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?



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    Shedding ministerial garments, preaching too long and considering new evangelisitic messages? How dare he. He must dealt with!!!

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    The issues run a bit deeper than that. If they didn’t, the Presbytery would not have made the statement against his actions. There is no problem with TT changing things so long as he respected the members. When you buy a house, it is yours to do with as you please. TT did not buy a house and it is not just his to do with as he pleases.When you take on a church, you become part of a living, breathing organism and the history needs to be respected and dealt with.

    Both of us have MBAs. One of the first lessons I learned in business school is the following. Don’t automatically think that the organization that you go to work for is stupid and needs you to change it.First, find out what is right about the organization.If it has been successful, find out why. Then, slowly seek to make changes to enhance its effectiveness.

    I do not go to a church that has vestments or a formal evangelism program.However, CRPC had some traditions and not all traditions need to be jettisoned immediately. In fact, those that do, often find conflict follows. I believe TT could have had everything he wanted had he been willing to move slowly, taking into account the feelings of those who helped establish and build the church.

    Apparently the PCA agrees.I am sure their ruling has nothing at all to do with shedding the vestments. It may have actually considered the people who were hurting. Didn’t Jesus make that his priority?


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    Change can be quite difficult for those who have supported Coral Ridge for DECADES. Apparently, TT didn’t take that into consideration because it seems they simply don’t count…

    According to the Miami Herald article we referenced, here are the real reasons many of the members had a problem with TT’s leadership skills (or lack thereof):

    “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.”

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    I think it is good that we leave the ultimate judgments on this matter with the PCA and the Elders at that church, based on however those 2 bodies related.

    But I completely agree with Dee’s and Deb’s comments about a new administration/pastor changing things in a church.

    Most of the people who will complain are the people who have been there for decades and gave the money to build the buildings and run all of the existing progams.

    A new pastor should respect the history of that congregation. In fact, that should be part of the interview process. If the new pastor has plans to come in and change the music and a bunch of other traditions, he should let the congregation know when he is interviewing.

    If the new pastor comes to those convictions after arriving, he should proceed slowly. 50% plus 1 may get you what you want. But it will also get you a war that may tear the church apart.

    One cannot allow a handful of loud people to stop progress, but wisdom and patience will usually get you around those items.

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    I totally agree with your comment, Anonymous. Can you imagine supporting a church with your time, talent, and treasure for much of your life, and then suddenly when the new pastor “takes over”, you feel like you’re in a totally different church? It’s OUTRAGEOUS!

    I know we have to think about the younger generation, but why isn’t Coral Ridge flexible enough to meet the needs of the different generations that are represented there? As I see these trends occurring within Christendom, it breaks my heart that the “golden” generation appears to have been marginalized at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.

    What stuns me more than anything else is that if you go to the church’s recently redesigned website (, there is absolutely nothing about the history of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and no mention of D. James Kennedy. On Tullian’s blog, Kal says this information will be added soon…

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    This can happen in other venues. I know a seeker mega that went through a very thoughtful process of succession. About 15 years before the sr pastor was planning to retire, they brought in his successor (church was elder led) and this new guy was in his late 20’s and was groomed to take over. About 3 years before the sr pastor was to retire, they brought in another 30ish pastor so there was always a line of sucession to be groomed for continuity.

    Right after the sr pastor retired, the fawning media coverage and 10 banquets for him were over, the NEW sr pastor, raised up and groomed by the former pastor, took all the former pastor’s sermons off the radio and started almost immediately to erase his footprint on the church. He finally got his own hand picked elder board and was able to do all the things he wanted to do but never once mentioned while he was the junior guy.

    And this was EXACTLY what the former elders were trying to avoid with their thoughtful process of succession for continuity.

    The problems are institutionalized. The problems are with celebrity and power of authority to mega churches.