Hubble Captures the Ghost of Cassiopeia
“Shun, as you would the plague, a cleric who from being poor has become wealthy, or who, from being nobody has become a celebrity.”—Jerome
I thought you might like to see the process involved when a reporter contacted me. I still remember being scared the first time I was asked questions by a journalist. Thankfully, my experience with Sarah Stankorb and the Washington Post helped me to enjoy and trust the proces
Carol Kuruvilla, a religion writer from HuffPost, contacted me and asked me to share my thoughts on Tullian Tchividjian’s return to the pulpit. Some of my responses to her questions would make their way into this post Pastor Accused Of Sex Abuse Says He’s Ready To Preach Again. Advocates Aren’t So Sure. Subtitled: Tullian Tchividjian, Billy Graham’s grandson, has launched a new church. But critics say he’s misusing Christian teachings about God’s grace to give himself a pass.
I was impressed by the introspective nature of the questions that she asked me to answer. So, I made it a priority to answerer questions in a timely fashion (although my mom was upset because she was 15 minutes late for an appointment!)
So, here are her questions with my replies. I’m getting you all prepared in case you want to start a blog! 😎
I’m Carol, a religion reporter at HuffPost. I’m reaching out about the news that Tullian Tchividjian has launched a new non-denominational church in Florida, just a few years after he was booted from his old church for sexual misconduct. Tchividjian has defended his return to the pulpit using Christian language about redemption, grace, and forgiveness. I wanted to hear from an expert about what you make of his return and if you think pastors like him can be given a second chance.
I have a few questions below — an emailed response works well or we could jump on a phone call tomorrow. Hoping to hear back before 12 pm ET tomorrow, if at all possible.
Tchividjian has argued that what happened between him and his congregants was consensual and not an abuse of power. “I don’t care what role a person has, a consensual relationship between two adults is not abuse. And some of these people will try to make the case that, ‘Well, because you’re in a position of authority, it is abuse,’” Tchividjian said. “And I’ll go, ‘OK I can see how that has been and can be used by people in those positions.’ … (But) that just was not true for me. I was not abusing my authoritative role to try and find women.” What do you make of this argument?
Throughout his tenure at his original church, Coral Ridge, and then at his second church Willow Creek, TT did not tell the full truth. At one point, he even blamed his then current (now former) wife of having an affair that drove him to having an affair. Therefore, I do not believe his narrative. However, I find it interesting that he wants to deny that he abused his pastoral privilege in order to engage in sexual situations with women. The reason for this is quite clear. If he admits to abusing his pastoral privilege, he is guilty of clergy abuse. If he is guilty of clergy abuse, he knows he should not be a pastor. In order to be a pastor, he must present these affairs as mutual and consensual. It says to me that he knows that pastoral abuse is wrong so he is finding a way out.
In starting his new church, Tchividjian’s argument seems to be that he has a unique story of redemption and grace and that his new church is a “safe place for broken people to break down and for fallen people to fall down.” He claims he’s actually in a better position now to lead a church. “The Christian community is the only ‘recovery institution’ in society that does not want former ‘junkies’ leading the way,” he said. “That creates a massive disconnect between leadership and the people in the church.” What do you make of his claim that he’s uniquely qualified to lead a congregation because of his past sexual misconduct?
Let me refer to licensed counselors for an example. If such a counselor has a sexual relationship with a counselee, they will lose their license to practice. In some situations, they may even be arrested. A person who is going to their pastor for advice is in the same situation as those who go to a licensed counselor. They are vulnerable and in pain. Any pastor who uses that vulnerability to have a sexual relationship with his congregant should never step foot in a pulpit again. If he is truly repentant (and I am not convinced that TT is) he can rejoin a church as a member and share his experiences with others. He does not have to be in a pulpit to do that.
· On his website, Tchividjian has posts from other pastors claiming that he has been rehabilitated. In your opinion, what would rehabilitation look like for a pastor who has Tchividjian’s past? What accountability structures do you hope to see set up at his church?
The terminology in the church is ”restored.” TT found a couple of pastors out there who claimed he is fully forgiven. Sadly, some in the church believe in cheap forgiveness. A truly repentant individual seeks out those he offended and asks for forgiveness. TT has a long list of people he needs to ask for forgiveness-the people in two churches, the women he abused, another blogger named Julie Anne Smith who he called a *****, his former wife. There have been no reports of TT acting in such a manner.
Then, this person is welcomed back in the church, not the pulpit. This is important. Restoration means being allowed back in the congregation and being allowed to take communion. For some reason, TT seems to want to skip this step. He wants the pulpit. Is it because that is the only way he knows how to make money? Is it a way for him to get back some measure of authority? Would he use that authority to hurt more women?
Tullian’s previous two church have said he should not be in the pulpit. He had his preaching credentials removed from the PCA. There are always pastors out there that will say what we want them to say. Sadly, these pastors did not to tell him to return to those churches and seek forgiveness and to reconcile. That, in my opinion, is an indication of the lack of depth in those TT consulted.
Make no mistake about this, the only ones who can forgive TT are those he harmed. His pastor friends have done him a grave disservice. They should have sent him back to attempt to heal the wounds he left behind. They are preaching a cheap grace and forgiveness and TT is taking them up on their offer. TT knows this. He knows what he should do. He won’t do it.
·Ultimately, do you think pastors who engage in sexual misconduct should be given a second chance to lead a congregation and/or speak from the pulpit?
It is my opinion that a pastor who has a sexual relationship with a member of his congregation should never return to the pulpit. Just as counselors, doctors, teachers or lawyers wouldn’t be allowed to return to their previous positions of authority/practice, a pastor who has a sexual relationship with a member/attendee should not be allowed to return to the pulpit.
TT’s brother, Boz Tchividjian, an attorney and leader of a GRACE, an organization which deals with abuse in the church has spoken out against such abuse. His group GRACE released this statement in 2016
I have also attached a recent tweet from Boz.
Let me be clear. I do not believe that a person who has committed such offenses against the church cannot be a contributing member of society or be forgiven. However, why should the church have lower standards than secular society when it comes to these issues? TT can use his talents to benefit the poor and let down in society once he has repented properly and sought forgiveness from those he harmed.
So, these question led to this post. I think she did a really good job at getting to the heart of the matter. So many of you are experienced in dealing with these question on this blog and other site. I bet most of you could have answered her as well or even better than I.