FORT MILL TOWNSHIP — The prodigal son returns.
Heritage USA founder and former PTL leader Jim Bakker is scheduled this week to visit the same area that brought him both fame and shame.
Bakker has been booked as a featured guest of MorningStar Ministries, hosting a conference Dec. 29-31 at MorningStar Fellowship Church at Heritage International Ministries in the former Christian theme park now known as Regent Park.
MorningStar Ministries founder Rick Joyner is also scheduled to speak.
Bakker, initially an Assemblies of God minister, is known to local residents – and the world at large – for creating “The PTL Club” and “The Jim Bakker Show,” which aired worldwide in the 1980s. Broadcast from a studio in what was then known as Heritage USA, the shows were platforms from which Bakker both preached and solicited donations.
His work brought in millions of dollars and convinced adherents to relocate to Fort Mill. At its peak , from 1978 to 1986, Heritage USA was the third most successful theme park in the United States, behind Disney World and Disneyland.
Bakker resigned from his ministry in March 1987 after it was disclosed that he had an extramarital affair in 1980 with a church secretary, Jessica Hahn.
Later, investigators found that Bakker had skimmed millions of dollars in donations from his followers. He was convicted of tax evasion, racketeering and fraud in early 1989 and sentenced to 45 years in prison. His sentence was later commuted and Bakker was released from jail in 1993.
In January 2003, Bakker and his second wife, Lori Graham Bakker, began broadcasting the new “Jim Bakker Show” from Branson, Mo.
Bakker did not return phone messages left at his office.
MorningStar Ministries was established in Regent Park in 2004 on 52 acres where the defunct Heritage USA Grand Hotel and Conference Center sits. The ministry renamed the area Heritage International Ministries and has been restoring the decaying buildings. The church held its first service in the hotel lobby a little more than a year ago.
According to the MorningStar Ministries Web site, the cost of the conference is $50. It will begin at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 29.
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