Special note: We first posted this on December 2, 2009.We have not yet transferred our archives so we have decided to repeat these two blogs to give our readers background information which we feel is vital in understanding the unfortunate, and we believe somewhat avoidable, conflict at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church with Tullian Tchividjian at the head. We implore pastors, especially the hyper authoritarian kind to listen deeply to those they are called to serve.
We’re heading to South Florida for three days as we focus on a church that has gained a national presence – Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. As most of you probably know, Coral Ridge was founded by D. James Kennedy. On May 22, 1960, Kennedy began the church with a congregation of 45 people in an elementary school auditorium. Kennedy is well-known for his development of the “Evangelism Explosion” (“EE”) method of evangelism in the 1960s. This method emphasizes the training of church laypeople to share their faith by home visitation in the community.
Apparently, EE worked well for Coral Ridge. Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on this church.
Coral Ridge became the fastest-growing Presbyterian church in the U.S. in the 1960s and had 1,366 members by 1968. Outgrowing its first church built in the early 1960s, construction of the church’s present 2,800-seat sanctuary, surmounted by a 300-foot tower and designed in a modern style, was undertaken in the early 1970s. On December 21, 1973, the first services were held in the church’s new building. In February, 1974, the sanctuary was formally dedicated by Billy Graham. By the 1980s, the church’s membership had grown to a few thousand persons. Evangelism Explosion was the subject of Kennedy’s doctoral dissertation, who said he earned a Ph.D. “to dispel the idea there is an inconsistency between evangelism and education…evangelical ministers [need] to be thoroughly educated and equipped to meet on equal terms anyone with whom they come in contact”…. By the 1980s, the church’s television ministry had a weekly audience of 3.5 million viewers, as the Coral Ridge Hour aired on more than 400 stations and four cable networks…”
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, located in Fort Lauderdale, is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. It became affiliated with PCA on May 16, 1978. The church espouses a traditional Calvinist theology, and its motto is “On earth as it is in heaven”.
The Westminster Academy and Knox Theological Seminary, also located in Fort Lauderdale, are educational ministries of Coral Ridge. A local Christian radio station WAFG-GM is also affiliated with the church.
Incredibly, D. James Kennedy served as the church’s one and only senior pastor until his death in 2007. Kennedy suffered a heart attack from which he never fully recovered, and he delivered his final sermon at Coral Ridge on December 24, 2006. Kennedy’s retirement was officially announced at the church on August 26, 2007, and sadly he died a mere ten days later at the age of 76..
Who would succeed this theological giant? The 15-member Pulpit Nominating Committee considered over 150 ministers from more than 15 states and countries outside the United States.
There seemed to be one logical choice. His name is William Graham Tullian Tchividjian — grandson of Billy Graham. According to the January 19, 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel,
“Tchividjian already had several links with Coral Ridge. His famous grandfather preached the dedication sermon of the church sanctuary in 1974. Tullian hosts a show on WAFG-GM 90.3, the church’s radio station, and occasionally preaches during chapel hour at its Westminster Academy.”
Tullian, who was born in Jacksonville and raised in South Florida, was named after Tertullian, a second and third century theologian. Not living up to his namesake, Tullian attended Westminster but dropped out during a rebellious period in his life – “sinking into South Florida’s “pleasure-saturated culture,” as he told the Sun-Sentinel in 2007. “Tullian came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 21 and returned to the Christian lifestyle,” according to the article.
He earned degrees in philosophy at Columbia International University in South Carolina and in divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and has authored several books Tchividjian established New City Church in Fort Lauderdale over five years ago. The church, with attendance ranging between 600 and 700, held worship services at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek.
Coral Ridge approached Tchividjian three separate time. The first time it was for the pastorate alone. When he declined, the two churches (Coral Ridge and New City) discussed a merger; however, New City backed away because of the complexities involved. Finally, the committee approached Tullian again just before Christmas 2008, and they got a warmer reception from him.
According to the Sun-Sentinel article, “Tchividjian was cautious about discussing any changes he might make at the helm of Coral Ridge. However, he said the Coral Ridge leaders had asked him to bring the “vision” he instilled at New City Church, a vision of “revival and renewal for all of South Florida.” New City is also known for blending traditional beliefs with modern methods, mixing hymns and contemporary Christian songs.”
The article ends as follows: “Tchividjian says he shares Coral Ridge’s longtime values of “passionate preaching” and “robust theological commitment.” But he added that his selection as pastor shows the larger, older church remains flexible. For anyone who thinks Coral Ridge can’t change, this demonstrates that is just not true, he (Tchividjian) said.”
Shortly after Tchividjian became Senior Pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in April, 2009, there were tremendous FIREWORKS!!! And that will be the topic of tomorrow’s post.