Tullian Tchividjian

Coral Ridge Dissidents Go From D. James Kennedy to Gary Cass

For the last several weeks, we've been watching the fight taking place at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the church founded by the late D. James Kennedy where an effort led by Kennedy's daughter, Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy of Coral Ridge Ministries, to remove Tullian Tchividjian from his position as Kennedy's replacement recently failed.

Tchividjian attributed the removal effort to the fact that he doesn't "preach politics from the pulpit" like Kennedy did and that has apparently upset Kennedy's daughter and others in the church, who are now breaking away entirely and forming their own church, complete with sermons from Gary Cass of the ultra-right-wing Christian Anti-Defamation Commission:

A new congregation may be in the birthing by dissident members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church who failed to oust Pastor Tullian Tchividjian last week.

The dissidents, who lost a congregational vote Sept. 20 to fire Tchividjian from the Fort Lauderdale church, held a worship service in Coconut Creek on Sunday, drawing a reported 400-plus people. Among them were Coral Ridge's choir leader and organist, both of whom resigned last week.

"This is definitely a breakaway church," said Ronald Boender, a former Coral Ridge supporter and founder of Butterfly World, where the service was held. "There is absolutely no going back."

With the working name of The Church -- members will choose a formal name later -- the group has already applied for 501(c)3 nonprofit status, said Jim Filosa, one of the leaders. He said the group plans a closed meeting of an "organizational committee" tonight.

The service followed the resignation last week of Samuel Metzger, Coral Ridge's organist, and choir director John Wilson. Also last week, the church fired Carol Wilson from her volunteer job as director of its concert series.

John Wilson and Metzger helped conduct the Sunday service, packing a building at Butterfly World. Wilson directed a 65-singer choir, many of whom left the Coral Ridge choir last week. Metzger traded his spot at Coral Ridge's five-keyboard pipe organ for an organ synthesizer at the service.

...

Preaching the sermon was the Rev. Gary Cass, founder of the California-based Christian Anti-Defamation Commission. Cass was executive director of Coral Ridge Ministries' Center for Reclaiming America from 2004 until 2007, when it closed.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Randall Terry and company are now targeting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • The Freedom Foundation of Texas has received Focus on the Family Action's "Family Champion Award."
  • Tullian Tchividjian says members of D. James Kennedy's church tried to oust him because he wasn't talking about politics enough from the pulpit.
  • Do you remember the brothers responsible for Huck's Army? The are now working to save thousands from wasting their youth.
  • The Alliance Defense Fund has announced its second Pulpit Freedom Sunday, to be held on September 27 in order to challenge IRS restrictions on what pastors and priests can say.

Tchividjian Survives Right-Wing Removal Attempt

Last month we noted that Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, the daughter of D. James Kennedy, had been banned from Coral Ridge Church, which was founded by her father. Cassidy, along with several others, had been banned due to their opposition to Kennedy's replacement, Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham.

Cassidy, who still works for Coral Ridge Ministries, the right-wing political arm of her father's Religious Right empire, and the others were apparently angry that Tchividjian had begun moving the church away from her father's right-wing political activism and sought to have him removed.

Over the weekend, church members voted on the question of whether to remove him and Tchividjian retained his position with overwhelming support:

Members of the influential Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church voted overwhelmingly Sunday to keep W. Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of the evangelist Billy Graham, as their spiritual leader.

Tchividjian was named senior pastor of the Fort Lauderdale mega-church six months ago. He has come under scrutiny ever since he vowed to the set the church on a different path from that charted by his predecessor, D. James Kennedy, who built Coral Ridge into a religious and political powerhouse on a bedrock of Christian conservatism.

Church members cast ballots at a closed 11 a.m. meeting, and backed Tchividjian by a vote of 940-422, a margin of about 69 percent to 31 percent.

Tchividjian, 37, doesn't preach politics. He is more apt to focus on specific Biblical passages than on the news du jour, prefers drum sets to an organ, and has chosen podcasting over broadcasting.

His approach alarmed some members of the church, who preferred Kennedy's traditional services and his willingness to tackle topics such as same-sex marriage and abortion. Six church members, including Kennedy's daughter, Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, were banned from the premises in August after they distributed fliers criticizing the new pastor on church grounds.

By Sept. 9, more than 400 members had petitioned for Tchividjian's removal. It was then that a group of church elders called for Sunday's meeting.

They brought in a member of the national governing body of Presbyterian churches to moderate the members-only meeting. Coral Ridge has about 2,000 active members.

Ten spoke for Tchividjian's removal, according to spokesman Mark DeMoss. They faulted him for not maintaining the legacy of Kennedy and for altering traditions, such as calling for visitors to come to Jesus at the end of every sermon.

Ten spoke in favor of keeping Tchividjian, noting that church membership is increasing and that the congregation should stay united.

...

