I had planned another DiM post for today… it will have to wait for Tuesday. Today, we’ll be commenting on some current events, church discipline, and public stoning in the social-media square.
If you follow me on twitter, you probably saw that I was working through old Friday Sermon posts trying to salvage those whose links pointed to LIBERATE.org, which has been closed indefinitely. It was very tough for me, and I was only able to salvage one post by finding the lecture and .pdf hosted on different sites. I’m ever so thankful that we still have access to that lecture by Rod Rosbenbladt, (Church History | The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church). Sadly, the same could not be said of Tullian Tchvidjian’s lecture entitled “It is Not Finished” that he gave at this year’s LIBERATE 2015 “It is Finished”. That lecture in particular was a great blessing to my wife and me. I’ve never met Tullian, I only know of him through his sermons, lectures, and that he’s considered a friend by Pastor Chris Rosebrough.
We have to begin here. Let me defer to public information.
From the information put out by Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church:
In June 2015, after an admission of moral failure which disqualified him from active service, Tullian resigned from his position as our senior pastor and the founding director of LIBERATE. Given his leading role in this ministry, it was with heavy hearts that our Church Leadership decided to close LIBERATE indefinitely. This included canceling our 2016 Conference and refunding all registration fees.
To help protect Tullian, his family, and the integrity of his message, we have moved his sermons into a secure archive for the foreseeable future. Sadly, his messages were being slanderously misused in the media and on the Internet. We are prayerfully considering when and how his sermon archive might be made available again to the general public. We appreciate your patience and prayers during this season.
Some additional information from the associated Presbytery was published by the folks at the Aquila Report:
The South Florida Presbytery (SFP) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) voted at its meeting on August 11, 2015 to depose Tullian Tchividjian from the ministry. The PCA Book of Church Order (BCO) says that, “Deposition is the degradation of an officer from his office.” That is, the minister has his ordination credentials removed so that he no longer can perform the duties of a minister of the Gospel.
The Presbytery issued the following statement:
The South Florida Presbytery met for its regular stated meeting on August 11, 2015 and acted on a case concerning TE Tullian Tchvidjian. 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.
Tchvidjian resigned as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on June 21, confessing to an extra-marital relationship. The Coral Ridge congregation voted on June 28 to formally accept Tchvidjian’s resignation. He had served as pastor of Coral Ridge since being called there in 2009.
The PCA’s Book of Church Order has a section on restoration from various church censures, including deposition. The steps for restoration are clearly outlined including this statement, “In the restoration of a minister who has been deposed, it is the duty of the Presbytery to proceed with great caution.”
This is church discipline, folks. Tullian confessed, resigned from his position at his local church, and then was deposed of his pastoral credentials by the South Florida Presbytery. By all accounts, Tullian has repented of the sin of adultery. It is now time to follow Paul’s instructions to the Galatians.
Galatians 6:1-10 (ESV) | Bear One Another’s Burdens
1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. 6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
He Filed for Divorce… Cast Another stone!
We have learned that Tullian filed for divorce, a point that many have tried to use against him. I wanted to share a post by Paul Tripp, but that source page is now unavailable. All that remains is the Christian Post article that references Paul Tripp’s now-missing announcement.
In a statement posted to his website Wednesday, Tripp bemoaned the public spectacle Tchividjian’s marriage had become before explaining how they arrived at the painful decision.
“I wish we lived in a world where pastoral counsel and heart, life and ministry restoration could take place in private, but those days are regretfully long gone. So, in light of the news getting out that Tullian Tchividijian has filed for divorce and to mitigate any unnecessary and unhealthy speculation regarding the details of the situation, as Tullian’s friend and counselor, I have decided to post this statement,” Tripp began in the statement.
“Sadly, there are times in this broken world where things that have been damaged by sin don’t get put together again. So, we groan, reminded that sin still lives inside us, that we live in a shattered world and that God’s work of redemption is not yet complete. So, it has been with sadness that I, along with others, have come slowly and cautiously to the conclusion that his marriage is irreparably broken,” he continued.
Tripp explained that Tchividjian, who resigned as lead pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida in June, after confessing to an “inappropriate” relationship with another woman who was not his wife after finding out that she had also been cheating on him, tried hard to save the marriage but the trust in his marriage could not be re-established.
“From the point of Tullian’s confession and repentance, he has been committed to dealing with the issues of his heart and to restoring his marriage. Much grace, counsel, thought, prayer and action has been invested over a six month period of time with the hope of healing the marriage. But sadly, there are times when the trust is so deeply broken and patterns so set in place that it seems best to recognize that brokenness, cry out for God’s grace, mourn, commit to forgiveness, rest in the truths of the Gospel and with a grieved heart, move on,” he wrote.
He added: “I remain committed to Tullian as a brother and counselor and I will continue to give him the Gospel as he now deals with what we together hoped and prayed would not happen.”
Tchividjian and his wife, Kim, married in 1994 and have three children together.
While trying to find someone or something outside of me to blame for my sin seemed to promise freedom, it only delivered deeper slavery.
On the day he filed for divorce last Thursday, Tchividjian noted on Twitter: “While trying to find someone or something outside of me to blame for my sin seemed to promise freedom, it only delivered deeper slavery.”
In another tweet on Monday, however, he noted in another tweet that he still felt God’s presence.
