Tullian Tchividjian fired from Florida church over ‘previously undisclosed failures’

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Tullian Tchividjian is the author of "Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free," that released last month. He is also the former senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL and the grandson of Billy Graham. Religion News Service file photo

Tullian Tchividjian is the author of "Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free," that released last month. He is also the former senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL and the grandson of Billy Graham. Religion News Service file photo

(RNS) Tullian Tchividjian, who resigned as the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church last year after admitting to an affair, has been fired from his new position at Willow Creek Presbyterian Church in Winter Springs, Fla.

Tchividjian, grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, came forward to church elders Monday with “some previously undisclosed failures in his life,” said Willow Creek Pastor Kevin Labby. Labby later confirmed those “failures” were “an inappropriate relationship” and declined to comment on specifics.

More than half the board of Tchividjian’s ministry, the LIBERATE Network, also resigned this week after they were made aware of the relationship.

“What we were trying to do was all predicated on trust, and the elders felt as though that trust had been compromised,” Labby said Thursday (March 17).

Tchividjian resigned as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last year after an affair. He since has filed for divorce from his wife.

He joined Willow Creek in September and originally had been given the title of director of ministry development at Willow Creek, which Labby said was “poorly chosen” and a “mistake” on his part. Really, the pastor said, it was a sabbatical “set up to care for him and his family so he could pursue healing and counseling and rest.” Tchividjian had no ministerial role and worked completely behind the scenes at the church, Labby said.

The 43-year-old pastor had attended Willow Creek while in seminary, Labby said. Wednesday was Tchividjian’s last day at the church.


READ: Pastor freed by Iran reportedly refuses marriage counseling


“He’d been going to counseling,” Labby said. “He’d been doing everything we asked of him. It’s really unfortunate.

“The way he responded to the elders’ decision was so good. He showed such contrition and humility. He didn’t push back. I really think it was something that probably sat there for a long time. It’s just hard to bring everything out.”

Those elders also asked the pastor to step down from the board of LIBERATE, which Tchividijan created in 2011, because “they didn’t want to blur the line there,” Labby said. Five board members have resigned, too, including two other board members who are part of Willow Creek, he said.

LIBERATE recently announced it was relaunching as what Labby called a “message”-based ministry, rather than a “messenger”-based ministry, focused around Tchividjian. It is a resource ministry whose mission is “to connect God’s inexhaustible grace to an exhausted world” through multimedia, according to its website.

Messages sent to Tchividjian via Twitter were not immediately returned, though he told Christianity Today he was committed to the process of repentance.

“Nothing grieves me more than the fact that people are suffering because of my sins, both in my past as well as in the present. I want to be perfectly clear that I take full responsibility for this,” he told the magazine.

(Emily McFarlan Miller is an RNS reporter)

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  • Loren Haas

    You keep using that word “affair”, but it was much more than that. It is alleged that TullIan used his position as pastor to seduce women in his congregation to have sex with him. That is professional malpractice. Time to lawyer up TullIan and Coral Ridge.

  • Mel

    Gossiping is a sin that causes others to sin too.

  • Mirecourt

    This is the truth: He is guilty of clergy sexual abuse with one of his congregants; this is not an “affair” but an abuse of power and a grave betrayal of both a sacred and fiduciary trust as well as spiritual incest within the family of God. It causes extreme psychological and spiritual trauma for victims.

  • edward

    “LIBERATE recently announced it was relaunching as what Labby called a “message”-based ministry, rather than a “messenger”-based ministry”. These words give a big hint as to what the problem is. No “ministry” is Christian if it focuses on any messenger other than Christ Jesus. That goes as well for Tullian’s grandfather’s Billy Graham Evangelistic Association or his uncle’s Samaritan’s Purse or any of the dozens of other false ministries such as Jerry Falwell’s, Oral Robert’s, Joyce Meyer’s, etc, etc.

