Oral Roberts University loses another regent

ORU announced Tuesday another evangelist has resigned from its board of regents, and the board continued its work to split the university from its founding ministry.

In a statement released Tuesday, Oral Roberts University announced that Louisiana minister Jesse Duplantis had resigned his position on the board.

Duplantis said in a letter to the board: ”The demands of ministry have made it increasingly difficult to continue to effectively serve on the Board of Regents of ORU.”

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One regent, evangelist Creflo Dollar, resigned from the board recently and another, evangelist Benny Hinn, lost his status as a voting member of the board.

Both had refused to respond to a U.S. Senate inquiry into lavish spending by evangelists.

There are now 22 voting members on the board, and 19 were present at Tuesday’s meeting, ORU’s statement says.

In the statement, Board Chairman George Pearsons said he has appointed a committee to oversee separation of ORU and Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association.

”The committee will analyze any overlap of the two entities, including financial, accounting, administrative, legal, physical and governance,” the statement says.

Pearsons said he hopes most of the separation will conclude by the end of ORU’s fiscal year, April 30, 2008.

The spiritual connection between the two entities will remain, Pearsons said. The board decided Tuesday to allow the Abundant Life prayer group, which is part of the evangelistic association, to remain in ORU’s prayer tower, he said.

”The prayer tower is at the heart of the campus. Prayer is and always has been at the center of this university,” Pearsons said.

ORU also announced it had hired a consultant to aid in the search for a new president.

A search committee includes regents, administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and members of the community, ORU said.

Richard Roberts resigned as ORU’s president Nov. 23 after three former professors filed a lawsuit.

The suit alleges that Roberts and his family misspent university and ministry money to support a lavish lifestyle.

Billy Joe Daugherty, the pastor of Victory Christian Center, has been the school’s acting president during its search for a new president.

Regents are expected to meet with Yukon businessman Mart Green, whose family has promised a $70 million gift to ORU on certain conditions. Green’s family founded the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores.

Green has called for reforms in the university’s business practices, greater transparency and changes to its board of regents following a months-long controversy.

He gave ORU $8 million in late November and said he planned a 90-day review period before granting the university the remaining $62 million.

ORU has refused to release the findings from an outside investigation of the schools finances but said reforms stemming from the investigation are in the works.

ORUs board has 22 business regents and 18 others who are spiritual regents, associate regents and regents emeritus. Those 18 regents do not have a vote in business and financial matters, according to ORU’s bylaws.

The bylaws give Richard and Oral Roberts wide authority on spiritual matters, including the right to veto decisions by business regents on such matters.

Richard Roberts’ wife, Lindsay Roberts, resigned as a spiritual regent of ORU following the lawsuit.

Following a regents meeting Nov. 27, Pearsons announced the university would take steps to split the ministry, Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, from ORU.

Pearsons said then that Richard and Oral Roberts would not have any role in business decisions involving ORU.

Richard Roberts remains as CEO of the evangelistic association. Although the two are separate nonprofit entities, 14 of the 15 key officers and trustees of the evangelical association are also listed as key officers and trustees of ORU, records show.

The ministry spent most of its $12 million in revenue last fiscal year on its weekly television shows, direct mail and other outreach efforts.

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