Tullian Tchividjian Starts New Church After Affairs

"Tullian Tchividjian has returned to ministry and has started a new church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida." - Christian Leaders

1779 reads

There are 27 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

Somehow, when considering how quickly some of my brothers and sisters in Christ queue up to follow disgraced and fraudulent "preachers", this Dilbert cartoon comes to mind.  I don't know if it's the cult of celebrity, a set of cultural cues that wolves like Tullian use to mislead people, a bit of both, or yet other factors, but it's seriously depressing.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert,

I don't deny that some people follow fallen pastors because of the cult of celebrity, but I do know some people who follow fallen pastors because they believe God can and does restore fallen pastors to the pastorate.

Their argument in a nutshell: If God restored Peter to his apostleship after he denied the Lord three times, God can also restore a man to the pastorate who has fallen into immorality, pride, greed, etc. Why is God's grace able to restore Peter but can't restore a fallen pastor?

My church had to deal with this issue after our previous pastor resigned because of adultery. There were several people in our church upset that the elders didn't restore him to the pastorate or allow him to begin teaching again after a year or two after his confession. The former pastor was also frustrated by the elder's position. He ended up leaving the church after two years and went to a church that would allow him to at least teach in the men's ministry. Last I heard, he's contemplating launching a church plant through the SBC.

So, Bert, how would you respond to these folks? Folks who aren't following the celebrity cult, but who believe God's grace will cover a fallen pastor and restore him to pastoral ministry?

dgszweda's picture

God's grace will cover a fallen pastor and will restore him in Christ.  That does not mean that there are no consequences or that there aren't restrictions.  Despite David's confession to God he still had to live with the consequences and in at least one case the consequence was with him his entire life.  Remember a pastor is a high calling and whether we agree or not, there are clear qualifications, one in which adultery eliminates a qualification.

I don't understand where Peter was restored to his apostleship.  I wasn't aware that Scripture taught that he lost his apostleship.

T Howard's picture

dgszweda wrote:
I don't understand where Peter was restored to his apostleship.  I wasn't aware that Scripture taught that he lost his apostleship.

Exactly. So, if denying Christ didn't cause Peter to lose his apostleship, why should adultery cause a pastor to lose his pastorate?

Bert Perry's picture

Tom, the people who were his accountability partners uniformly say he was deceiving them, not repentant.  He then disassociated from them, and after a few months, started teaching again, divorced his wife, and remarried after about a year.  So apart from the question of whether an adulterous pastor can be readmitted, I'd argue he's got some issues that ought to prevent his re-entry into vocational ministry for a good long time.

And even in the case of someone who is truly repentant--tries to reconcile with his wife, works with people to process what things went wrong, etc..--I'd argue it ought to take a while.  The man who cheats on his wife proves that he is not a "one woman man" at that time, and shouldn't the church say "why don't you find something else to do while you restore your relationship with your wife"?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Andrew R.'s picture

Tom, the fundamental question is not whether restoration is possible in the long run; it's whether he meets the primary qualification of a pastor, which is to be above reproach. Do you honestly think he's above reproach? If not, then the matter is not debatable: his being a pastor is a direct violation of God's Word.

Daniel.Viezbicke's picture

"Husband of one wife"

"Above reproach"

"Manages his household well"

"Well thought of by outsiders"

For a pastor in an adulterous relationship, all of these four qualifications are called into question. When would they be able to come back to the pastorate? Maybe a better question is: what is the reason they want to return, knowing the scandal that will follow them into the pastorate? At the core, I suspect many who search out such things don't do so ultimately out of a "calling" but because their identity is wrapped up in ministry to such a degree that they can't see themselves not serving. 

In most situations, the most loving thing for men who compromise the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 is for them to stay away from the pastorate for a long, long time, if not the rest of their lives.

dgszweda's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

dgszweda wrote:
I don't understand where Peter was restored to his apostleship.  I wasn't aware that Scripture taught that he lost his apostleship.

 

Exactly. So, if denying Christ didn't cause Peter to lose his apostleship, why should adultery cause a pastor to lose his pastorate?