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  • Wrote on this situation on my blog that deals with the church and infidelity. I dearly hope Tullian did not use his pastoral position to prey on a church member. If true, that would certainly qualify–as I was trained–as ministerial sexual abuse. Very sad. But I am not shocked if true.

  • Ben in oakalnd

    Don’t worry. God will forgive him, and he’ll promise never to do it again. It’s like a divine shampoo: get yourself lathered , rinse off with holy water, and repeat.

    Josh Duggar. Bristol palin. Ted haggard. Kim Davis. Mark Sanford. And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

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  • ARTHUR OVALLE

    despite living in the garbage pile all our lives, failing to do our best, living like dead dogs…..covered with blood and filth……Jesus uttered, while spiked to the tree…..’TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE’

  • Tullian has become sluggish in understanding. For although by this time he ought to be a teacher, he needs someone to teach him the very first principles of God’s Word all over again! He needs milk, not solid food. It is said that anyone who has to drink milk is still a baby, without experience in applying the Word about righteousness. But should he not be eating solid food as a mature teacher, so that his faculties prove trained in distinguishing good from evil? Indeed, if Tullian has already once escaped the pollution’s of the world through knowing our Lord and Deliverer, the Messiah, and is now having ‘again’ become entangled and defeated by them, his latter condition has become worse than his former. It would have been better for him not to have known the Way of righteousness than, fully knowing, to turn from the holy command delivered to him. What has happened to him accords with the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit.” Yes, “The pig washed itself, only to wallow in…

  • David Scott

    I regret anyone’s personal misfortunes. I regret, even more so, what “Christian” hypocrites like this, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Joel Osteen and his ilk of televangelists are doing to the image of American Christianity. And all the while, good Christians are being besmirched by association with these religious entrepreneurs.

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  • Douglas Hornok

    I’m reminded of what C Spurgeon said. “A fallen pastor should sit on the back pew of the church and stay there till his repentance is as wide spread as his offense.” I wish more prominent pastors who fall would heed that advice. We give others a license to sin when we fail to follow a Biblical process of restoration.

  • Rich
  • Rich

    Tullian Tchividjian you have NOT fallen from Grace!
    https://youtu.be/7Hj_9jLlh1Q

  • Jerry N. Wesner

    They said ” He’d been doing everything we asked of him. It’s really unfortunate.” Clearly they forgot to ask him to stop seducing vulnerable congregants.

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  • John

    Good Christians? There are two types of people- sinners who think they are saints and saints who know they are sinners. If Paul claimed to he “chief of all sinners” who among us can think himself “good”?

  • Ted

    But they’ll all keep slamming LGBT people as inherently broken from birth. Hypocrisy is like that.

    Evangelicals are not Christians. They’re Bible cultists idolizing a book and whatever some dude made up last time he opened it.

  • Bill

    Yes!

  • Ben in Oakland

    No there are not two types of people, there are the two types of Christians you listed.

    The rest of us– you know, ordinary people who are not insane, not psychopaths. Not criminals– are just recognizing that we’re not perfect, but still are trying to do the best we can.

    Pauls issues, whatever they may have been, are Paul’s issues, not mine.

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  • Brendt Waters

    “It is alleged”, therefore let me call you out on the phraseology of something I am completely uncertain about. #smh

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  • Zachary

    Does this not all come down to expectations of those who attend the congregation? If there is some underlying expectation that the pastor is perfect, any wrong doing will be a letdown of the possibility of the individual member and threaten the underlying hopes of those in attendance of becoming something more than who they are. In such an environment, the hope would be that someday, the congregant’s own short comings will be overcome by faith.

    It would seem that this is why such news doesn’t always rock the boat at congregations. I recall hearing news of pastors getting divorced, struggling through addiction, and even spending some time in jail without losing their jobs. The congregation as a whole had a different expectation of whom and what the role of the pastor was. Of course, as some have rightfully pointed out, this can turn into abuse of power (i.e.: I am going to do this because I know I am forgiven).

  • There is no sin outside the christian mind, but that yoke can be cast off.

  • These are the people who feel so free to judge my morality?

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