The Resurrection of Robert Tilton

On the trail of the elusive (yet surprisingly TV- friendly) Pastor Bob, fallen man of God and new South Florida resident

Joyce says Tilton stopped using Ewing's mailings when he went back on the air in April. "They filled the bill until Bob could get back up and started doing television."

Joyce noted that he was in South Florida to help out on the design of a new letter campaign for Tilton. "It's a collaborative effort," he explained, acknowledging that Tilton doesn't actually write the highly personalized letters himself.

Does Tilton pray over prayer requests, as promised on TV?
"Absolutely," Joyce contends. "Everything he says he does, he does."
Communicating through Joyce, Tilton, Moroso and Ewing all declined to beinterviewed.

Ole Anthony, whose Dallas-based Trinity Foundation assisted PrimeTime Live with its 1991 expose, says he's not dismayed by Tilton's return to television.

"I don't think there's any way he can make it back into the big time," Anthony says. "He needs to go back on the air periodically to rejuvenate his mailing list, but I think he'll continue to be a minor player. He's just on too many databases now. There are too many questions out there about his practices."

Anthony, a former government spy, millionaire businessman, and Republican candidate for the Texas legislature, underwent a religious awakening in 1972. After a stint as a religious talk-show host, he founded a small community of believers in north Dallas who attempt to live like early Christian apostles.

The group also monitors and investigates televangelists, sometimes with a vengeance. Most of what is known about Robert Tilton's business operation and off-air lifestyle has come from documents and recordings gathered by Trinity Foundation members during undercover forays and trash sorties.

Are Trinity operatives gearing up for a duel in the sun here in South Florida? "There's no question we will continue to monitor Mr. Tilton's activities," Anthony says, "as long as he continues to invite himself into people's living rooms and mailboxes."

The other two preachers who shared ABC's PrimeTime Live spotlight with Tilton six years ago have long since exited the airwaves, though W.V. Grant is back in the pulpit in Dallas after serving eighteen months for income tax fraud. Elsewhere, Jim Bakker was scheduled to be released from parole this month after completing an eight-year prison sentence. The terms of his parole had reportedly barred him from soliciting the faithful by mail or TV.

As for Tilton, he was observed at the Miami Beach Marina one recent Friday night. At first the self-described prophet sat alone with his thoughts and a plate of stone crabs. Then a well-wisher sidled up and engaged him in conversation. After a few minutes Tilton paid his tab and departed, generously donating the remains of his stone crabs to his new admirer.

In the cool of the evening Tilton bore west across the MacArthur Causeway, then ducked into the Fisher Island ferry terminal to avoid pursuit by a reporter.

According to a representative of Fort Lauderdale yacht broker Chic Marine, his boat was repossessed by the finance company earlier this year.

"He loved that boat," says a secretary, who wouldn't give her name. "But he let the bank take it back so the wife couldn't get it in the divorce."

"Your source is a damn liar," Joyce retorts. "Bob just couldn't pay the bills. He spent everything he had on that woman in eighteen months and now he simply has no money left."

Joyce says Tilton's recent trip to Israel and Europe was an opportunity to line up locations for future live broadcasts. He promises his client will be back in Dallas to preach in November and December.

Surprisingly, Joyce says even he doesn't know where Tilton hangs his hat.
"I don't have the foggiest idea," he says. "But if I did, I wouldn't tell you. We were audited by the IRS. We were investigated by the FBI. We had twelve lawsuits filed against us. You tell me: How could anyone stand up under this? The depositions! The interviews! The allegations! This is an honest minister that has all but been destroyed by the media. But he survived. He feels comfortable wherever he's at down there in Florida.

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