Dr. D. James Kennedy, one of the nation's most prominent Christian pastors and broadcasters, has retired from the pulpit of the Florida megachurch he founded nearly 50 years ago, his daughter announced Sunday.
After suffering cardiac arrest in December, Kennedy has been unable to return to lead Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale. He preached his last sermon last year on Christmas Eve.
"Dr. Kennedy's retirement from the church is a very significant event in the life of this local congregation," said Brian E. Fisher, executive vice president of Coral Ridge Ministries, a multi-media organization separate from the church. "Our prayers are with him, his family, and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church as it seeks a Senior Minister to fill the pastoral leadership role held with such distinction and impact by Dr. Kennedy."
According to Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, who announced her father's retirement during service on Sunday, the long-range planning committee and denominational session have been developing the next steps to ensure the nearly 10,000-member church continues to grow and thrive.
In the latest update on Kennedy's health last week, the 76-year-old senior pastor returned home after brief hospitalization for a medical procedure that was reportedly successful and will improve his physical health and stamina. Kennedy is being cared for by his wife Anne and professional caregivers at his home.
When Kennedy founded Coral Ridge church in 1959, he told his then small flock that he believes they can change the world. He then began broadcasting his sermons in 1974 through a media ministry that has grown its outreach to about 3 million listeners and viewers worldwide. Kennedy has been described as a courageous figure in his bold approach of applying Scripture to the culture.
Calling Kennedy one of the Church's "truly significant figures," Dr. James C. Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, said: "For decades now, you have stood strong in defense of faith, family, and most importantly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Believers around the world are indebted to you for your vision and leadership, Dr. Kennedy."
Frank Wright, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), noted, "Dr. Kennedy is a man among men who will continue to cast a long shadow in the lives of those who know and love him.
Kennedy was inducted into the NRB's hall of fame last year.
Despite Kennedy's retirement, Fisher said Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM) will not be directly affected especially as it pushes toward an aggressive five-year plan to grow its audience to 30 million people by 2012.
"Dr. Kennedy's vision for CRM has always been to reach as many people as possible for the Gospel through media, and our long range plan embodies that vision," said Fisher in a statement. "Our beloved pastor and teacher has laid an incredible foundation for us to carry on his work of taking the Gospel to all nations and peoples."
A Tribute Worship Service honoring the extensive ministry of Kennedy will be held on Sept. 23.
The process of naming Kennedy's successor may take one to two years. The Coral Ridge congregation will have the final say on the new senior pastor.