Tchividjian's predecessor launched Coral Ridge in 1959, and built it into a sprawling campus in the 5500 block of North Federal Highway that now holds a school, a seminary and an international outreach ministry known as Evangelism Explosion International.

He was also a co-founder of the Christian lobby known as the Moral Majority and declared he wanted to ``reclaim America for Christ.''

The Coral Ridge Hour, a television and radio ministry, reached three million viewers in 200 countries at its peak.

Tchividjian pulled the plug on the TV show, which irked some longtime members. He also merged the church with his former congregation, a youthful troupe of 500 that formed the New City Church in Margate.

D. James Kennedy's Daughter Banned From Coral Ridge

Earlier this year, following the 2007 passing of D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church tapped tapped Billy Graham's grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, to take over as pastor of the church.

Tchividjian said he planned to stay away from political issues (though the affiliated Coral Ridge Ministries has continued its right-wing activism) but it looks like the change he has brought about have created some serious conflicts in the congregation, leading to the banning of Kennedy's daughter Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, and several others from the church:

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 and those members spearheading an effort to fire him. In recent weeks, the dissidents have sent two letters and a petition form to call a congregational meeting and put an end to his 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," Tchividjian's letter says.

Besides Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, the six people banned are Lorna Bryan, Kaye Carlson, Romeo DeMarco, and Jim and Jeanne Filosa. Tchividjian has ordered them 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 evangelist Billy 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 lastTuesday 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.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • WorldNetDaily reports that "Birther" Orly Taitz flew and drove thousands of miles to confront Chief Justice John Roberts about why the Supreme Court continually refuses to hear their cases and Roberts responded by promising to read all of her documents.
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry will be joined by Gary Bauer for the 2009 State Prayer Breakfast where Bauer will be delivering the keynote address.
  • Could Norm Coleman really be in line to take over the RNC if Michael Steele is ousted?  Could we be that lucky?
  • Tullian Tchividjian has officially been chosen as the next pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, replacing the late D. James Kennedy. As such, it seems worth highlighting this: "Kennedy's preaching against homosexuality and abortion made him one of evangelical Christianity's most divisive figures, and he worked to inject his faith in all aspects of public life and the political process, like his allies the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Tchividjian insists he holds the same theological positions as Kennedy, but he cuts a far different image."
  • If I were the type to employ the right-wing tactic of taking isolated incidents to make sweeping generalizations, I'd probably have a field day with these two incidents.
  • Finally, the Traditional Values Coalition has announced that it is launching its own blog ... and presumably they'll even get it to actually work at some point.

 

Changes Underway At Coral Ridge

Shortly before D. James Kennedy passed away in 2007, his Coral Ridge Ministries announced that it was shutting down its Center for Reclaiming America, the home of its right-wing activism, in favor of concentrating on expanding its audience via its media productions.  And that is what it did, unveiling various videos during the election on how Christianity is being “suppressed” in America by liberals and the “militant homosexual agenda" and that hate crimes legislation will result in the “criminalization of Christianity.”

But for the most part, Coral Ridge has been relatively silent lately on political and culture war issues ... and now it looks like the church itself is about to undergo a significant change.  Yesterday I mentioned that Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church had tapped Billy Graham's grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, to become pastor and today, via AU's Wall of Separation, we come to find out that Tchividijan intends to remove the church from politics and politics from the church:

When D. James Kennedy, the influential pastor who pushed conservative politics from the pulpit of Fort Lauderdale's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, died in 2007, members lost the fiery leadership of the man who built it from a congregation of a few dozen to more than 10,000 with internationally viewed television and radio programs.

Now, successor William Graham Tullian Tchividjian, 36, grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and head of Margate's relatively small New City Church, is ready to take Coral Ridge in a new direction.

Tchividjian (chi-VID-gen) -- friends call him Tullian -- is no stranger to the church, whose congregants erupted in cheers Sunday when they heard he was offered the job. An occasional guest speaker at Coral Ridge who has a radio show on WAFG-FM 90.3, he is expected to modernize the thinking of the church over which Kennedy presided for more than five decades and take it back to the basics of teaching the Bible instead of reigniting the culture wars.

Energetic and easygoing, he will be a stark contrast to the often stiff and formal Kennedy, people familiar with the church say. Kennedy, a notable member of the Moral Majority before its dissolution, rallied against same-sex marriage and evolutionary theory and sought to ``reclaim America for Christ.''

''The impression out there of Coral Ridge is that they are a church that is stuck in the past and unwilling to change,'' said Tchividjian, a father of three who lives in Coconut Creek. ``This move on their part corrects that assumption" ... Tchividjian said he plans to stay away from politics. A registered Republican, he would not answer questions on current political issues, such as same-sex marriage.

