certainly resourceful. Who else would think of using a recent brush with death as a fund-raising opportunity?
In late March, Falwell was hospitalized for nine days with a mysterious respiratory problem. He was in respiratory arrest when admitted to the Lynchburg General Hospital and had to be resuscitated. He pulled through and was discharged April 6. It was the second time Falwell was hospitalized this spring.
About a month later, Falwell’s ministry sent a letter to supporters asking them to pray for Falwell’s improvement – and to send a donation.
The letter, signed by Ronald S. Godwin, former vice president of Falwell’s defunct Moral Majority and now Falwell’s executive assistant, includes a get-well card that supporters can sign and mail back to the Lynchburg evangelist.
“I hope you will quickly return the enclosed ‘Get Well’ note which I will personally see that he receives,” Godwin wrote. “And, if at all possible, I ask you to include your special tax-deductible gift of $50, 25 or even $100 or more made payable to Jerry Falwell Ministries.”
Continued Godwin, “Just write a check to ‘Jerry Falwell Ministries’ and slip it inside the enclosed ‘Get Well’ card to Dr. Falwell.”
The get-well card quotes Ephesians 3:16-18 and includes space for a personal message to Falwell.
In a P.S., Godwin again solicits a donation, writing, “As soon as I receive your card and note to Dr. Falwell, I will present it to him along with others. And if possible, please place a special ‘love gift’ inside your card to him. I know your words of encouragement and financial gift will mean so much him [sic] at this time.”
Falwell returned to his pulpit April 17 but did not preach. Services that weekend were handled by the Rev. Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The following Sunday, Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind series of fundamentalist end-of-the-world potboiler novels, occupied the pulpit.