Tullian Tchividjian Accepts New Job at Willow Creek Church in FL and Pastor Kevin Labby Answers Questions

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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:

Clarity on the TT Situation

by Michael Newnham

Tullian TchividjianI’ve heard from a very respected reader of the blog and he has helped me gain clarity on what is really happening with the Tullian Tchividjian hire.

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.

37 comments on “Tullian Tchividjian Accepts New Job at Willow Creek Church in FL and Pastor Kevin Labby Answers Questions

  1. This information still begs the question “What about his wife and kids?” The Willow Creek people are still looking out for one of their own and they are still demonstrating zero concern for his ex and children. Celebrity Gospel indeed.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Dash’s question will continue to be the elephant in the room. The men are always forgiven and welcomed back into the fold. The women are always silenced, shamed and walled away. Utterly appalling.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Well, there are some other elephants in the room (in fact a whole herd of elephants) —

    1. What message does this give the average person in the pew? “Commit adultery and that’s okay. You can still work for a major church and be given a very respectable position.”

    2. Who was the best candidate for this position? When I’ve been on church search committees, a candidate’s sexual integrity is always a major factor in the decision making.

    3. How long has this position been open? How many people were interviewed for this position? If the elders came across the resume of a pastor who had just admitted to adultery in the past 30 days, would they have considered it? My church wouldn’t consider it. Willow Creek Church must have shockingly low standards.

    4. Was Tullian the best person to “develop and manage” staff when he cannot even manage his own sexual desires?

    5. None of the elders had any pushback? Sounds like the Rubber Stamp committee to me. Possibly the sign of either an apathetic presbytery or an authoritarian pastor who calls all the shots. I’ve been in a church like that. Thanks, but no thanks.

    6. Are all Christians at Willow Creek Church who have recently committed adultery treated like this? What about the people in the pews who are fooling around with one another? Do they get job preference when positions come available?

    7. Are naughty leaders a hallmark of other Willow Creek high-ranking staff and pastors?

    ——-

    To attenders of Willow Creek, ask yourself:

    Do I feel my leaders chose a celebrity in defiance of God’s criteria for elders and leaders of the church listed in Titus and Timothy?

    Do you feel used that your pastor is paying this man with your tithe money when someone more godly could have been hired?

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I’m still troubled. No matter how hard they attempt to downplay it, he is employed by Willow Creek in a position of responsibility. Why is it O.K. for a self-confessed adulterer and defrocked pastor to continue earning a living off those he is admittedly not qualified to minister to?

    He is doing development/management of the church staff and its resources. Well, does staff include ministers? Should not all staff be expected to be ministers in the sense of being examples of good Christian character? I am troubled that one who is not qualified to minister has “development/management” authority over people who minister, including non-ordained ministers. In any event, will be somehow be separated from female staff?

    Tchividjian cannot get in a pulpit? Well, is not his Twitter account tantamount to a pulpit? Will he continue Twittering or Tweeting or whatever it’s called? Will he quit writing books? Will he turn over the royalties he earned and is earning on books he was not qualified to write?

    It is said that he can use his gifts to serve the church, and yet he’s an employee. Haven’t we been encouraged to believe that Tchividjian’s gifts are ministry gifts? How can he use his gifts without ministering? What difference does being an employee make? Is it O.K. to hire a convicted child molester, even if only as a janitor, on the basis that he is hired as a mere employee who remains under the supervision of the teaching elders?

    It is said that “It is not a glamorous job, any more than the church secretary’s is.” Well, being a secretary may not be glamorous, but how many pastors have found the church secretary glamorous enough to pursue an adulterous relationship with her (or sometimes him)? Lets just hope Willow Creek is still sufficiently entrenched in the usual mysogynistic traditions so that they have no women who are ruling elders/pastors with supervisory authority over this man.

    Actually, I wish I could have said what I just said as well as Anonymous2 said at 2:58 PM.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I reiterate my point that the old boys’ club is always so excited to run “toward those pastors caught in public scandal, not away from them,” while leaving the rank and file women and children victims of the narcissists out in the cold. Oh wait, I lie. There’s the heartfelt, “Go, be warm, be filled…”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ‘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’.

    I really struggled reading this article and it makes me want to cry. So much is a mirror image of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. What ever happened to discipline. Discipline that makes the person think of their wrong. 1st Timothy 5:20 says ‘But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning’. What warning is coming out of this?

    It is a whole different story for me as a complainant against a Teaching Elder and a Ruling Elder. The tone of the letters I received from the hierarchy of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria/Australia were harsh and far from loving but then I am a women speaking out against men, this has to be far more sinful then anything one of their elders could ever do.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. According to the information Willow Creek gave, part of Tullian’s role is to ‘train’ other staff and ministers. How can someone be deemed safe to train others when he has so recently his conduct had brought disgrace on the name of Christ?

