Author(s): ANGELA SIMONEAUX Date: April 12, 1988
Two former employees painted a grim picture Monday of the work atmosphere at Jimmy Swaggart Ministries — a place where opinionated people must hide in empty rooms to talk, pass notes to each other and be on their guard not to open their mouths around the Swaggart family. “You don’t ask questions. If you ask questions, you’re going to be suspect,” said Ron Calfee, a former employee of the ministries.
“I feel like we’re on the Titanic,” Calfee said. “And, as long as Jimmy Swaggartis the head of the ship, it’s going to go down.”
Calfee worked as a wire man in the ministries’ television studio for five years. He quit his job on Friday, because he said he would have lost it soon anyway because he dared to question.
Most of the employees at the ministries are either updating their resumes or actively seeking other work, he said.
“I’d say about 80 percent of the people there are dissatisfied with his decision,” Calfee said of Swaggart‘s refusal to submit to a year of rehabilitation — the punishment handed down by his church.
But, although the people who work for Swaggart may think he has made the wrong decision, they would never speak out, he said.
“Everybody keeps quiet,” he said. “Their jobs are at stake, they are living in fear.”
And, although Swaggart has stepped down from the pulpit, Calfee said, he still “pulls the strings of his puppets.”
Frances Swaggart, Swaggart‘s wife, and his son Donnie now host the daily telecast, “Study in the Word.” But, Calfee said, if they don’t do what Swaggart thinks ought to be done, they are “yelled and fussed at and they have to do it again.”
“He is not the official director, but he tells everyone what to do and say,” Calfee said. “Then he comes back and apologizes — in that gracious, Swaggart way — for his abominable behavior,” he said. “And those are his words.”
Swaggart “cloisters himself with yes-men” and is insulated from any dissenting opinion, Calfee said.
“I would love to forgive him. But I don’t see a humbled man, I see a rebellious man,” he said.
Most of the other employees he talked to about Swaggart‘s tearful confession agreed that “we were seeing a good acting job.”
Calfee used to attend Family Worship Center, but he left the church a year ago, because he “felt like standing up and disagreeing.” Calfee couldn’t tolerate what he calls “hypocrisy and double-talk.”
“They’re playing on words,” he said. “They base everything on half-truths. I was just fed up with the hypocrisy.”
Calfee said he prays for Swaggart, and hopes that “something good can come out of this.”
But the Swaggart family is plagued by “pride and arrogance” and is headed for a fall, he said.
“He is trying to save his ministry, not God’s. They will tell you that it is God’s ministry, but there is no evidence of that.”
Larry Scheg, another former employee of the ministry who worked with The Evangelist, Swaggart‘s monthly publication, said the fallen minister’s followers really need to pray for him.
“This ministry is going to work for God or for the devil, there is no middle ground,” he said.
Swaggart has not repented, but is trying to cement his following so he can have “complete control.”
“He knows he has this local unit under his control,” Scheg said. Scheg agreed with Calfee’s assessment of the work climate at the ministries.
“He is surrounded by yes-men who will serve him no matter what,” Sched said. “If you speak out, they remove you from the ministry.”
Swaggart‘s refusal to submit to his church’s prescribed punishment is also wrong, he said.
“By disobeying the Assemblies of God, he is disobeying God, because the Lord teaches us that we are subject to the powers that rule,” he said. “Rev. Jim Rentz preached that good men are not subject to the laws of men, but the Bible says that no man is good but God.”
Neither Calfee nor Scheg want Swaggart to fall — they both stressed that they were hoping he could “straighten out his act.”
“I love Jimmy Swaggart. His preaching and singing has been a blessing and I only wish him well,” Scheg said. “I know he can come back stronger than ever, but he must obey God’s will and the Assemblies of God if all is to be well with his soul.”