Written by Helen Tarnation
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Topics: Gay, oral roberts

Saturday, 19 December 2009

image for Posthumous shocker: Memoirs reveal Oral 'Oral' Roberts was gay
How 'Oral' got his nickname

Oral Roberts' memoirs, published shortly after his death on December 15, reveal that he was gay. In fact, his given name, 'Oral', was also his nickname among his gay friends.

Roberts' will specified, among other things, that his memoirs be released to the public within one week of his demise.

'This comes as a surprise to us all', said Nicola Nickerson, Roberts' publicist. 'But in retrospect, there are a few things that make sense.'

Oral Roberts was one of the pioneers of 'televangelism', or conducting the equivalent of 'tent revival' meetings on television. He was also a highly visible preacher during a tumultuous period in the industry.

His colleage, Jim Bakker, was caught in a tryst with a church secretary from Long Island and sought to cover it up with hush money from ministry funds. Another colleague, Jimmy Swaggart, was seen frequenting Louisiana motel rooms for voyeuristic encounters with prostitutes.

Roberts himself became briefly notorious in 1987 after informing his followers that God would "call him home" unless the donated $8 million to his church.

What set Roberts most apart from his conservative Christian evangelist counterparts, however, was his lack of anti-gay rhetoric.

'That's the part that now finally makes sense', his publicist said. 'There's also Oral's attachment to his basketball team.'

Roberts also founded Oral Roberts University, which had a division one basketball team in the 1980s. The joke at the time was that, with Roberts' skills as a healer, the team didn't need a trainer.

'He obviously wasn't healing the players in the locker room,' Nickerson said. 'He was scouting for talent, and you can imagine the sorts of talent that we now know attracted him the most.'

In the wake of these revelations, conservatives are demanding that Oral Roberts University (ORU) be re-named, but the suggestion has outraged members of the GLBT community.

'Oral deserves the legacy of his name now, more than ever', said Bruce Lilting, Roberts' long-time companion. He added that ORU would now be offering courses in oral skills.

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