(RNS) Tullian Tchividjian said he hopes his life can be a warning to others.
The grandson of evangelist Billy Graham was fired from his latest post at Willow Creek Presbyterian Church in Winter Springs, Fla., after confessing last Monday (March 14) to what church senior pastor Kevin Labby described as an “inappropriate relationship.” A year earlier, Tchividjian had resigned as the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church after admitting to an affair.
“I deeply regret my actions and putting myself in the compromising position that led me to sin the way I did,” Tchividjian said. “My heart grieves for all of those that have been hurt by my selfishness and foolishness. I am extremely sorry for the pain I’ve caused my ex-wife and my kids.”
Willow Creek’s board of elders fired him after he disclosed the relationship.
“I am so thankful for the elders of Willow Creek Church who have been nothing but gracious and firm with me since I have arrived and they continue to do so today. Even though this previous sin happened before I came to Willow Creek, it pains me deeply to know that something from my past could in any way hurt these gracious people today,” he said.
More than half the board of Tchividjian’s LIBERATE Network also resigned last week after they were made aware of the relationship. As of Monday (March 21), its board of directors had announced on its website it was canceling its planned 2017 Liberate Conference and dissolving the organization.
And an elder at Coral Ridge in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., resigned from that church after admitting he had known about Tchividjian’s relationship in 2014 and failed to report it, according to a statement from the church. A second elder also was aware of the affair, but he since has moved and no longer is part of the church, it said.
“We are saddened that these two elders failed in their vows by withholding this information regarding our former senior pastor, which has since caused many families and churches much harm,” the statement said.
Coral Ridge has not had contact with its former senior pastor since he resigned last summer, according to the statement.
Hunter Frederick of Frederick & Associates, a spokesman for Tchividjian, clarified that the relationship that led to last week’s firing took place before the affair that led him to resign from Coral Ridge. The elder board at Coral Ridge had not advised him to keep it from his wife, Frederick said, but to be cautious in how he told her as “there were children involved.”
Tchividjian was hired by Willow Creek in September in a nonministerial role Labby described as a sabbatical, intended to allow Tchividjian to get counseling. But that was “predicated on trust,” Labby said — something elders felt was compromised after last week’s disclosure.
On a podcast broadcast a few months after that sabbatical began, Tchividjian said he knew an affair could be a “career killer — at least in my experience with pastors and church leaders.”
“I hope and pray that the events in my own life over the past couple years serve as a warning to all who, like I did, believe they are standing firm,” Tchividjian said.
“Sin is deep. It is real. It destroys. It deceives. May this be an opportunity for all of us to examine our own hearts and beg God for the mercy and forgiveness we all need.”
(Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS)