Evangelist Morris Cerullo has asked his supporters to help him raise $52 million to buy Jim Bakker's old PTL empire and "take back what Satan tried to steal," a newspaper reported Tuesday.
Cerullo's organization is mailing to 1.5 million households nationwide a slick, 16-page color magazine that proclaims, "It's time to take back what Satan tried to steal."
Cerullo, based in San Diego, is asking supporters of his ministry to donate $52 million in cash before Oct. 23, the closing date set for the sale of the PTL by federal bankruptcy authorities.
"We are starting to communicate to them and bring them along so that they are a real part" of what's happening at New Heritage, Cerullo told the Charlotte Observer in Tuesday's edition.
"And, of course, they are going to be a real part financially because they are going to give very strongly, very substantively to help us take it back," he said.
His efforts also include a 10-part television series detailing his plans for the New Heritage USA, Cerullo's name for the 2,200-acre retreat at Ft. Mill, S.C., that was built--and bankrupted--by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. The series is being broadcast on the Inspirational Satellite Network. In addition, WCCB-TV in Charlotte is expected to pick up the series beginning Sept. 17.
The ministry also is developing marketing techniques to attract larger donors, Cerullo said.
One concept is a "gold card" for ministry partners who give at least $300, he said. That would entitle the bearers to 50% off regular hotel room rates and admission fees at New Heritage, which combines a theme park and hotel complex.
Also under discussion is a "platinum card" for donors of at least $1,000 that would entitle them to one free, three-day, two-night conference, including lodging and meals.
A similar plan, for so-called PTL lifetime partners, resulted in Bakker's conviction on federal fraud and conspiracy charges. Government prosecutors contended that Bakker grossly oversold the partnerships. He is serving a 45-year prison term in a Minnesota federal prison and is appealing his conviction.
Bakker's wife, Tammy Faye, is conducting a ministry in a converted warehouse in Florida.
Cerullo, 58, is a Pentecostal preacher whose 30-year-old ministry focuses on overseas crusades and training. He was affiliated with the Assemblies of God ministry--the same denomination as Bakker--but dropped out in 1963.