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.