Associated Press religion writer Rachel Zoll reports:
A prominent televangelist appeared before a worldwide television audience Tuesday to admit that he had an affair with a woman years ago — and to allege that three people had tried to extort millions of dollars from him to stay quiet about his infidelity.
The Rev. Marcus Lamb, who created DayStar Television Network with his wife Joni, said he and his wife had healed their marriage and had hoped to keep his adultery private, but went public because they would not pay extortionists. The three people demanded $7.5 million, he said.
"They're trying to take our pain and turn it to their gain," said Lamb, during a one-hour live broadcast with his wife by his side and supporters surrounding him. "We're not going to take God's money to keep from being humiliated."
A spokesman for the Lambs, Larry Ross, said they went to authorities with their allegations, but he said he could not discuss specifics for fear of interfering with any investigation. He said the extortion attempt was made within the past few weeks.
DayStar, based in Dallas, airs some of the highest-profile evangelists in the world, including Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar and Joyce Meyers.
The network says it operates more than 70 stations in major U.S. television markets and also broadcasts to more than 200 countries.
Joni Lamb described her husband's affair as "an emotional relationship" with a woman that became "an improper relationship." When she learned of his infidelity several years ago, she was devastated and prayed to the Holy Spirit, who told her, "He's worth fighting for."She confronted her husband and the two decided to undergo Christian counseling with Fred and Anna Kendall of the Life Languages Institute, which specializes in training communicators.
Marcus Lamb said he took responsibility for the affair by confessing what he had done to his wife's parents and asking some members of the DayStar ministry to help hold him accountable for his promise to stay faithful.
"I said, `Honey, I'll do whatever it takes to heal the hurt and right the wrong," Marcus Lamb said.
Fred Kendall appeared on the broadcast along with his wife and said he advised the Lambs to stay quiet about their marital problems because he feared they would not overcome their troubles if they had to do so in public.
The Lambs' supporters on the broadcast repeatedly described the affair and the extortion plot as an attempt by the devil to discredit the evangelist couple and their ministry. DayStar is rooted in Pentecostalism, the Christian tradition known for its spirit-filled worship, and its belief in modern-day miracles and everyday battles with evil influences.
"I think this was a direct attack from the devil," Fred Kendall said, although Lamb responded that only he is to blame for his wrongdoing.
Lamb said he had contacted his denomination, the Church of God in Cleveland, Tenn., and about 30 other Christian leaders with the news ahead of the broadcast. He also directly addressed viewers, asking for their prayers.
"To our beloved partners and friends," he said, "we're not here to excuse sin, but we are here to celebrate the goodness and the grace of God. He has helped Joni and me."