FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The grandson of evangelist Billy Graham resigned last week from his role as pastor of a Florida megachurch after admitting to being involved in an inappropriate relationship.
Tullian Tchividjian, 42, the son of Virginia Graham, took over the pulpit of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in 2009 following the passing of founder D. James Kennedy. However, the selection divided the congregation, as some approved and others disapproved of his leadership. Several months after he accepted the job, Kennedy’s daughter and others began calling for his removal.
When a vote was taken over the matter and it was decided to keep Tchividjian as pastor, some left the church and started their own congregation.
As an author, Tchividjian wrote against what he saw as “spiritual performancism” and legalism in the Church, outlining his beliefs in the hyper-grace book “One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.”
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose; because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak; because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary; because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail,” he wrote.
“[I]t seems that the good news of God’s grace has been tragically hijacked by an oppressive religious moralism that is all about rules, rules, and more rules; doing more, trying harder, self-help, getting better, and fixing, fixing, fixing—ourselves, our kids, our spouse, our friends, our enemies, our culture, our world,” Tchividjian further explained the Religion News Service in 2013.
He also spoke negatively of the “religious right,” stating that its “close association between the church and politics has done big-time damage to the brand of Christianity in the public sphere.”
“I basically almost refuse to make any kind of public commentary on anything other than the gospel [from the pulpit],” Tchividjian told the Christian Post last year, opining that pastors should not be seeking to “champion a political or social agenda.”
On Monday, Tchividjian announced that he had resigned as senior pastor of Coral Ridge after admitting to leadership that he had inappropriately poured out his heart to another woman after he discovered that his wife had been having an affair.
“I resigned from my position at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church today due to ongoing marital issues,” he wrote in a statement. “As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family.”
“As her affair continued, we separated. Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself,” Tchividjian continued. “Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign.”
He said that he is sorry for his behavior and is asking for prayer as he seeks healing in his marriage.
“Both my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions and we ask you to pray for us and our family that God would give us the grace we need to weather this heart wrenching storm,” Tchividjian stated. “We are amazingly grateful for the team of men and women who are committed to walking this difficult path with us. Please pray for the healing of deep wounds and we kindly ask that you respect our privacy.”
Rob Pacienza, executive pastor at Coral Ridge, also released a statement to reporters.
“Several days ago, Pastor Tullian admitted to moral failure, acknowledging his actions disqualify him from continuing to serve as senior pastor or preach from the pulpit, and resigned—effective immediately,” he said. “We are saddened by this news, but are working with and assisting Pastor Tullian and his family to help them through this difficult time, and asking people to join us in praying that God will bring restoration through this process and healing to all involved.”
“No vertical condemnation does not mean no horizontal consequences,” Tchividjian posted on Twitter this afternoon. “Surrender early.”