Synopsis: We first posted this on December 3, 2009. It describes the rapid development of serious conflicts between Tullian Tchvidjian and the congregation and the staff at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
Just nine months ago, the members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church joyfully chose their new pastor – Tullian Tchividjian, one of Billy Graham’s seven grandsons. No doubt the congregation was thrilled that a Graham legacy would propel the church into the 21st century. What could possibly go wrong?
Here was the breaking news in the August 11, 2009, edition of The Miami Herald
“Six members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church – including the daughter of founding pastor D. James Kennedy – have been banned from the premises and all functions of the Fort Lauderdale church.”
What? Looks like the honeymoon’s over! What in the world went so wrong so fast?
The Miami Herald provides some insight. Here’s what was reported:
“Among the accusations of the dissidents are than Tchividjian has replaced some longtime Coral Ridge staff members with his own people. The dissidents have also accused Tchividjian of watering down Coral Ridge’s worship style, de-emphasizing the Evangelism Explosion method developed by Kennedy, selling land at the church’s west campus ‘to make up for budget shortfalls,’ and appointing an executive commission with equal power to the standard church government.”
The Kennedy/Graham collaboration seems to have fallen apart just a few months after it began. On July 24, the dissidents, including Kennedy’s daughter, mailed more than 1,600 accusatory letters, along with a petition, to members of Coral Ridge. The petition called for a congregational meeting to oust Tchividjian.
According to above article: “Tchividjian fired back in his letter to the congregation: ‘No church government can tolerate such an insurrection from those who will not listen to admonition, refuse all counsel, and will stop at nothing until they have overthrown legitimate authority and replaced it with their own.”
Tchividjian preached his first sermon as pastor of Coral Ridge on Easter and seems to have implemented changes way too fast for this golden congregation, which is comprised of primarily older members. Jim Filosa, a Coral Ridge member since 1991, remarked to The Miami Herald:
“Changes are inevitable in mergers. If [Tchividjian] had come in humbly, and done changes gradually, I think he would have been more accepted. Instead, it’s been an attitude more like, ‘Here I am – if you don’t like me, there’s the door.’”
According to Tchividjian’s letter, the church is forming a judicial commission to deal with the six main dissidents, who “will be given a hearing so that they can give an account for the controversy their actions have created.”
Let’s see… We have a contemporary pastor who established New City Church a mere five years ago. The venue for this “young” congregation was a HIGH SCHOOL!!! Tchividjian merges New City with a megachurch and revamps it almost overnight, expecting full compliance from the long-time members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. What is wrong with this picture? Yet, it’s happening all over the country across denominational lines.
On August 15, 2009, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel featured an article entitled “Coral Ridge dissidents will obey church ban”. The article sheds some light into what propelled the critics to action:
“This week also saw the resignation of executive director Scott Spell, formerly of Tchividjian’s New City Church, which has merged with Coral Ridge. Church spokesman Bill Ashcraft said Spell was “implementing change faster than Tullian approved.” Hmmm….
The article continues as follows:
“First step is for the Judiciary Commission to meet informally with the opponents to reconcile. If that doesn’t work, a formal hearing could result in successive levels of discipline: censure, banning from Holy Communion, excommunication.
Jim Filosa, one of the six, said the group would grudgingly obey the order to stay away from Coral Ridge. He said that while they are awaiting the church’s next move, they’ve been holding weekly services with 35 to 45 sympathizers at a house in Boca Raton, complete with prayers, hymns and Bible readings.
“We don’t agree with the ruling, but we don’t want to antagonize the situation,” Filosa said. “The ball is in their court.”
The stated issues in the conflict may seem trivial to outsiders: shedding ministerial vestments, playing up Christian contemporary music, preaching longer sermons, considering new evangelistic methods. But for many in the aging congregation, it was too much, too fast.
“Tullian is a talented young man, but he used an Uzi to kill a flea,” said (Jay) Caulk (III), who declares himself in the middle on church issues. “That’s the wrong way in a church whose average age is into the golden years.”
According to the Sun-Sentinel article, it appears that Coral Ridge wasn’t walked through any kind of transition.
George B. Thompson, Jr., who teaches at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta commented: “Church trappings, or “artifacts” are important symbols of congregational identity. Any changes that the old guard sees as disrespectful cannot help but hurt the health of a congregation. Before moving ahead, congregations have to be able to honor what’s come before.”
It certainly seems to us that Tchividjian demonstrated tremendous disrespect toward the Coral Ridge congregation when he “took over”. Apparently, he believes he is “entitled” because of his heritage. What ever happened to the concept of earning respect, and what’s with this younger generation of pastors? Just who in the world do they think they are? Tchividjian’s unprofessional tactics have earned him the label HYPER-AUTHORITARIAN here at The Wartburg Watch.
Tomorrow, we’ll share the conclusion of this sad, sad saga in South Florida. What must those who do not know Jesus Christ be thinking as they watch these antics from afar?