WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. — Less than three months following his resignation as senior pastor of a megachurch over his admission to having an affair, and less than two weeks after he filed for divorce from his wife, Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, has been hired by Willow Creek Presbyterian Church in Florida to serve as director of ministry development.
As previously reported, Tchividjian, 42, the son of Virginia Graham, took over the pulpit of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in 2009 following the passing of founder D. James Kennedy. However, the selection divided the congregation, as some approved and others disapproved of his leadership. Several months after he accepted the job, Kennedy’s daughter and others began calling for his removal.
When a vote was taken over the matter and it was decided to keep Tchividjian as pastor, some left the church and started their own congregation.
As an author, Tchividjian wrote against what he saw as “spiritual performancism” and legalism in the Church, outlining his beliefs in the hyper-grace book “One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.”
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose; because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak; because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary; because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail,” he wrote.
Tchividjian announced in June that he had resigned as senior pastor of Coral Ridge after admitting to leadership that he had inappropriately become close to another woman after he discovered that his wife had been having an affair.
“I resigned from my position at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church today due to ongoing marital issues,” he wrote in a statement. “As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family.”
“As her affair continued, we separated. Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself,” Tchividjian continued. “Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign.”
The former megachurch leader was then stripped of his ministerial credentials, and announced earlier this month that he was filing for divorce from his wife.
Paul Tripp, a pastor who consequently counseled Tchividjian following his admission, wrote in a public statement last week that he had concluded that Tchividjian’s marriage was “irreparably broken.” It is believed that Tripp’s counsel to Tchividjian was a factor in the decision to file for divorce.
“Sadly, there are times in this broken world where things that have been damaged by sin don’t get put together again. So, we groan, reminded that sin still lives inside us, that we live in a shattered world and that God’s work of redemption is not yet complete,” he said. “It has been with sadness that I, along with others, have come slowly and cautiously to the conclusion that his marriage is irreparably broken.”
“There are times when the trust is so deeply broken and patterns so set in place that it seems best to recognize that brokenness, cry out for God’s grace, mourn, commit to forgiveness, rest in the truths of the gospel and with a grieved heart, move on,” Tripp asserted.
Less than two weeks after the filing, Willow Creek Presbyterian Church in Winter Springs has announced that it has hired Tchividjian to serve as Director of Ministry Development.
“We’re so delighted to welcome Tullian Tchividjian to the staff of Willow Creek Church,” the announcement reads. “Most recently, Tullian served as the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and founded Liberate, a ministry devoted to connecting God’s inexhaustible grace to an exhausted world. He loves the beach, loves to exercise, and when he has time, he loves to surf. He’s also a huge fan of both the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Heat.”
Leader Kevin Labby defended the decision this week to Warren Throckmorton of Patheos.
“I understand that some might disagree with the timing. We sense genuine confession and contrition from Tullian, and are eager to welcome him to Willow Creek,” Labby said. “We want to see the process of repentance continue in the context of a loving church family. We believe that it is important for the church to demonstrate faith in the reconciling power of the gospel by running toward those pastors caught in public scandal, not away from them.
“Tullian will be helping us strengthen our connections with mercy ministries in the local community, helping us strengthen and better coordinate our efforts to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the weary, and provide other forms of mercy ministry,” he stated.
But some have expressed concern, that it is too soon for Tchividjian to be serving in any type of capacity in the Church.
“We moan and groan that the world no longer takes the Church seriously. Can it be that the problem is that the Church no longer is worth taking seriously? We certainly don’t seem to take sin and its consequences seriously,” writes Stephen Todd, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Toronto, Canada. “The church’s hiring announcement doesn’t even acknowledge that there might be some concerns about this man’s fitness for ministry.”
He points to the qualifications outlined in Titus 1, which include being “blameless” and “the husband of one wife.”
Tony Arsenal of “The Reformed Arsenal,” while recanting some of his initial comments about the matter this week, said on Wednesday that he still opposes Tchividjian’s appointment overall.
“I still believe that this is an unwise decision, and that it is inappropriate for Tullian to be serving in any role as an employee of the Church, especially one that is in any way tangentially connected to the ministry of the gospel,” he wrote.
Calls to Willow Creek Presbyterian Church were unreturned.