Because the requirements for an Apostle are not the same as for a Pastor.  An Apostle was chosen by Christ.  A pastor must meet certain qualifications and maintain those qualifications in order to be a pastor.  Once you commit adultery you have broken one of those qualifications, and you maintain that broken state.  Does not mean you can't be restored in Christ, with your wife, your family, your friends.... Moses did something as simple as striking a rock, yet he broke the will of the Lord and despite all of the good things he had done before and despite his faithfulness afterwards, he was denied the thing he most wanted.  The righteousness of God, the pre-eminance of Christ and the importance of a shepherd are seriously important things, and not up to the whims of cultural movements.

 

Besides to be honest here.  He has had a divorce, been remarried, failed to disclose his infidelity to the first church and failed to disclose additional infidelity to the second church.  Has been let go by two separate churches over this incident, with both sets of elders saying that he should not hold a place in ministry, and then was stripped of his credentials by the South Florida Presbytery, and the original accuser does not feel that he ever repented.  On a practical side, I would question whether he is even ordained.  But above all that, I don't see 1) where he has resolved the issues, and 2) has not grossly abused the qualifications of a pastor.

Dave White's picture

Daniel.Viezbicke wrote:

"Husband of one wife"

"Above reproach"

"Manages his household well"

"Well thought of by outsiders"

For a pastor in an adulterous relationship, all of these four qualifications are called into question. When would they be able to come back to the pastorate? Maybe a better question is: what is the reason they want to return, knowing the scandal that will follow them into the pastorate? At the core, I suspect many who search out such things don't do so ultimately out of a "calling" but because their identity is wrapped up in ministry to such a degree that they can't see themselves not serving. 

In most situations, the most loving thing for men who compromise the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 is for them to stay away from the pastorate for a long, long time, if not the rest of their lives.

I will never be in a church with a former-adulterer as a pastor

Lee's picture

Permanent disrepute—the reality of differing categories of sin

Prov. 6:30 "Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts."

Here is where we’re clued in on the unhealable nature of adultery (see bolded)

Specific application: Because of the unhealable quality of adultery I am of the opinion that active physical adultery by an ordained elder in a pastoral position completely disqualifies that elder from any future pastoral ministry

It is very difficult for me to see where the qualifications stating that a “bishop…must be blameless...” are met when he has been involved in an affair that Scripture affirms is a “reproach [that] shall not be wiped away….”

 

A repentant person judges their sin and consequences harsher than they are judged.  I am not shocked by TT getting back into the pastorate.  Actually, I had just assumed he already was.

When your motivation is the "youthful lust" of celebrity status at some level there is no fulfillment without it. TT never exhibited the characteristics in his public persona of "flee[ing]....youthful lusts"; he certainly doesn't now. 

And I pray diligently that such an observation is discerning and not judging.    

 

Lee

Joeb's picture

i hate to say I’m not sure about this area.  Definitely a Pastor who committed adultery can’t return for quite a while.  I tend to be very understanding of a Pastor who has fallen and if he is repentant and him and his original wife stay together my emotional self says after a good amount of time he could return to the Pastorate. That’s my emotional side talking.  

Tullian is not at that place now and is not back with his wife.  So in his case I’d say no it’s a bad idea.  Some one help me out here I believe Tullian’s first wife was the offender first and he followed later with his own affair.  I know he did not respond to the situation in the right way but I can’t imagine what it would be like to have your wife betray you like that especially if one has young kids.  This is where I have sympathy for Tullian but he personally has to much baggage of other failures to return to the ministry ever.  Someone correct me again does he still not run GRACE.  If so why would he want to combine that responsibility with planting a church.  

Generally speaking I tend to lean toward T Howard’s position as long as the said Pastor is with his original wife   

 

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding the allegation that Kim Tchividjian cheated first, I'm not persuaded.  Too much nonsense flying around in this case for me to take things at face value, sad to say--and of course I hope that I'm soon persuaded that this is no longer the case. 

That noted, if I were, my position would be that TT needs to address the question of why she chose to do that.  Did he contribute--excessive work, travel, whatever--to an atmosphere of neglect that led to such a tragedy?  I can only speculate here, but if the claim is true, he needs to address this.

