The Fragility of Unity
The effort to remove Tullian Tchividjian from Coral Ridge Presbyterian raises questions about how to heal after a conflict.

By now most of you have heard of the conflict at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, the famous church that was pastored by D. James Kennedy for 48 years. (See the Sun-Sentinel article)

This past March, two years after Kennedy's death, Coral Ridge appointed Tullian Tchividjian as his successor. Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham, accepted the call when Coral Ridge agreed to a church merger with his current congregation, New City Church. He came in with 91% of the vote. Yet six months later, the church (against the wishes of the Elders) held a congregational meeting on September 20th to decide whether to fire him.

What went wrong in such a short period of time? How did the unity of the body become so broken? What does this say about loving and bearing with one another? (See Tchividjian's interview with Christianity Today about the conflict)

As an outsider it is not my goal here to present both sides or assign blame to one party. What I want to know is, now that the vote has taken place and one third of those present, over 400 people, voted against Tchividjian, how does reconciliation take place? How does the church restore unity, not just formally but in their hearts? Is it possible for Pastor Tchividjian to restore trust with the 400 people who voted against him? How should he and the Session go about restoring confidence in their leadership?

My guess is that they cannot simply move "full steam ahead" or this conflict will likely erupt again. What kind of teaching needs to come from the pulpit? What texts and topic? What about on a personal level? Does some kind of "Truth and Reconciliation" meetings need to take place?

I would love to know your thoughts. There is not a church in the world which has not experienced conflict on this level or a million smaller levels. We need to get this right. The world is watching our congregations and how we respond to the inevitable conflicts that arise. How do you believe we should respond?

September 28, 2009

Displaying 1–10 of 42 comments

Dave Vander Laan

February 02, 2013  9:12pm

Culture eats strategy for lunch.

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meizitang

May 10, 2011  9:19am

Great job here. I really enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you definitely bring a new voice to this subject. Not many people would say what you've said and still make it interesting. Well, at least I'm interested. Cant wait to see more of this from you.

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nathan

October 05, 2009  6:20pm

@sheer fair enough.

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sheerahkahn

October 05, 2009  4:30pm

Nathan, I dug around the blogs, and found it. There is a Catholic tradition from the Dark ages and Medieval ages of co-opting pagan sites, texts, songs, etc and "christianizing" them so that the practioners understood that the Christian G-d is the one true G-d. It was not uncommon to cut down a sacred oak and use it's timbers to build the church on the same site as the oak, and same-same with stones and such. HOWEVER it takes a whole pile of common sense, along with a huge sack of wisdom to know when to do that and when to stick with tradition. And to be honest, I didn't see a pile behind Mr. T, nor did he have sack sitting next to him...he probably should've stuck to tradition allowing minor changes to occur over time. just my opinion.

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nathan

October 04, 2009  4:52pm

beyond the "as above, so below" thing... i hope it's not some kind of sin that the new senior pastor of a church is allowed to change the sacred motto of his predecessor. just wondering... hear me, "as above, so below" was not wise...but seeing now on the website what they're trying to say...cut 'em some slack.

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nathan

October 04, 2009  4:48pm

@kay. i've suddenly realized that you're under the impression that i attend Coral Ridge. i don't, and i've never made it a habit to frequent their website, precisely because of the content of Dr. Kennedy's "preaching". after posting my last question to you, i took it upon myself to finally actually visit the website and all i saw was exactly what i was asking about (i.e. "on earth as it is in heaven".) i think it's better to stick with the original, rather than trying to riff on it...precisely because you can "step in it" like they apparently did. but even that is not any reason to call a vote on a guy. maybe they made an honest mistake...actually, they obviously did...since they changed it.

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still

October 04, 2009  1:39pm

Dear Tullian, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...you could have thought. You watched Dr. Kennedy off and running the relay race with all he got. People in the stands were cheering. As he approached the end of his leg, you gazed at how he felt the adrenaline coursing through his veins. Coming around the last corner, and having no next runner in sight, he stumbled. You winced as he let go the baton. Lo and behold! It landed in your hand. It was the best of times because it was like catching a home-run ball in the stands at a baseball game. It was the worst of times because you're not a member of the home-grown relay team. But don't get rid of that baton. Look intently at it. You'd find fingerprints of those who received and passed it from time immemorial: fingerprints of Dr. Kennedy and the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church - and underneath them all - the fingerprints of the disciples and of Jesus Christ, himself. What do the fingerprints of Dr. Kennedy and CRPC symbolize? A unique culture. Tullian, to carry the baton, you must understand CRPC's culture. Why? Here's a testimony of Christian leader and author, Jeff Jones: "I made the common mistake of getting excited about a particular church's way of doing things and immediately trying to introduce it into my own church culture. Here's what I discovered: If the culture isn't ready, even the best ideas and strategies are doomed to failure. Before we try to import new ideas, improved systems, and high-quality tools...we first need to prepare the soil in our church. We need to do the hard work of embedding new values deep into our church culture." - Excerpted from the book "The Leadership Baton" What is CRPC's culture? It consists of the values, beliefs, and norms that manifest themselves in the habitual ways CRPC's members accomplish their work, relate to one another, solve the problems that confront them, and interpret their social surroundings. Tullian, you must understand the unique features of CRPC's culture before attempting to administer it. Lest you may try to implement inappropriate changes, or worse, undermine the values and norms that served it well in the past. The most effective and efficient method of coming to this understanding is the culture audit.(Novations Group, Inc.) "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

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Kay

October 04, 2009  9:47am

Nathan, you know yourself this is the new motto. Go google it and find out what you see then make up your own mind. The new pastor changed it or someone on his staff. Why don't you go talk to them?? The fact remains it was changed from the one Dr. Kennedy had. How could you not know about it?? Or are you denying it is the new motto at the end of every email and other communications? Further proof that both sides in this Coral debate are not listening to each other. Hope Tullian has people on his team that are listening to what is going on rather then keeping score of who is winning or losing.

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nathan

October 04, 2009  9:05am

@kay this is the first i'm hearing about this... so i'd like sources so that i can check things out myself... but i hear your point. is it possible this is an unfortunate riff on the idea of "on earth as in heaven"?

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Kay

October 04, 2009  2:52am

Is it important where sheer heard it, or that it is being used as we write? Personally, I think it is the latter. I also understand the new church motto "as above, so below" is an occult saying. You can google it if you want. I think it it FACT but no one knows the motive. Where one heard it is not the issue so let's not cloud it. If it was changed unknowingly then maybe leadership needs to revisit this issue. As a member I certainly would be concerned if that were the motto of my church now.

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