Christian broadcaster D. James Kennedy dies

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The Rev. D. James Kennedy, a pioneering megachurch pastor who became one of the nation's most prominent Christian broadcasters and a key figure in the rise of the religious right, died Wednesday, a church spokesman said. He was 76.

Church spokesman John Aman said Kennedy died at his home in Fort Lauderdale. He had announced his retirement last month and had recently suffered a heart attack.

Kennedy took the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale from a congregation of 45 in 1959 to a megachurch of nearly 10,000 members today.

He also founded the Center for Christian Statesmanship in Washington, organizing Capitol Hill Bible studies and other events that attracted top government officials and encouraged them "to embrace God's providential purpose for this nation."

In 1974, Kennedy started Coral Ridge Ministries, his radio and TV outreach arm, which now claims a weekly audience of 3.5 million. Kennedy's TV show "The Coral Ridge Hour," airs on more than 400 stations and four cable networks and is broadcast to more than 150 countries on the Armed Forces Network, his ministry says. Last year, the National Religious Broadcasters association inducted him into their Hall of Fame.

"He was one of the early visionaries who saw that you could use electronic media to extend the four walls of the church to reach a broader audience," said Frank Wright, president and chief executive officer of the NRB.

Kennedy was a close colleague of the Rev. Pat Robertson, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and other religious broadcasters and was an early board member of the Moral Majority, which Falwell formed in 1979.
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