To Tullian and Kim Tchividjian – We love you and we care
Milton Gillie, Reach More Now’s correspondent in Australia, has written a powerful letter to a powerful married couple who are at present divorcing. Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin), was the most recent pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian church, the church made famous by Ministry of the late Dr. James Kennedy in his many years of television and in person. The fact that Tullian is the grandson of 96-year-old Dr. Billy Graham who has nothing at all to do with Tullian’s and Kim’s decision to divorce. Tullian has admitted he had an affair. Kim was the first to admit that she had one before he did. He released the following statement to The Washington Post:
“I resigned from my position at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church today due to ongoing marital issues. As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family. As her affair continued, we separated.
Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself. Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign. Both my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions and we ask you to pray for us and our family that God would give us the grace we need to weather this heart wrenching storm. We are amazingly grateful for the team of men and women who are committed to walking this difficult path with us. Please pray for the healing of deep wounds and we kindly ask that you respect our privacy.”
Tchividjian, 42, has been married to his wife, Kim, since 1994 and they have three children. Kim Tchividjian sent the following message to The Post of Lauderdale:
“The statement reflected my husband’s opinions but not my own. Please respect the privacy of my family at this time, thank you. I do thank everyone for the outpouring of love for my family as well during this difficult time and we appreciate all the prayers and support we are receiving.”
Rob Pacienza, executive pastor of Coral Ridge, provided the following statement from the church:
“Several days ago, Pastor Tullian admitted to moral failure, acknowledging his actions disqualify him from continuing to serve as senior pastor or preach from the pulpit, and resigned — effective immediately. We are saddened by this news, but are working with and assisting Pastor Tullian and his family to help them through this difficult time, and asking people to join us in praying that God will bring restoration through this process and healing to all involved.”
Many have considered Tchividjian, a rising star in evangelicalism, especially in Reformed circles. He is the fourth Florida megachurch pastor to resign after having affairs, including the son of megachurch pastor Joel Hunter.
The distinguished Dr. James Kennedy was one of the architects of the Religious Right, a movement of evangelicals who became intertwined in more conservative politics. However, Tchividjian decided to preach less about politics, unlike his uncle Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse.
As he stepped into Coral Ridge’s pulpit, Tchividjian made a point of moving past the old Religious Right and not being a cultural warrior. Billy Graham, 96, was one of the most influential religious leaders of the 20th century and an adviser to many U.S. presidents. Tchividjian’s mother is Billy Graham’s oldest child.
Here’s what Tchividjian posted on Twitter after his Sunday announcement.
Before he became senior pastor of the Fort Lauderdale congregation, Tchividjian’s church plant, New City, merged with the larger Coral Ridge. Seven months in, a group of church members, headed by Kennedy’s daughter, circulated a petition calling for his removal. Church members voted 69 percent to 31 percent to keep him, but a group of congregants formed a new church in response.
Tchividjian was described by the Miami Herald as a pastor who would focus on specific Bible passages rather than on the news, preferred more contemporary music over the organ, and chose podcasting over broadcasting.
The Hartford Institute for Religion Institute’s database of megachurches lists Coral Ridge as having 1,900 attendees. The church had its first worship service in 1959, and under Kennedy, its weekly services were televised as the Coral Ridge Hour, reportedly reaching up to 3 million people. Kennedy was a founding board member of Jerry Falwell Sr.’s Moral Majority and developed the popular curriculum “Evangelism Explosion.”
Last year, Tchividjian broke up with the Gospel Coalition, a network of Reformed leaders, over a theological dispute. His popular blog was hosted at TGC and he wrote several books with evangelical publishers Crossway and David C. Cook.
“Kicked out of his family’s home as a teenager, Tchividjian indulged in almost everything Miami’s sensual nightlife offered,” a 2009 profile in Christianity Today said. “But now he believes that Christians must forsake any hope of winning cultural acceptance if they want to affect the culture for the Lord’s sake.”God’s grace
Now, for the letter to the Tchividjian’s from Milton Gillie: An open letter to Tullian and Kim Tchividjian.