Regarding GRACE, that's run by Tullian's brother Boz.  Obviously he's in something of a difficult spot right now regarding this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

John E.'s picture

Dave wrote: 

I will never be in a church with a former-adulterer as a pastor

What about a pastor who committed adultery before he was a believer?

Ed Vasicek's picture

TT brings a soap opera with him wherever he preaches.  People don't need a perfect leader (obviously), but they need a godly one.  And godliness is a virtue established over time.

I personally do not think this man should ever be in ministry again.  But the fact that he is in ministry so quickly shows that neither he nor those who follow him are too concerned about having a leader who is "above reproach."  Even Jim Bakker waited longer.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

It's about Paige Patterson, Jerry VInes, and Darrell Gilyard, not Tullian Tchividjian, but this Houston Chronicle report details a bit about the fallout when Darrell Gilyard was allowed back into ministry after repeated adulteries without adequate repentance and/or supervision.  Sad to say, after being forced out at at least five churches, and after doing a term in prison for indecent conduct with at least two minors, he was back in the pulpit after only two months.   We are very slow to learn our lessons, sad to say.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

One complicating factor now a days is that if a pastor has an affair with a woman in his church, it's no longer considered just adultery but clergy sexual abuse. Victim rights advocates claim (wrong or right) that there cannot be a consensual relationship when there is an imbalance of power. In this case, the pastor wielded spiritual authority over his parishioner while engaging in the adulterous relationship.

In the case of my church, the adulteress and her family left the church before the affair went public but now claims she was a victim of clergy sexual abuse and is not morally responsible for the affair. And, now she is a public crusader against clergy sexual abuse, stalks the former pastor online, and continues to attack our church and its current leadership.

What a mess...

Joeb's picture

My question T Howard was he Counseling her for any reason.  If he was then yes it is sexual abuse in my book.  If they happen to know each other from being in the church even though he is the Pastor then in my mind it was a consensual relationship unless she confided in him for prayer for her troubled marriage.  Then  it was not consensual because the Pastor took advantage of her situation. Even if the woman confided with another and the Pastor gained the information from his position then it was not consensual.  

   My next question is if it was any of  the above then is this Pastor still a Pastor. 

Additionally Ed did you buy into Jim Baker’s end of the world food plan or get his minted  coins with Saint Trump on them.  

Bert Perry's picture

Really, anytime a pastor is single and wants to date, there is the question of whether the date is occurring because of his authority, or because she wants to spend time with him/get to know him.  So even in the best of situations, there is a need for accountability which is similar to when a boss wants to date his secretary--and for that reason, a lot of companies prohibit the latter explicitly.  The prestige and authority of the pastor's position is simply something you cannot ignore.  It may not be always abusive--that would drive a lot of single men out of the pastorate in a hurry, no?--but it has that strong possibility.

In the case of an adulterous relationship, I think the argument is even stronger, because we know a priori that if the best position for a woman is as a wife, then the woman who accepts an adulterer is ipso facto accepting an inferior product, and we need to ask why.  Put another way, my tendency is to take the woman Tom mentions at her word unless she really demonstrates her testimony is flawed, simply because the issue of spiritual authority is so front and center in any relationship with a pastor, and moreover because we know a priori that the woman was persuaded somehow to take an inferior relationship. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

Date someone outside of your church. Simple.

Bert Perry's picture

...you've still got the title and the implied spiritual authority that goes with it.  What you propose would help, Mark, in the direct spiritual authority area, but on the flip side, it might actually hurt in the accountability area.  For reference, I believe that the woman bedded by Tullian was outside his church, and still feels that he abused his position to get what he got.  To whom much is given, much is required, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

Tullian is a flat out pervert.

If I am a single pastor (never married) I'll date who I please (outside of divorced women and minors) and its none of your business. That's my answer.

Jay's picture

Regarding the allegation that Kim Tchividjian cheated first, I'm not persuaded.  

To me, this whole point is both laughable and embarrassing.  Your wife cheated on you first, so that makes it OK?  Seriously?  Is that the defense you really want to mount?

If your wife cheated on you with someone else, doesn't that mean that maybe things are bad enough at home that you shouldn't be leading a church?  And maybe that your attentions ought to be focused elsewhere?

