Monday, August 10, 2009

Sun-Sentinel Picks Up Story

Since Tullian Tchividjian, the current senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and Billy Graham's grandson, is banning Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, charter member of Coral Ridge and Dr. D. James Kennedy's daughter, and several others from church grounds it was only a matter of time before the press got involved. Not a matter of "if" but "when." The following article appeared in the Sun Sentinel today:

FORT LAUDERDALE - 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.

The action, announced by a letter mailed to Coral Ridge members over the weekend, is the latest round in a brewing dispute between recently appointed Pastor W. Tullian Tchividjian, who is grandson of Billy Graham, and those members spearheading an effort to fire him. The events have rocked the church, once a nationally recognized stronghold of Christian conservative activism under Kennedy.

In recent weeks, the dissidents have sent two letters and a petition form to call a congregational meeting and put an end to Tchividjian's four-month-old pastorate.

"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," says Tchividjian's letter announcing the action by the church's executive commssion.

Besides Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, the six people banned are Lorna Bryan, Kaye Carlson, Romeo DeMarco, and Jim and Jeanne Filosa. They have been ordered to stay off church property and out of church programs, and "to stop writing accusatory letters to the congregation."

Tchividjian, one of seven grandsons of Graham, is former pastor of New City Church in Margate, which has merged with Coral Ridge. He was picked March 15 to lead Coral Ridge, succeeding Kennedy, who died in September 2007.

Among the accusations of the dissidents are that Tchividjian has replaced some longtime Coral Ridge staff with his own people. The dissidents have also accused Tchividjian of watering down Coral Ridge's traditional 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.

More than 1,600 copies of the petition, along with accusatory letters, were mailed to church members on July 24. A follow-up letter was mailed Aug. 1.

At a Town Hall meeting on July 31, attended by several hundred people, Tchividjian and his staff countered all the charges. They said there was no budget shortfall and that only 15 of more than 70 church staff are from the former New City Church. They said that Coral Ridge is actually adding Evangelism Explosion classes and that rather than loosening the traditional service, Tchividjian plans to make the contemporary service more traditional.

Cassidy, Kennedy's daughter, declined to comment Monday beyond saying that "This is something that will be handled at the church." However, Jim Filosa said the ban was no surprise because he was told last Tuesday that he wouldn't be allowed to attend choir rehearsal the next night.

"Quite honestly, we expected this," said Filosa, a Coral Ridge member since 1991. "Tullian won't leave without a fight, and neither will we.

"Changes are inevitable in mergers," Filosa continued. "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.'"

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," the church letter says.
South Florida Sun Sentinel

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tullian Tchividjian Strikes Back

This is a letter Tullian Tchividjian sent out to Coral Ridge members this week in response to those who signed the previous two letters accusing him of various charges:

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Monday, August 3, 2009

To the Tune of 5,000 Screaming Children

By The Juliana Theory

We knew you'd hate this before we wrote it.
So listen up, we're telling you before you tell us.
We're not misinformed or misdirected,
functioning on your subjective.
Your hatred only fuels us on.

Now how about a word or two on you?
You're an alias, an email address.
We lay a lot more out than you do.

We won't be part of your revolution.
So listen up, we're telling you this is our business.
We're not misinformed or misdirected.
We'll make our own insurrection.
So keep on publishing our wrongs.

Now how about a word or two on you?
You're a paper fist, a faceless attack.
We're not about to break like you do.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tchividjian Opposition Sends Desperate Letter

The members at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church who have, in recent days, viciously and strongly opposed their new pastor, Tullian Tchividjian, have sent out yet another letter in an attempt to gain support for their cause. Much more desperate than their first letter, this letter also sounds bitter, immature and pathetic:

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This is no doubt the last desperate gasp of a dying movement. Praise the Lord!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Out With Old, In With New

This sheet that was passed out at the Town Hall Meeting should put things in perspective:

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At the Town Hall Meeting on Friday night Tullian Tchividjian put to rest a lot of fears shared by many in his congregation and brutally murdered the rumors and baseless accusations recently declared against him. This should squash the opposition against him but, just in case, I will soon list all the grievances against him and their rebuttals.

