Church Elders OK Merger of Kennedy's Coral Ridge, Tchividjian's New City

A prominent Fla. megachurch and the church of its prospective senior pastor are moving forward with the process of merging following a unanimous vote earlier this week.

On Monday night, elders of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale and elders of New City Church in Margate met to go over all of the work that the merger team had been engaged in over the last 7 weeks.

"A letter of agreement (LOA), which was drafted by our attorney, along with the amended by-laws and articles of incorporation were discussed in detail. Questions were asked. Answers were provided," reported New City senior pastor Tullian Tchividjian, who had been tapped earlier this year as the top candidate for Coral Ridge's new senior pastor.

"And I am happy to report this morning that both elder boards voted unanimously and enthusiastically to support and approve the merger. Praise God," exclaimed Tchividjian, whose grandfather is the world renowned evangelist Billy Graham.

In January, Coral Ridge's Pulpit Nominating Committee (PNC) had extended an invitation to Tchividjian, 36, 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.

The PNC eventually narrowed down the list to 15 in May 2008 before finally settling on Tchividjian. But, as it turned out, 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.

"Legal matters, financial matters, ministerial matters, structural matters, and philosophical matters, will be among the list of things needing to be discussed and hammered out," noted officials of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) congregation. Coral Ridge is affiliated with the similarly conservative Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

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 stated.

Now that agreeable terms have been reached and approved by the elder boards of both churches, Tchividjian has accepted the PNC's invitation and will preach this Sunday at Coral Ridge, where the congregation will vote on whether to officially issue the call to Tchividjian to become the senior minister of the church.

If the vote is unanimous or nearly so, the results shall be brought to the South Florida Presbytery, where the candidate will be examined 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.

"God is clearly up to something big," Tchividjian wrote in his blog Wednesday, announcing Monday's vote.

"If this moves forward, I will consider it a high and holy privilege to serve and love and teach and lay my life down for those who move ahead with us," he added. "We will move ahead together – side by side, back to back!"

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