I was recently shocked to read of your marital troubles and of Tullian’s subsequent resignation as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian church in Fort Lauderdale Florida. When I read about it following the resignation announcement my first reaction was denial followed by a search which revealed the truth of what I had read. On reflection I asked myself why the troubles of a pastor on another continent in another denomination affected me more than I expected. I am quite familiar with your teaching having four of your books and listened to a number of messages. But you are not the first writer or minister I have known or read that has had a moral failure, so why did I feel your failure more than others. As I contemplated this question I came to the conclusion that it is because your message is so much different than most of the others I have known or known about who have walked this path.
Most open letters are written by people wanting to bring correction or accusation against the recipient. I want to make it clear that that is not my intention. I have read commentary by others some which is critical or professing great wisdom on your situation. The only message that I would have would probably come out of one of your sermons and contain a heavy dose of “Grace” because I believe that is the only message that can be shared with anyone in your situation. So why write to you? There are several reasons expressed in what I would say to any one in your situation and this letter is for any one broken and in need of healing following a failure.
I am sure that there is nothing unique in my comments but sometimes we need to rehear the things that we already know to encourage ourselves. None of us are exempt from or innocent of any form of sin before God, even if we have not physically committed it. Yes we understand that there is more work to do on horizontal relationships particularly with a spouse when we physically commit serious sin, but nothing is irreparable with God.
One of the great tragedies that I have seen is the number of people that having failed, have received condemnation rather than forgiveness and healing that drove them away from their faith and their calling. We are all broken people living in a broken world. Yet it is in our brokenness that God is revealed fully to us. Through our brokenness it becomes totally about him, and nothing about us.
What keeps us from fully receiving God’s grace and healing? It is only ourselves. Recently I had a disagreement with my wife. I was most unhappy with her attitude towards me. Everything within me wanted justice. As I meditated I heard the Spirit prompt “show grace to your wife”. The problem I had was I didn’t want to show grace to her. My self-righteous nature wanted to squash the idea and have my thoughts and actions justified. I have found that the closer a relationship I have with someone, understanding grace is easier than applying it in relation to them. I don’t know where the two of you are with restoration process, but I suspect it is not an easy process to go through. I pray that you are receiving healing and restoration.
Probably the most disturbing aspect of human nature is the rise of self-righteousness when dealing with those who have fallen. The church unfortunately is not immune from this fault as time and again we see condemnation being cast at those who have fallen. I am not referring to appropriate discipline by authority in the situation, but to those outside that sphere who effectively shoot the wounded. My good friend Ray has shared with me how he lost nearly all his friends when he walked a similar path to you. There was no one that came to him to bring healing and restoration which led him to spend five years in the wilderness. But even in his situation the grace of God reached out and brought healing and restoration.
One thing life has taught me is that it is so often easier to see God working from outside a failure than when living through it. The scripture tells us the gifts and calling of God are never cancelled or rescinded. You have been called and gifted. There is probably no harder time than being removed from your gifting and calling because of failure. Yet in all this God’s purpose can still work in your lives.
My own church here in Australia went through the fall of the previous senior minister. Through it all though God was faithful and had prepared new pastors for us that none of us could have dreamed of. The scripture “all things work together for good” was fulfilled in our midst. If we had not gone through the valley five years ago we would not be where we are today. I am not suggesting any sin is good but that in the worst situation God is working for our good.
This year the theme for our church is “grace” and the word hangs over the stage in our sanctuary. Our conference theme this year is Grace Divine. Our worship teaches us about God’s grace. Our messages have grace as the foundation. Would we have been where we are today if we hadn’t gone through pain five years ago? I know God could have caused blessing
I have wondered what I would say if I was given the privilege of ministering to either or both of you. I am sure you have people in your lives more capable than I who can minister healing to you. My only message would be how much God loves you and the fullness of His redemption for every situation. I’d probably encourage you to have a break from your environment, get away hopefully together, work on your issues.
A final thing I would encourage is to come to our conference. Why the conference? It’s probably the last thing you feel motivated to do. But you can’t get much further away from your home than Australia. Almost nobody would know you here, but most of all you need the ministry. You can register here https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/hopeuc-conference-2015-tickets-12661146831.
May God bring full restoration to you both.
Australian correspondent for Reach More Now
I can be contacted through this web site.
Ray’s e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
To Tullian and Kim Tchividjian – We love you and we care