Monday, July 27, 2009

CRPC Congregation to Meet on Friday

Tullian is well aware of what is going on and is calling a congregational meeting for this coming Friday. I'm not sure if I am the first one to alert him of the letter sent out by Jennifer Cassidy, but he was aware that someone posted similar statements last week underneath windshield wipers while everyone else was inside worshiping together. Also, he thanked me for my support in an e-mail which was nice.

I have several thoughts about this letter that was sent out and about the meeting on Friday.
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
- Matthew 18:15-17

My first question is really why they they went about sending out this letter in the way they did. As the above passage makes clear, there are several steps that must be taken concerning instances of any real or perceived wrongdoing and, I should point out, this passage is neither vague nor ambiguous in what it says and certainly doesn't require any serious interpretation.

To apply this to the current matter, the signers of this letter were absolutely required to approach Tullian, make an appointment with him and bring their grievances to him quietly and privately. This isn't an option; it's a biblical mandate. Then, if that meeting produced no serious results, they would have been required to have another meeting with Tullian and this time they should have brought some third-party members of the church along as witnesses to what was discussed. As with the first step, this wasn't optional, either; it's a necessary part of the process. Now, if this second meeting with the witnesses did not produce the desired result, they are then required to approach the elders of the church and bring their grievances before the session. Besides being biblical, this process is also spelled out in some detail in the book of church order.

As far as I can tell, none of these steps were taken. I feel certain that if they had, the letter would have said so. The absence of any mention of these steps being taken tells me that they weren't. Yes, I could be wrong but I plan on making a phone call tomorrow to verify.

Any one of us, in a similar situation, would have left to find another church more suitable. Cassidy is on a crsuade, however, and her actions prove that this is personal. There's just too many pejorative phrases in it for me to think otherwise. "Plundering the church" and calling the elders ignorant come to mind in this regard but the whole tone of the letter is both personal and negative; not at all filled with love and the desire to reclaim a wayward brother (from their point of view).

This brings to mind another passage, Titus 3:1-2, 10:
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. . . . . As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

I cannot put this any better. This letter, and by extension the people who signed it, are way out on a very long limb with no visible means of support. They have seemingly avoided all Biblical mandates concerning how they should proceed as well as the instructions laid out in the book of church order. As such, they appear to be synonymous with those described in Titus as sinful and self condemned; at least regarding this particular incident.

Please proceed very carefully regarding how much support you give these people as I am certain there is going to be fallout from this incident. The session will, of necessity, get involved. They really only have 2 choices as I see it at the moment. As a body, the session can condemn the tactics used by the letter writers and accuse them of purposely trying to cause trouble and deal with them on that level. This would be based on the fact that they purposely ignored all Biblical and book of church order directives on how to proceed. By doing this the session would, of necessity, be standing behind Tullian 100%. "We apologize to those of you who oppose Tchividjian. 91% of the congregation voted to support the call of Tchividjian as our pastor and if you don't like it we think you will probably be happier worshiping elsewhere. Don't let the door hit you on your way out." This is probably more likely because the session banded together a while ago to save Dr. Warren Gage's rear-end when none other than Dr. R. C. Sproul (head of Knox at the time) sought to have him fired from his teaching position at Knox.

A second choice would be for the session to accept the letter as valid and begin an investigation of some sort into the allegations. This would more than likely lead to the resignation of Tullian but that's just my opinion (kind of like how the session banding together against Sproul led to his resignation). From my very limited vantage point I can't see any good coming out of this. If tullian resigns there is going to be significant damage done to the church as I fear that many of the younger members will leave.

Myself included.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Founding Pastor's Daughter Raises Mutiny Against New Pastor

The following letter was sent out to members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida by Jennifer Cassidy, the daughter of CRPC's founding pastor Dr. D. James Kennedy. I have to agree with these sentiments from Matthew Cochrane's blog, Not Conformed Thoughts:

If she had said Tullian Tchividjian was pro-choice or didn't believe in
predestination or didn't agree with infant baptism - those would be areas for
concern. Instead she sounds petty and angry. As Kennedy's daughter she really
should have welcomed the new pastor with open arms - that would have been the
classy thing to do. Instead she has sent out petitions to get Tchividjian
removed so she and the search committee can find someone who's a carbon copy of
her father. Also, because of her close relation to Dr. Kennedy, I don't think
she should have allowed herself to be on the Pulpit Search Committee, but that's
just my opinion.
I apologize in advance for the quality of these images and will try to acquire a better copy in the near future. Enjoy the read:

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