Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart will return to the pulpit on May 22, with or without the blessing of national Assemblies of God church officials who suspended him for a year, his lawyer said Wednesday.
The date coincides with a more lenient three-month suspension given Swaggart by the church's Louisiana council after his tearful confession on Feb. 21 that he committed sins against his church and family.The national Executive Presbytery had decided that the state council's penalty was not severe enough and announced Tuesday that Swaggart must stop preaching for at least one year and undergo two years of rehabilitation.
"We have an issue involving the constitution and bylaws of this organization," said Bill Treeby, a lawyer for Swaggart. He said there was a conflict over whether the National Presbytery or the Louisiana district council had the right to discipline ministers.
"He is willing to submit himself to the Louisiana District," said Treeby. "He will be considering an appeal to the National Presbytery."
Although Swaggart did not specify the sins he confessed to, a prostitute has said Swaggart paid her to pose nude for him.
Treeby said the National Presbytery might dismiss Swaggart from the denomination if he resumed preaching on May 22, but that Swaggart would have the right to appeal that move.
Rev. G. Raymond Carlson, the Assemblies' general superintendent, had earlier said that if Swaggart did not accept its ruling, "the Executive Presbytery would no doubt take action to dismiss him."
Asked if Swaggart had considered leaving the Assemblies, Treeby said, "He is considering the possibility of an appeal. He has not thought beyond that."
The national group has not officially been informed of the decision, since Swaggart is still deciding what to do about an appeal. Treeby conceded, however, that Swaggart's leaving the ministry is a possibility.