Responding to public criticism concerning his hiring of Billy Graham's grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, senior pastor of Willow Creek Church in Winter Springs, Florida, Kevin Labby, said Wednesday that no church rules were broken in hiring Tchividjian who was deposed by the Presbyterian Church last month.
"As a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, I proactively reached out to the South Florida Presbytery through the chairman of the committee overseeing Tullian's care and discipline process. I wanted to make sure that we were pursuing this course decently and in good order," wrote Labby in a letter sent to blogger Tony Arsenal, a graduate of Bethel University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, who remains opposed to Tchividjian's hiring.
Willow Creek Church recently announced Tchividjian's appointment as director of ministry development on its website. This coming less than two weeks after he filed for divorce from his wife, Kim, about three weeks since he was deposed by the Presbyterian Church, and about two months since he resigned from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida due to an extramarital affair.
The announcement caused consternation in some church circles but Labby sought to tamp down those concerns in his letter on Wednesday.
"We received an encouraging word that while Tullian was indeed deposed from the office of teaching elder, he was not excommunicated or given further censure. I was very clear in our intent, and nothing in the conversation led me to believe that we were circumventing the South Florida Presbytery's decision," explained Labby.
"We proceeded in good faith. If we were mistaken, it was a joint error. However, and more importantly, I am confident that our system of government can accommodate the error and correct it in a manner that promotes Tullian's growth in grace and the peace and purity of Christ's Church — all with gentleness and respect," he continued.
"The position offered to Tullian is a non-ordained, support position. Recognizing his deposition from office, it does not involve any functions unique to the office of elder in general or teaching elder in particular. It provides him a community of grace in which to work and worship; the means to provide for his family; and an opportunity to display his repentance before the body of Christ. For these reasons, we are overjoyed and eager to welcome him into our church family," added Labby.
On Aug. 11, about two weeks before Tchividjian filed for divorce, the South Florida Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America voted to depose or strip Tchividjian of his ordination credentials due to the turmoil in his personal life. This move prevents him from performing duties as a minister of the Gospel.
"While Pastor Tullian Tchividjian was deposed of his pastoral credentials, the South Florida Presbytery is committed to continuing to offer him pastoral care. Our goal in doing this is to both protect the integrity of the Church from which his credentials were given while, at the same time, wrapping Tullian in the grace offered by Jesus Christ to all those who confess sin, pursue repentance and desire restoration," the Presbytery noted in a statement on their decision.