Television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart returned to his pulpit Wednesday night, once again tearfully apologizing to his congregation after a weekend incident with a California prostitute. Late Tuesday, his son Donnie issued a prepared statement saying he would replace his father as administrator of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries and the elder Swaggart would preach again after counseling.
But Wednesday night, Swaggart, 56, was back at regular services at his ministries' Family Worship Center, declaring that God told him not to quit preaching. He asked his congregation for forgiveness.
The beleaguered minister's latest troubles erupted last Friday in Indio, Calif., when the preacher, driving a 1989 Jaguar, was stopped for traffic offenses while in the company of admitted prostitute Rosemary Garcia, 31.
It was the second time he had been linked to scandal and apologized to his congregation in tears.
In 1988, Swaggart was booted out of the Assemblies of God for refusing to accept a church-ordered ban on his televised sermons after he was photographed leaving a pay-by-the-hour motel with a New Orleans prostitute.
In videotaped excerpts broadcast by WAFT-TV from Wednesday's address, Swaggart did not talk about the latest incident except to say he was so distraught by problems that he considered suicide.
"If I hadn't known I would go to hell, I would have pulled that Jaguar in front of an 18-wheeler," he said.
His worldwide ministry, which once pulled in millions of dollars in contributions annually, has faltered financially in the past three years and now faces legal action by disgruntled creditors.
Construction at his bible college has ground to a halt. Many television stations have dropped his programs, and last month rival evangelist Marvin Gorman won a $10-million damage award against Swaggart for ruining his fledgling television ministry.
Gorman claimed Swaggart deliberately publicized and exaggerated Gorman's sexual indiscretions with church women he had counseled.