(Photo: AP Images /Wilfredo Lee, File)
Members of a prominent Florida megachurch voted overwhelmingly Sunday to call the Rev. William Graham Tullian Tchividjian to serve as its new senior minister.
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church members also agreed to merge with Tchividjian’s New City Presbyterian Church in Margate and elected its officers to serve the Fort Lauderdale congregation.
Tchividjian, a grandson of world renowned evangelist Billy Graham, called Sunday “momentous and historic.”
“91% of the congregation voted to support the call,” he reported Sunday in his church blog. “That is a much higher percentage than I anticipated given the fact that this call involved a merger of two congregations.
“God made his will known with an exclamation point this morning,” the 36-year-old minister exclaimed.
In January, Coral Ridge’s Pulpit Nominating Committee (PNC) had extended an invitation to Tchividjian to become the megachurch’s new senior pastor after reviewing more than 150 candidates for nearly a year. The committee had been combing for a pastoral candidate to recommend to the Coral Ridge congregation since the retirement of its founding pastor, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, in August 2007 and his death less than two weeks later.
As it turned out, however, Tchividjian said he would only join Coral Ridge if the rest of his church did as well.
“Only if agreeable terms on all of these fronts can be reached and those terms approved by both church sessions would Tchividjian formally accept the call and the two become one,” New City announced officially, listing legal, financial, ministerial, structural and philosophical matters as things needing to be discussed and hammered out.
Since the Jan. 18 announcement, leaders from the two sides have been spending long hours working out the details of the proposed merger. And, as Tchividjian made clear last month, the efforts were “not simply a formality to ‘close a deal’ that’s already been made.”
“All of us are willing to walk away at a moment’s notice if God says ‘stop!’” he insisted.
After nearly two months, Coral Ridge elders and New City elders got together last week and voted “unanimously and enthusiastically to support and approve the merger,” leading to Tchividjian’s acceptance of the PNC’s invitation.
The unanimous vote this past Sunday was held after Tchividjian preached at Coral Ridge and now moves the decision to the South Florida Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Coral Ridge’s denomination, which will examine the candidate for his views in all areas of ministry.
Once approved, Tchividjian will be installed at a special Service of Installation as Coral Ridge’s new senior minister – its second in five decades – and the two churches will begin worshipping together on Easter Sunday.
“I have never prayed so hard,” Tchividjian reported the day before Sunday’s vote. “I have never felt more desperately dependent on God."
“I sincerely and genuinely want whatever God wants,” he added.
Coincidentally, it was Tchividjian’s grandfather, Billy Graham, who preached the dedication sermon for the then-new sanctuary of Coral Ridge on Feb. 3, 1974. Coral Ridge was also the church that Tchividjian attended as a young man before straying from the path at the age of 16 and returning again at the age of 21.
New City Presybterian Church, a congregation of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), was founded by Tchividjian in 2003 and draws between 600 to 700 attendees each week. Coral Ridge, meanwhile, boasts around 2,200 members and was one of the country's first megachurches.