Famed Fla. Megachurch to Vote on Fate of New Minister

Elders at the famed megachurch founded by the late D. James Kennedy have scheduled a congregational meeting for this Sunday to determine the fate of their new senior pastor, the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian.

At the end of the meeting, members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in good standing will vote on whether or not to dissolve the relationship with Tchividjian, who had been installed this past Easter as the Ft. Lauderdale church's second senior minister in five decades.

Though 91 percent of the congregation had voted in March to support the call for Tchividjian to serve as their new senior minister, six dissenters distributed a letter and petition to church members late July calling upon them to "reverse course before it is too late."

"We have seen a complete lack of respect towards the congregation and for long standing traditions that have been part of Coral Ridge's rich heritage for decades," stated the letter signed by Kennedy's daughter, Jennifer Cassidy, and five others.

"We were told many things that all sounded good at the time, but in fact those soothing words have largely proven empty and it keeps getting worse," the dissenters added.

Because the petition was able to collect the minimum 100 signatures needed, church elders were required under their Book of Church Order to call for a congregational meeting for the purpose of conducting the business requested by the petitioners – namely to vote on whether or not to "amicably" dissolve the relationship with Tchividjian and the merger of Coral Ridge and New City Church, the Margate-based church Tchividjian had founded in 2003.

During the meeting, church members in good standing will discuss and decide issues "in an orderly and fair manner," as instructed by the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Coral Ridge's affiliated denomination.

"[N]o ad hominem arguments should be allowed and speakers must address the issue at hand without impugning the character and motives of others. In other words, slander and speculation will not be permitted," the Session of Elders explained in their letter announcing the meeting.

So far, those opposed to Tchividjian's leadership have listed a number of reasons for the removal of their new senior pastor, including his alleged failure to present the Gospel clearly, his failure to raise awareness on current issues, and the replacement of CRPC staff with "less qualified staff members who are, however, 'loyal' to the new administration."

"[I]f the purity and stability of the church is to be restored, something must be done and our current Elders are not up to the task without significant pressure from the members of the congregation," they say.

Notably, however, a vast majority of the congregation has continued to rally behind their new pastor, with many arguing that the dissenters' main issue is with Tchividjian's methodology, not theology.

 In their announcement of the upcoming meeting, church elders "strongly" recommended that all members in good standing assemble Sunday at 11 a.m. to vote in favor of keeping Tchividjian as the church's senior minister.

"We believe God has called Tullian here and anointed him to lead this church," the Session of Elders wrote. "We firmly believe he is God's man for this place at this time."

The elders further reminded the congregation that the determination to remove a pastor "is more than a matter of personal preferences."

"It goes way beyond what each individual may like or dislike. It requires the discernment of God's will to identify His anointed and is not to be done without much prayerful consideration," they added.

According to Coral Ridge's Book of Church Order, the basis for removing a pastor should be limited to heresy, immorality, or illegal activity.

However, it also states that if 100 members in a church of 700 or more sign a petition and submit it to the elders, the elders have to call a congregational meeting.

Coral Ridge Church, founded by the late D. James Kennedy in 1960, has just over 2,500 members.