Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is in a tiff.
The newly called pastor, Tullian Tchividjian, is being challenged by a small but vocal group who think that he is not carrying on the ministry in the way that they think he should. He, of course, is defending himself and his ministry, and doing so publicly. (I wonder about the value of addressing internal church politics in a regional newspaper, but I will save that for another day.)
Of course Dr. James Kennedy was a strong leader for so many years at Coral Ridge, so there was bound to be struggles for the next guy.
But early last year, when I saw that Tchividjian was the guy likely to be called, I thought it was a bad idea. Tchividjian and Kennedy seemed so totally different, it seemed inevitable that the normal transitional problems would be magnified, perhaps beyond workability.
For years, Coral Ridge has had a contemporary service though I think the message by Kennedy was piped in on the screen. (I could be wrong about Kennedy’s message. I don’t remember for sure.) But there was always a place for the traditionalists to go where traditional music would be played and, more importantly, Kennedy would wear a robe, preach in a certain style, and address certain topics. Tchividjian is changing that. The robe is gone and so are the politics. And that transition is not going down smoothly for everyone.
Now, this week, Coral Ridge is having a congregational meeting to address the issue publicly. It will be interesting to see what happens. My suspicion is that that Tchividjian has enough support to stay, and that the others will be driven out. But a watching world (literally, since this news is all over) is seeing how a church handles problems. And to me, it doesn’t look pretty.
This is not to comment on whether Kennedy or Tchividjian is right or wrong.
It is simply to wonder out loud how the people at Coral Ridge did not see this coming.
Perhaps they did. Who knows.
But it serves as a caution to churches. If you want a new pastor to change directions, it will take some time and cause some problems. There will be disgruntled people, and they might try to cause problems.
Pastor candidates better be up front about where they are going. They should not hide their views and intentions and hope to change it later.
And pulpit committees should make clear what their intentions are. Do not throw a new guy under the bus for making changes you wanted but failed to make clear to the congregation, and obtain their consent.
People on both sides, but particularly the new pastor, must exercise extreme care and wisdom.