Tullian Tchividjian Update: New Job at Willow Creek Church, Pastor Kevin Labby Responds
Some readers and subscribers may have seen the post I published within the last hour. I have hidden that article as I came across new information. The problem with social media is that information is released and changes so quickly. For the time being, that article will remain hidden. For the curious, the article questioned the wisdom of Tullian Tchividjian going to a new church, under different pastor and elders, and also obtaining a new job there as Director of Ministry Development at Willow Creek (a PCA church in FL).
I greatly respect Michael Newnham and what he does at PhoenixPreacher.com. He posted the following today and gave me permission to share it here:
by Michael Newnham
I want to be fair and accurate…and I think we are better able to be both now.
My source is very conversant with both Presbyterian polity and this situation…this is not from a fan determined to defend Tullian.
1. Tullian is not in a “ministry” position as CC’s or evangelicals define it. Rather he’s a paid staff member, i.e., an employee of the church. He’s not doing any “ministry” work (preaching, teaching, overseeing the church, or providing pastoral care to members). Rather, he’s now doing development/management of the church staff and its resources. He’s essentially doing staff management stuff.
2. This particular church confuses this matter greatly by speaking of their staff as engaged in “ministry,” (a non-Reformed/Presbyterian way to speak) without making the important qualification that these people who “minister” do so as paid employees of the church (i.e., staff positions). As such, they are all under the authority and rule of the elders of this church (the session). Their work is overseen by the session and they answer to the elders as their “bosses.”
3. While in this position, Tullian remains under the discipline of his Presbytery (the local churches in that region). The elders of this particular church (the session) are the ones assigned by the Presbytery to actually do the work of oversight. He is under their authority. He has been deposed from his office as “minister” (i.e., teaching elder), so he cannot get in a pulpit, do weddings, etc., unless and until he’s restored. This is not circumventing the process to get back in the limelight. This is the process at work.
4. Actually, this is a good spot for him unless/until he is restored to office (teaching elder). He can use his gifts to serve the church, and yet he’s an employee, answering to the session. Pastorally speaking, this is a low-key, safe, and redemptive place for him, out of sight, doing stuff like scheduling staff, training them to do their jobs, etc. It is not a glamorous job, any more than the church secretary’s is.
We can debate the propriety of the hire, but we now can do so understanding the process much better.
If indeed, this is part of the discipline/restoration process, then it would behoove us to reserve judgment until we see how that process plays out.
I also discovered on my Twitter feed that Warren Throckmorton also had new information posted on his blog. The bolded words are Throckmorton’s questions to Willow Creek Presbyterian Church’s senior pastor, Kevin Labby:
What is your reply to the critics who think it is too soon for Tullian Tchividjian to re-enter ministry?
Labby: I think it would be helpful and important to clarify a few things. First, the South Florida Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) deposed Tullian from what we Presbyterians call the office of teaching elder (what most American Christians would label “pastor”), but did so without further censure. He was not excommunicated. Since his deposition did not include excommunication, Tullian is not precluded by our church polity from serving on a PCA church staff per se. His deposition simply means that he cannot do so as a teaching elder.
Second, the position offered to Tullian does not involve responsibilities unique to the office of teaching elder (or pastor). His work will be as a support staff member.
This is an important paragraph from the interview, because it seemed that Tullian Tchividjian was going to a friend’s church to possibly hide from the restoration process. Pastor Labby continues:
Finally, I understand that some might disagree with the timing. We sense genuine confession and contrition from Tullian, and are eager to welcome him to Willow Creek. We want to see the process of repentance continue in the context of a loving church family. We believe that it is important for the church to demonstrate faith in the reconciling power of the gospel by running toward those pastors caught in public scandal, not away from them.
Please read the full article at Throckmorton’s site: here.
Because of Tullian Tchividjian’s popularity, it seems a public statement such as was explained to Throckmorton would have served better than simply publicizing Tchividjian’s new job with no statement. But perhaps maybe they have never dealt with such publicity before and hindsight is 20/20.
Time will tell. I hope and pray that Tullian Tchividjian gets help at Willow Creek and that his family will be supported.