Sometimes God reminds you that he’s there when you’re looking out an airplane window and begging him to show himself: pic.twitter.com/HrngrZ1znM
— Tullian Tchividjian (@PastorTullian) August 25, 2015
Frankly, I’m very disappointed in reading many of the comments that flooded social media criticizing him of being too quick to abandon the marriage. I, for one, refuse to levy a judgement over what I do not know first-hand… but what we do know is that the struggles in his marriage have been ongoing for some time now. Tullian’s marriage covenant was with his wife and it was before God. I don’t get a say in the matter, neither for nor against. I mourn the devastation this divorce will wreck on all involved, and I pray for the Grace, Mercy, and Healing that only God the Holy Spirit can provide.
Please remember from our discussion in yesterday’s Gospel Wednesday post, I do hold a permanence view of marriage under the Law. There is no Lawful scenario for divorce… divorce is always a sin. Having said that, the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross is the sole remedy for sin, and is sufficient for all sin, including the sin of divorce. Indeed, the Gospel still brings life to believers caught in a transgression.
He Has a Job in a Church… Cast Another Stone!
I am exceedingly grateful for online discernment ministers, as I am for the local police force. The job is difficult, draining, and can become quite consuming. In the same way that Police officers need to guard themselves against treating every citizen as a criminal, I think it is important for us to guard ourselves against treating everyone as a wolf, and every story a proof of apostasy. Such is the case with the revelation that Tullian Tchvidjian was offered a staff position at his new church, Willow Creek Presbyterian Church (Our Ministry Staff). Let’s work through what we see on the church website and practice some basic discernment, shall we?
Is this a Pastoral Position?
No, it isn’t. This church’s website has separate staff directories, Senior Pastor, Pastoral Staff, and Ministry Staff. Now there is room here to question the church polity in play here, particularly if you are not Presbyterian and are unfamiliar with their system (I’m still trying to figure it out), but that is a question for Willow Creek Presbyterian Church (WCPC) and even the South Florida Presbytery (SFP) of the Presbyterian Church Association (PCS)… but this does not fall on Tullian. For those who claim to demand justice for the sake of the Gospel, you’d do well to address the leadership of the WCPC rather than cast another stone at Tullian. I think at this point it is helpful to remember the biblical qualifications for Elders as laid out in Titus 1:5-9.
Titus 1:5-9 (ESV) | Qualifications for Elders
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Whatever the WCPC does under the SFP of the PCA does regarding Tullian, I have to resign myself to trust that they will keep themselves accountable to the Scriptures.
Is this a special position carved out for Tullian?
Possibly. On the Ministry Staff page we see the following positions:
- Administrative Assistant
- Facilities Manager (male)
- Facilities Maintenance (male)
- Youth Ministries Director
- Youth Ministry Assistant x2
- Director of Guest Care
- Director of Music (male)
- Director of Preschool
- Director of Nurseries
- Director of Children’s Ministry (male)
- Director of Ministry Development (Tullian’s Job)
Look at the list of staff positions… and look at the ones labelled “director”. I’ve seen folks in social media blast this as clear breach of the qualifications of a Deacon, since there are only 2 offices in the New Testament, Elder and Deacon (1 Tim 3). If these positions are deacon positions… only 5 are currently held by men. Only half of the “directors” are men. Think that one through. These are not deacon positions. I don’t know how the PCA squares their definitions of “staff” with the Biblical Offices, but as I said earlier, that is a discussion to take up with them, not with Tullian for accepting a staff position.
What Will Satisfy Your Need for Justice?
I confess that I am exposed to a lot more Reformed Baptist writing than anything Presbyterian. So the vast majority of the stone-casting I’m witnessing comes from the non-Presbyterian Reformed camp. My biggest question to the social media fervor is, “what will satisfy your need for justice?” What penance must Tullian pay for you to be satisfied? Is it your place to seek satisfaction? Or does that fall to his overseers, those who have been given the charge of shepherding the flock under their stewardship?
In Romans 14, we see Paul addressing some specific schisms going on in the church of that day, but Paul’s prescriptions for those problems ring out in a broader sense. Particularly in the following verse:
Romans 14:4 (ESV) Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
and in the next prescription:
Romans 14:7-12 (ESV) 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
This is not to say that we are not to identify sin, we must. We must preach Law and Gospel faithfully. So then, is it a sin for Tullian to work? Is it a sin for the WCPC to give him a staff position? If you cannot clearly identify the sin, then you are in no place to pass judgement on the servant of another. Should sin arise, I trust it will be addressed in accordance with Matthew 18:15-20, and that chain of escalation will be within WCPC or at the very least the PCA.
Put down your stones. I am deeply concerned for Tullian Tchvidjian and want to see him restored. I worry that the publicity is hurting that process. I’m worried about him remaining faithful throughout the divorce proceedings. I worry about his children, his estranged wife, and I’m worried about the woman with whom he sinned. All of this is deeply troubling… but I’m appalled by what I’m seeing in social media regarding this man. Skepticism is natural, but let’s not walk in the flesh. Let us walk in the Spirit by faith and extend grace and forgiveness and honor the authorities put in place by God.
Matthew 18:29-35 (ESV) 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
2 Corinthians 13:11-14 (ESV) | Final Greetings
11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
In Christ Jesus,
PS: There are already some wonderful examples of grace, humility, and clarity in the blogosphere.