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.