September 28, 2009
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?