Preacher Tullian Tchividjian, son of Billy Graham's daughter Gigi returns to the pulpit in a judgement-free zone.
“I am standing here today because in my darkest moments, God never stopped holding onto me,” Tchividjian says
Tchividjian is leading a church for the first time since his June 2015 resignation as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in northern Fort Lauderdale.
After being forced to resign from Coral Ridge because of two extramarital affairs - one of which was with a congregant of the influential church - Tchivbidjian is formally launching his church, The Sanctuary, next month, reports the Palm Beach Post.
Sanctuary congregants, like Vickie Diamond, say they aren’t bothered by the situation that led to Tchividjian’s resignation at Coral Ridge.
“I trust that God has done amazing work in his life,” Diamond says, “as the evidence of the changes in his life.”
Rachel Steele, a past member of Coral Ridge, said her affair with Tchividjian, the one that prompted his resignation, lasted between May and June 2015.
Steele says she was ostracized and her life flundered while watching Tchividjian’s career continue was hard on her faith. Steele says she is sickened and angered at the thought of Tchividjian leading another church.
“The loss of my faith hurts and you can’t get that back,” says Steele.
While Tchividjian maintains that his affairs were not abusive but, "was completely wrong, morally and ethically," an advocacy organization led by his brother, Boz, call it pastoral abuse and sexual misconduct.
Boz Tchividjian's organizations, GRACE - which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment - issued a statement in December of 2016 saying they were “deeply disturbed about the revelations of sexual misconduct by Tullian Tchividjian.”
I believe we were chatting about this yesterday. By the by - pastors do not have "extra marital affairs" with congregants. It is sexual coercion and abuse. They can be forgiven. They cannot pastor again. https://t.co/sNkom7J55B— Melissa Florer-Bixler (@MelissaFloBix) August 20, 2019
Return to the pulpit
After a sabbatical north of Houston, reactions to his writings and speeches made it clear to Tchividjian that there was a spiritual appetite for a different kind of church, one that is a “safe place for broken people to break down and for fallen people to fall down.”
Tchividjian says, “It ought to be a place of refuge and safety. It ought to be a place where people come and feel the freedom to tell the truth about themselves without fear of rejection.”
“Because I was born into Christian royalty and then lived (a) majority of my adult life as a Christian leader in the evangelical world and then everything happening and sort of being cast out as an outsider, it gave me a unique perspective”
The Sanctuary has been in the works to become an environment that is informed by Tchividjian's own experiences and struggles.
Amidst some hesitations from others about his return to preaching and leading, Tchividjian says The Sanctuary is offering an experience that others will seek out and appreciate.
Tchividjian says, “Some people think that I should just shut up and crawl in a cave and never come out because I’m not qualified to be leading spiritually in any way because of everything that I went through and everything that I did."