Thursday, May 16, 2013

Christian radio group faces financial hard times

Family Radio's founder predicted Jesus would return and the world would end on May 21, 2011.
NASHVILLE -- A Christian radio ministry may be facing a financial apocalypse after its predictions about the end of the world failed to come true.

Three years ago Oakland-based Family Radio Inc. placed billboard messages around the country, claiming that Jesus would return on May 21, 2011.

Forty of the billboards were in Nashville, Tenn., bearing the message "He is Coming Back Soon."

Some of the Rev. Harold Camping's followers had quit jobs or emptied their bank accounts to help pay for the billboards, and some traveled the country in a caravan to spread the word. They also set up a website called and spread the word on T-shirts, bumper stickers and postcards.

Volunteers such as Allison Warden, who orchestrated Nashville's billboard campaign, were convinced that Camping's prediction was right.

"It's a certainty," she told The Tennessean in 2010.

When the end of the world did not happen, Family Radio's founder, Camping, admitted he'd been wrong.

Now his charity has fallen on hard times.

The group lost more than $100 million in assets from 2007 to 2011, according to the Associated Press, falling from $135 million in 2007 to $29.2 million at the end of 2011. It's had to sell off three of its largest radio stations.

Camping, 91, suffered a stroke after his prediction did not materialize and has since said he has no more interest in considering future dates for the end of the world.

In 2012, records show that Family Radio took out a $30 million bridge loan to keep operating while awaiting money from the sale of the stations.

Board member Tom Evans, who has taken over the network since Camping's stroke, said the network is hurting during the economic slowdown like other nonprofits. But he said it is not closing.

"Sufficient funds were in the bank and, thankfully, we didn't spend everything," he said, referring to the May 2011 prediction. "But it did force us to make quick changes."

Family Radio, founded more than a half-century ago, had 66 full-service radio stations, more than 100 FM broadcast relay stations and a handful of television stations across the country at one time.

Smietana also writes for The Tennessean. Contributing: The Associated Press