SANTA ANA, Calif. — Dr. Paul F. Crouch, the controversial founder of the global Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) has died. He was 79.
Crouch was born in 1934 in St. Joseph, Missouri and was the son of Assemblies of God missionaries. His father died when he was just seven years old and was raised by his widowed mother with the support of his grandparents.
In 1957, Crouch married Janice Bethany, the daughter of Assemblies of God Pastor Edgar W. Bethany, after the two met while attending Evangel College in Missouri. The Crouch’s had two sons, Paul Jr. and Matthew, both of whom became involved in their parents’ ministry.
In 1973, Crouch partnered with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker to found the Trinity Broadcasting Network and soon obtained their first television station. Crouch and his wife Jan hosted their flagship broadcast, Praise the Lord, a two-hour talk and Bible teaching program that also featured musical entertainment.
Over the past 30 years, the network has grown to over 18,000 cable affiliates and over 70 satellite providers. It is estimated as having over 100 million viewers in just the United States alone.
In addition to the network’s main station, TBN, the Crouch’s have also launched niche channels, such as The Smile of a Child, The Church Channel, JCTV, and the Spanish station TBN Enlace. In 2007, TBN also purchased The Holy Land Experience in Orlando for $37 million, an Israeli replica that presents live musical and theatrical productions, religious shops, historical displays and other faith-based attractions for Christians.
However, TBN and its founders have also been at the center of controversy over the past 40 years as many have expressed disapproval of the theology presented on the network. Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer and other prosperity preachers have had airtime on TBN for many years, and have often been featured guests during fundraisers and/or the Praise the Lord broadcast. Joel Osteen, Robert Schuller, Benny Hinn and TD Jakes have also been mainstays on the network.
In 2012, Brittany Koper, daughter of Paul Crouch Jr., filed suit after claiming that the ministry was abusing donations by funneling a significant amount to the network’s directors to fund their alleged lavish lifestyles. Koper had worked as the director of finance and human resources for her grandparents.
“My job as finance director was to find ways to label extravagant personal spending as ministry expenses,” she told the New York Times.
Legal matters were still being battled in the courts when Crouch became ill last month. According to reports, Crouch was visiting one of his television stations in Texas in October when he was transported to a Dallas-area hospital, where it was discovered that his chronic heart problems had once again flared up. He had been hospitalized in 2011 for congestive heart failure.
Earlier this month, Crouch was sent back to California for treatment, and seemed to be improving—at least in being removed from the ventilator—when it was announced by the network today that Crouch had died.
“Dr. Paul F. Crouch passed into the presence of the Lord on November 30, 2013,” TBN posted on its website Saturday. “We are grateful for the life of this amazing servant of God. Please pray for the Crouch family during this time.”
Funeral services have not yet been announced.