The death of common sense pays gruesome dividends at times.  Sigh.

For reference, I believe that the woman bedded by Tullian was outside his church, and still feels that he abused his position to get what he got.  

If I understand correctly, she was coming to him for counseling and he seduced her.  Either way, it's still wrong and bars him from ministry forever.

Seriously, there's a great book on this subject called The Stain That Stays.  

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Tullian is a flat out pervert.

If I am a single pastor (never married) I'll date who I please (outside of divorced women and minors) and its none of your business. That's my answer.

For starters, as it's my impression you're married, I'm hoping this is never a question for you.  But that noted, it strikes me that "none of your business" attitudes in various areas is precisely what led to the initial tragedy here.  There are many things you might want as a prospective pastor, but that is not one of them.

Let's draw the picture.  When TT started at Coral Ridge Presbyterian, he was slender, wore suits (vs. vestments favored by D. James Kennedy), tan but not excessively so, and was lauded as less political than his predecessor.  About eight or ten years back, he started bodybuilding, concentrating on the muscles in front and around the shoulders that you see from behind the pulpit, and moreover tanning, getting tattoos, changing his wardrobe to show off those "guns", etc..He also was making full use of his fame and notoriety with a full writing and travel schedule.

Now taken alone, there's not anything wrong with any of these in moderation, but when you put 'em all together, you've got clear signs of a midlife crisis.  Just needs a sports car or motorcycle to complete the picture, really.  And that's when you want people to step in and intervene before things get really bad.  A former friend of mine inaugurated his midlife crisis through reckless spending--and ended up the same place as Tullian.  This is really something churches need to get a grip on.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Mark_Smith's picture

If...

That means, "if" I were a single pastor, and a person like you tried to tell me who I could or couldn't date... well, it wouldn't go well.

As for being a divorced pastor, well, that is non-sensical and unbiblical.

Oh, and Bert, the churches that hire Tullian's couldn't care less what you think!

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
For starters, as it's my impression you're married, I'm hoping this is never a question for you.  But that noted, it strikes me that "none of your business" attitudes in various areas is precisely what led to the initial tragedy here.  There are many things you might want as a prospective pastor, but that is not one of them.

Here is a problem with the "pastor should not date / marry someone in his congregation or its spiritual abuse" camp. This position actually serves to deny that adult women can make consensual, informed choices about their relationships just because there is an authority differential present. Apparently, adult women just can't say "no" to someone who has a real or perceived authority over them.

Does this deny that men in authority have used their authority to manipulate, cajole, and threaten adult women into relationships that were not consensual? Not at all. But, it does deny the feminist ideology that unless adult women share equal authority with men in a relationship they are sequacious, helpless victims.

Bert Perry's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:
For starters, as it's my impression you're married, I'm hoping this is never a question for you.  But that noted, it strikes me that "none of your business" attitudes in various areas is precisely what led to the initial tragedy here.  There are many things you might want as a prospective pastor, but that is not one of them.

 

Here is a problem with the "pastor should not date / marry someone in his congregation or its spiritual abuse" camp. This position actually serves to deny that adult women can make consensual, informed choices about their relationships just because there is an authority differential present. Apparently, adult women just can't say "no" to someone who has a real or perceived authority over them.

Does this deny that men in authority have used their authority to manipulate, cajole, and threaten adult women into relationships that were not consensual? Not at all. But, it does deny the feminist ideology that unless adult women share equal authority with men in a relationship they are sequacious, helpless victims.

For my previous statements on this, see here.  I don't (and won't) argue that single pastors should never date in their own congregation.  What I will argue is that given the tremendous authority of the pastorate, you definitely want some level of accountability to avoid problems.  I would further suggest that part of TT's workout/bodybuilding rationale may have been as a barrier to his elders/congregation holding him accountable--basic intimidation, really. 

Accountability, and the process of elders/deacons/congregants asking about one's relationships, has the down side of feeling rather intrusive.  On the up side, when people feel free to talk to a man about such things, they just might introduce him to a nice young lady.  I know it's an American thing to try and be the rugged individual, but I just don't know that it's what we want Biblically.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.