His ministry hit upon rocky times in the 1980s. There was controversy over his City of Faith medical center, a $250 million investment that eventually folded, and Roberts' widely ridiculed proclamation that God would "call me home" if he failed to meet a fundraising goal of $8 million. A law school he founded also was shuttered.
Semiretired in recent years and living in California, he returned to Tulsa, Okla., in October 2007 as scandal roiled Oral Roberts University. His son, Richard Roberts, who succeeded him as ORU president, faced allegations of spending university money on shopping sprees and other luxuries at a time the institution was more than $50 million in debt.
Richard Roberts resigned as president in November 2007, marking the first time since Oral Roberts University was chartered in 1963 that a member of the Roberts family would not be at its helm. The rocky period for the evangelical school was eased by billionaire Oklahoma City businessman Mart Green donated $70 million and helped run the school in the interim, pledging to restore the public's trust. By the fall of 2009, things were looking up, with officials saying tens of millions of dollars worth of debt had been paid off and enrollment was up slightly.
Almighty God, says a handsome, snappily dressed Oklahoman, has personally asked him, in audible tones, to win a million souls by July 1, 1956. This theophanous request—especially with a deadline—might give pause to many a lesser man, but it is made to order for the special talents of the Rev. Oral Roberts, 37-year-old evangelist and faith healer and the U.S.'s newest religious comet.
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