Right Wing Leftovers

  • Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, formerly the home church of the late D. James Kennedy, has chosen a new pastor to replace its founder: Rev. Tullian Tchividjian, who just so happens to be the grandson of Billy Graham.
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch stepped in at the last minute and saved Rob Schenck’s annual National Service for the Pre-born by signing on as an official sponsor so that the event could take place in the US Capitol Visitor Center.
  • Sean Hannity has thrown his support to Michael Steele for Republican National Committee Chairman.
  • Connecticut Democrats are calling on Sen. Joe Lieberman to apologize for a litany of things, including his support of John Hagee.
  • Ralph Reed stayed away from Barack Obama’s Inauguration yesterday, but still couldn’t help but get overwhelmed by the emotions of the day – not because of our historic new president but because “it was a lot more emotional to watch George W. Bush depart the capital than I thought it would be.”
  • Finally, Matt Barber is not happy with the new White House’s proclamation of “support for the LGBT community,” seeing it as evidence that “Barack Obama’s administration will likely be the most leftist, divisive and discriminatory in recent memory”:
The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated.  Right out of the shoot, Obama has told the world that he is signing off, without exception, on every demand of the extremist homosexual and transsexual lobbies.  The radical homosexual agenda and religious and free speech liberties cannot occupy the same space.  It’s a zero-sum game.  When 1 - 2 percent of the population is granted special rights based on deviant sexual proclivities and changeable sexual behaviors, to the detriment of everyone else, that’s called tyranny of the minority.  People of faith and those of you with traditional values: hold on to your hats – it’s going to be a bumpy four years.
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Tullian Tchividjian Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 09/29/2009, 9:20am
For the last several weeks, we've been watching the fight taking place at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the church founded by the late D. James Kennedy where an effort led by Kennedy's daughter, Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy of Coral Ridge Ministries, to remove Tullian Tchividjian from his position as Kennedy's replacement recently failed. Tchividjian attributed the removal effort to the fact that he doesn't "preach politics from the pulpit" like Kennedy did and that has apparently upset Kennedy's daughter and others in the church, who are now breaking... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 09/24/2009, 4:30pm
Randall Terry and company are now targeting the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Freedom Foundation of Texas has received Focus on the Family Action's "Family Champion Award." Tullian Tchividjian says members of D. James Kennedy's church tried to oust him because he wasn't talking about politics enough from the pulpit. Do you remember the brothers responsible for Huck's Army? The are now working to save thousands from wasting their youth. The Alliance Defense Fund has announced its second Pulpit Freedom Sunday, to be held on September 27 in order... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 09/21/2009, 9:39am
Last month we noted that Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, the daughter of D. James Kennedy, had been banned from Coral Ridge Church, which was founded by her father. Cassidy, along with several others, had been banned due to their opposition to Kennedy's replacement, Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham. Cassidy, who still works for Coral Ridge Ministries, the right-wing political arm of her father's Religious Right empire, and the others were apparently angry that Tchividjian had begun moving the church away from her father's right-wing political activism and sought to have him removed... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 08/10/2009, 1:13pm
Earlier this year, following the 2007 passing of D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church tapped tapped Billy Graham's grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, to take over as pastor of the church.Tchividjian said he planned to stay away from political issues (though the affiliated Coral Ridge Ministries has continued its right-wing activism) but it looks like the change he has brought about have created some serious conflicts in the congregation, leading to the banning of Kennedy's daughter Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, and several others from the church:Six members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 03/16/2009, 4:46pm
WorldNetDaily reports that "Birther" Orly Taitz flew and drove thousands of miles to confront Chief Justice John Roberts about why the Supreme Court continually refuses to hear their cases and Roberts responded by promising to read all of her documents.Texas Governor Rick Perry will be joined by Gary Bauer for the 2009 State Prayer Breakfast where Bauer will be delivering the keynote address.Could Norm Coleman really be in line to take over the RNC if Michael Steele is ousted?  Could we be that lucky?Tullian Tchividjian has officially been chosen as the next pastor of... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 01/22/2009, 3:17pm
Shortly before D. James Kennedy passed away in 2007, his Coral Ridge Ministries announced that it was shutting down its Center for Reclaiming America, the home of its right-wing activism, in favor of concentrating on expanding its audience via its media productions.  And that is what it did, unveiling various videos during the election on how Christianity is being “suppressed” in America by liberals and the “militant homosexual agenda" and that hate crimes legislation will result in the “criminalization of Christianity.” But for the most part, Coral... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 01/21/2009, 5:33pm
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, formerly the home church of the late D. James Kennedy, has chosen a new pastor to replace its founder: Rev. Tullian Tchividjian, who just so happens to be the grandson of Billy Graham. Sen. Orrin Hatch stepped in at the last minute and saved Rob Schenck’s annual National Service for the Pre-born by signing on as an official sponsor so that the event could take place in the US Capitol Visitor Center. Sean Hannity has thrown his support to Michael Steele for Republican National Committee Chairman. Connecticut Democrats are calling on Sen.... MORE >