The Rev. Pat Robertson said Monday that his son, Gordon, has succeeded him as chief executive of the Christian Broadcasting Network, the most recent shift to a younger generation of leaders within major conservative Christian groups.
The Rev. Robertson, 77, announced the transition on "The 700 Club," the Virginia-based network's flagship show, with Gordon, 49, on air with him.
"I thought that some of this day-to-day operation was important to pass down the line, especially to somebody a little more adept at figuring out the new technologies coming at such a bewildering speed to all of us," the Rev. Robertson said.
The network's board of directors voted over the weekend to name Gordon Robertson the CEO immediately. The Rev. Robertson will still be chairman of CBN and will continue to appear with his son on "The 700 Club." He will also remain president of Regent University, which he founded.
Gordon Robertson said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that his father had knee replacement surgery last spring and over the summer developed an irregular heartbeat that required surgery. But he is "in remarkably good health now."
"I call him the Iron Horse," Gordon Robertson said. "He doesn't have any quit in him."
Gordon Robertson is one of several sons of major Christian leaders who have recently been charged with carrying on their father's work.
The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of 89-year-old evangelist Billy Graham, became chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association several years ago.
When the Rev. Jerry Falwell died last May, his sons, Jerry Jr. and Jonathan, took leadership of their father's Virginia megachurch and the school he founded, Liberty University.
Last year, Robert A. Schuller succeeded his father, Robert H. Schuller, as head of Crystal Cathedral and its ministries in California, including the popular "Hour of Power" televised services from the megachurch.
J. Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University and author of "Faith in the Halls of Power," noted that CBN faces significantly more competition now than when it started more than four decades ago and no longer has the dominant role it did in the 1970s and '80s.
"The question is whether Gordon will have the same kind of flair for the dramatic and rhetorical flourish" as his father, Lindsay said. "I don't see any evidence of that currently. He has been much more below the radar."
The Rev. Robertson founded CBN in 1960 with a tiny UHF station in Portsmouth, Va.
The network has grown to about 2,800 employees, producing programs in 99 languages in more than 225 countries. The Rev. elder Robertson also founded the service ministry Operation Blessing, ran unsuccessfully for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, founded the once-influential Christian Coalition and made millions of dollars through business investments.
The Rev. elder Robertson is also known for on-air commentary that critics called offensive and that many evangelicals considered an embarrassment. He once said that American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and suggested that the debilitating stroke suffered by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was divine retribution for his decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
The Rev. Robertson wound up apologizing for both remarks.
Gordon Robertson, who shares his father's Pentecostal-style faith, told the AP that he and his father have different styles, pointing to their approach to playing chess.
"Dad likes the bold strikes and bold moves," he said. "I like looking at the end game, and I think it's good to do that."
He says he won't endorse a presidential candidate.
Last month, his father backed Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination, despite the former New York mayor's support for abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Explaining his endorsement, the Rev. elder Robertson said, "The overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the bloodlust of Islamic terrorists."
Gordon Robertson, a graduate of Yale University and Washington & Lee Law School, was active in the Republican Party when he practiced law, but said, "I literally walked away from all that." However, he said he does plan to speak out on "issues of the day."
"I think that's something ... that Christians have an obligation to do. I don't see myself shying away from that," he said.
Gordon Robertson spent five years in Manila as head of CBN's Asia operations before returning to the U.S. and working with his father. He plans to expand CBN ministries overseas through TV and the Web.