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Coral Ridge Selects New Pastor

March 16, 2009
The members of Coral Ridge voted overwhelmingly to call Rev. William Graham Tullian Tchividjian to serve as senior minister. They also agreed to merge New City Presbyterian Church into our congregation and elected its officers to serve us.

http://www.crpc.org

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE:

Dear Friends,

Below is the official press release regarding the merger. Jane Rohman and Associates (who have been hired by my publisher to do PR for my forthcoming book) was kind enough to draft this statement. To those who may have questions, point them here. This statement is both official and authorized.

Tullian

Monday, March 16, 2009, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida─After an exhaustive due diligence process and with the overwhelming support of church members and governing boards, Tullian Tchividjian, 36, has accepted the call to serve as senior pastor at South Florida’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. In doing so, the church of 650 people which Tchividjian founded 5 ½ years ago just outside of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida will merge with the 2,200-member Coral Ridge church founded in 1960. Tchividjian is only the second pastor in Coral Ridge’s history. Its founder Rev. D. James Kennedy pastored for 47 years and died in September of 2007 at the age of 76.

Yesterday Tchividjian preached to a full house at a combined worship service at Coral Ridge. Following the worship service, the members of Coral Ridge gathered for a congregational meeting and voted with 91% of the congregants accepting their Pulpit Nominating Committee’s invitation for Tchividjian to serve.

“I am honored and deeply humbled by the support and prayers we have received from all over the world as well as this vote and the unanimous vote of over 30 elders from both churches last week. I look forward to our future together,” says Tchividjian. He adds, “I consider it a great and high honor to follow such a giant in the faith. As different as some may think Dr. Kennedy and I are, our theological commitments are the same and our hearts beat with the same driving passion. Indeed, what he came to do in the 1950s—reach the people of south Florida with the Gospel and transform the world—is exactly what I have been seeking to do ever since I moved back home to start New City in 2003.”

For Tchividjian, it’s “a moment filled with irony and God’s unmistakable hand.” Growing up in South Florida and attending Coral Ridge with his family, Tchividjian was just under two years old when his grandfather Billy Graham preached the dedication sermon for the church sanctuary in 1974. He also attended and dropped out of the church’s school, Westminster Academy, at age 16, leaving school and home for the pleasure saturated streets of South Florida. After God saved him at age 21, Tchividjian graduated from college and seminary with honors. After a short two-year stint at a large Presbyterian church in Tennessee, Tchividjian moved back home to launch New City Presbyterian Church, only 12 miles away. Over the years, however, he has maintained a good relationship with Coral Ridge, hosting a weekly show on the church’s radio station, WAFG-FM 90.3, and speaking at both the church from time to time and his former alma mater, Westminster Academy.

And what does his grandfather think about the news? “He’s always been a huge supporter of whatever I’ve done, but this was especially exciting to him given the relationship he had with Dr. Kennedy over the years and his firm belief that Coral Ridge remains a beacon of light for the Gospel in South Florida and beyond. He couldn’t be more excited.”

In the coming months, Tchividjian’s focus will be on getting to know new people and working on making the transition as smooth as possible for everyone. “As we continue to move in this direction, I am exhorting members of both churches to ask God even now to be preparing you for one another. As elders, we all talked about the coming together of these two churches as being a marriage. One is not acquiring the other. And one of the elders from Coral Ridge said (and it was very well received) that the unity candle in a marriage ceremony is a great picture of what God seems to be doing here. No more us and them; them and us. Rather, two becoming one.”

The merged churches will operate under Coral Ridge’s existing name and in its current church facility at 5555 N. Federal Hwy, Ft. Lauderdale. “We’re planning for Easter Sunday to be the first Sunday that the one new church is worshipping together,” says Tchividjian. For now, details will be posted on both the Coral Ridge and New City websites. (www.newcityfl.org and www.crpc.org).

The merger will also result in a change of denomination. New City Church, which was a part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), will now become part of Presbyterian Church of America (PCA). “The denominations are both theologically conservative and have maintained a good working relationship over the years,” according to Tchividjian.

