The 93 year-old founder of CBN and the 700 Club has died at his home in Virgina Beach. Gordon Pettie says he'll be remembered as a fearless Christian leader who tackled the topics many would rather avoid
Pat Robertson may not be well-known among UK Christians, but in the US his name is familiar among the masses.
Best known as a television evangelist, Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network in 1960. CBN went on to become a global media organisation.
His conservative credentials were also well known. He founded and led for many years the Christian Coalition, which became one of the largest conservative grassroots political organisations in America, at one point claiming a membership of 1.7 million. In 1988 he stood as a Presidential candidate for the Republican party, eventually losing out to George H. W. Bush.
In 1986 he appeared on the front cover of TIME magazine and a year later declared God had spoken to him about starting a school, which in time became Regent University, one of the foremost Christian universities in America today.
Robertson’s death was announced yesterday. He was married for 68 years to Dede (Adelia, nee Elmer) who died last year, and they are survived by two sons, Tim and Gordon, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Ann, plus 14 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.
His personal story took him into the military and on to a law degree. His interest in Christian television was already well established by the time he was ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1961.
It was in 1959 that Marion Gordon Robertson, forever known by his family and friends as ‘Pat’, learned of a run-down TV station that was for sale in Portsmouth, Virginia. His family didn’t even own a TV set, but with just $70 and a vision for establishing the first ever Christian television network, they sold up and moved. To raise the money to run the new TV station he preached in local churches and accepted whatever honorarium they gave him.
Pat declared: “I wanted to be part of God’s plan, and his plan was, and is, for world evangelization and to bring millions to the Kingdom. Thankfully he has let me be part of it.”
He started his new station with three hours of TV a day, broadcast from a single black and white camera. He was never one to stand still and wanted to launch a new show. But his fledgling outlet was struggling financially, so Robertson set a goal. He wanted 700 people to agree to contribute $10 a month. Robertson referred to these members as the “700 Club” and the name stuck, becoming the name of the show he is most well known for hosting. It continues to this day and is now presented by his son. Many of the Christian TV stations in the UK, as well as those in other parts of the world carry it on a daily basis.
Pat Robertson was fearless in expressing his views – both religious and political. His strongly conservative views have influenced many American office holders and shaped influential sectors of the American Church. He never stepped back from controversy, praying for viewers during his TV programmes and believing that God gave specific words of knowledge. He was strong on personal salvation and biblical inerrancy, with a willingness to be critical of those with opposing views. He spoke out on a wide range of topics from Halloween to Islam in ways that made many feel uncomfortable - not least when he made comments about homosexuality in the wake of 9/11. This provoked numerous attempts over the years by American mainstream media to scandalise him. All of these he dismissed as he continued to speak up for the issues he believed in and saw as biblical truth.
In announcing the news of his death, Gordon Robertson, Pat’s son, and now CEO of Christian Broadcasting Network, wrote: “In his final days, he often talked about heaven and his desire to be with Jesus. During one of these times of reflection he shared this with his two daughters and three of his granddaughters: 'I tried to listen to the Lord. I loved you all. I walked with the Lord. I hope I’ve passed that on to you.’”
Gordon then wrote about those who his father would meet as he stepped into eternity: "Perhaps millions from many tribes and nations came to greet and thank him for his part in sharing the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. And I imagine my dad said to them the same thing he has said to us many times, 'I was just an unworthy servant and have only done my duty. The Lord did it all, not me.'"