The headline in Saturday’s Times-Picayune read, “Feud simmers in Fla. church.” The story was one we hear so often and one which I dread with everything in me. This time, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale is ground zero.
When longtime pastor D. James Kennedy died in 2007, the church leadership set out to find God’s man to lead their church into the future. Some of us who have been around a while had observed the Kennedy era from start to finish. By his own testimony, he had been a mediocre preacher until God got hold of him and filled his life. Out of this came the “Evangelism Explosion” program for training laymen to share their faith. Soon, the church began to experience great growth and Dr. Kennedy was given celebrity status in preaching conferences across America. In the last few decades of his ministry, he was constantly on television. From that pulpit and in print, he preached a message of conservative Christian doctrine and conservative politics through which he called this nation to return to Christ.
Now, the new pastor is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham by their oldest daughter Gigi. His name is Tullian Tchividjian. The newspaper even tells how to pronounce his name: TUH’-lee-uhn chuh-VI-dee-uhn.
“But some Kennedy loyalists, including his daughter Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, are upset with the direction Tchividjian is taking the church and have called for his ouster.” (T-P article)
So, what is this heretic doing that would provoke such a hostile reaction?
First, he looks different. “His hair is spiky, his beard sometimes scruffy, his skin tan. He has forgone wearing a choir robe at services.”
In other words, he looks like half the young pastors in America.
Second, “he has rejected politics as the most important way to change the country.”
A letter circulating through the church from the dissidents charges the young pastor with deceiving the leadership when they first considered him for their pulpit. And just how? They’re not saying.
Is it theology? Is Tchividjian preaching false doctrine? Nope. Apparently, they have no trouble with that.
There is the matter that the new pastor brought in the staff from his previous church (New City Presbyterian) and “they have taken complete control.”
The letter accuses the pastor and his staff of “violations of ethical standards that have guarded the purity of the church for decades.”
What violations, what standards? They’re not saying.
When invited to a meeting to discuss these matters, the dissidents did not show up.
Now, I’m tempted to say here “I don’t have a dog in this fight” and leave it there. But I do have one. Every disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ has something at stake every time a church goes through this kind of internal conflict.
If indeed there are important ethical or biblical standards being violated, then the plaintiffs–if they’re not to that point yet, it would appear they’re getting close–should speak up and say so.
If not, I have some counsel for them: walk away from this.
It ain’t your father’s church, dear.