Tchividjian has degrees in philosophy from Columbia International University in South Carolina, and in divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

He has written two books published by Multnomah Books in Colorado Springs, a division of Random House: Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship, and Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different, due out April 21.

He and his wife, Kim, have three children—Gabe, Nate, and Genna.

Jane Rohman, 413-848-1407, jr@janerohman.com

PS- Here’s a well written story on the whole thing.

MORE NEWS:

illy Graham grandson to lead famed megachurch

By MATT SEDENSKY

Associated Press Writer

A widely-known megachurch founded by an architect of the religious right
and seen as a national political force selected a grandson of Billy
Graham on Sunday as its new leader.

The overwhelming vote by congregants at Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort
Lauderdale to appoint the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian could represent a
softening of the message spread by the Rev. D. James Kennedy, who was
pastor at the church until his death in September 2007.

Kennedy’s preaching against homosexuality and abortion made him one of
evangelical Christianity’s most divisive figures, and he worked to
inject his faith in all aspects of public life and the political
process, like allies the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Tchividjian insists he holds the same theological positions of Kennedy,
but he cuts a far different image.

His hair is spiky, his beard sometimes scruffy, his skin tan. He offers
a classic prodigal son story of youthful forays into drugs and sex, then
his return to the fold. He has said he wants people to know what
Christians are for as much as what they are against, and has rejected
the idea that politics is the most important way to change the country.

“I think that politics is one strategic area of cultural engagement,” he
said Sunday. “But I also think that the sphere of art and the sphere of
education and the sphere of media and technology are also strategic.”

Tchividjian, 36, is the middle of seven children born to Stephan
Tchividjian and Graham’s eldest daughter, Gigi. He attended Coral Ridge
– where Graham delivered the dedication ceremony – and its adjacent
school as a young man, but at 16 he dropped out, spending the next five
years partying on South Beach, seeking the company of women and getting
high.

He says he eventually bottomed out, recommitting to Christ and then
joining the seminary and becoming a minister. He started a church of his
own, New City Presbyterian, which will merge with Coral Ridge under his
appointment. Tchividjian expects the two churches to formally come
together on Easter Sunday.

Coral Ridge claims thousands of members and its founding in 1959 marked
the creation of what would become one of the country’s first
megachurches. Based in a liberal, Democratic city, it is known as a
fiercely conservative voice on divisive social issues.

Its radio and TV outreach arm, Coral Ridge Ministries, has beamed
Kennedy’s message around the world, though Tchividjian says he will not
oversee that operation.

Tchividjian says he is honored to follow a “giant in the faith” at Coral
Ridge, but acknowledges he might look different.

“I think that at first glance it would seem that he and I were very
different people. But what I’ve discovered in this process is that we
have more similarities than differences,” he said. “He was a man of his
time and I’m a man of mine.”

Fort Lauderdale church voters give nod to evangelist’s grandson

Members of Fort Lauderdale’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church voted for
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian, the 36-year-old grandson of
evangelist Billy Graham, to become their new pastor by a 91 percent
margin on Sunday afternoon.

The move is expected to usher in a new era at the conservative
megachurch started by D. James Kennedy, the notable Moral Majority
member who influenced politics from the pulpit and died in September 2007.

Church leaders had vetted more than 150 candidates in a 1 ½-year search
and announced in January that they had formally asked Tchividjian,
founder of Margate’s New City Church, to become pastor.

On Sunday, he received a standing ovation as he gave a sermon about his
new role and gave a nod toward his predecessor.

”I consider it a great and high honor to follow such a giant in the
faith. As different as some may think Dr. Kennedy and I are, our
theological commitments are the same and our hearts beat with the same
driving passion,” Tchividjian said in a statement.

Members of Tchividjian’s 650-person church will begin attending services
at Coral Ridge in the coming months as the two churches merge —
boosting Coral Ridge’s membership close to 3,000.

Tchividjian will give his first sermon as pastor on Easter Sunday.

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