    I’m gob-smacked.

    If he was given a menial clerical job by a church somewhere, or a cleaning job, or something like that, I would not necessarily say that was wrong. But staff training and management??? You gotta be kidding!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. “3. How long has this position been open? How many people were interviewed for this position? If the elders came across the resume of a pastor who had just admitted to adultery in the past 30 days, would they have considered it? My church wouldn’t consider it. Willow Creek Church must have shockingly low standards.”

    I have seen quite a few positions “created” for someone by megas. The thing is these guys need a launching pad to make a comeback or build their brand. Tullian is planning a comeback in ministry. He has a well paid job in a place where he is safe/protected to rebuild and do social media with influential backing.

    And yes, this is Christianity to them. They convince themselves the world needs to hear from them. It is narcissism.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. The importance of TT’s role at Willow Creek is minimized on the basis that he will be “only” be serving staff. Well, guess what. At http://www.willowcreekchurch.org/our-staff we learn that the staff are described as being in LEADERSHIP (and I’m sorry, but I’m not buying the suggestion that leadership doesn’t really mean leadership–what an obfuscation!). No, no. These Willow Creek LEADERS are involved with the public. We can send them emails by clicking on their names (with the sole exception of TT himself). We are even invited to call them during regular business hours.

    TT definitely is NOT relegated to an inconsequential administrative type role. As a “DIRECTOR of Ministry Development” the man is leading the leaders.

    Other than TT, there are 10 staff ministers. Seven of these staff ministers are women, six of whom are married. I really do not anticipate the worst, but I am glad my wife is not on Willow Creek Staff.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. “It is narcissism.”

    Or maybe narcissistic psychopathy. Or psychopathic narcissism. The narcissism gives these leaders a sense of entitlement that makes them feel immune to the requirements of common decency. Their psychopathy relieves them of the conscience that might marginally restrain a mere narcissist.

    Like

  11. Well so basically Labby has incriminated the entire South FL and Central FL assembly in this debacle.

    Still no one except Paul Tripp has decided to touch the third rail of the fact that he filed for divorce while claiming not to want it… barely TWO MONTHS after he stepped down. Before that he couldn’t even have begun to work on his marriage because he was still sabotaging it. After that he has done nothing to indicate that his repentance is genuine, and has done many things to sabotage reconciliation by going around getting media attention and public sympathy while his wife basically minds her own business. She’s looking, by far, the most classy in this situation. I don’t even know if I can take his accusation against her seriously at this time because this has gotten so weird. She made no counter accusation, but rather asked for privacy and thanked everyone for the outpouring of love and support they’ve had. That just doesn’t sound like an unrepentant person to me.

    TT on the other hand came out telling us she had an affair and to console himself, he did too.

    Heck maybe she just wanted to get away from this narcissist and he doesn’t believe that there is no one else. Who knows anymore?

    Like

  12. Think of the message this is sending the members of this church (and this denomination). TT is stripped of his credentials and his ability to be a pastor within this denomination. Yet after this, another church within the denomination hires him to be on staff. I don’t care if he’s in an administrative role (except that his role is to provide support to other ministers), it’s too soon.

    I wonder if a church member did the same thing that TT did if the church leadership and denomination would treat them the same way.

    Like

  13. To me, his “administrative role” to provide support to staff is a loose way of saying that he will be ministering to staff. He will still be a minister even if he doesn’t have the credentials.

    Like

  14. Initially I had thought that TT’s new employer was THE Willow Creek mega church, famous for being seeker sensitive. Somebody correct me if I am wrong, but the famous, seeker sensitive Willow Creek mega church appears to be Willow Creek Community Church of Barrington Illinois. TT has been employed a different Willow Creek in Florida.

    Still, I wonder if there isn’t some connection between the two Willow Creeks. Is the Florida Willow Creek a satellite of the Barrington Willow Creek? Assuming there is no connection, I wonder if the Barrington Willow Creek is nevertheless having to respond to people who are thinking they are the church that is guilty of extending cheap grace to TT.

    Like

  15. I’m sure that the Barrington folks are getting calls due to name confusion. I thought the same thing at first.

    I’ve been to THE Willow Creek in Barrington a couple of times. It’s not my cup of tea.

    Like

  16. “Tullian Tchividjian Accepts New Job at Willow Creek Church in FL and Pastor Kevin Labby Answers Questions”

    And his Golden Parachute has opened.
    Rank Hath Its Privileges, and Rank by Divine Right most of all.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. As to the suggestion by anonymous that maybe TT is telling truth, well maybe. However, why would we trust a man to tell the truth when he has admitted to cheating on his wife. Is not cheating on one’s wife a form of dishonesty.

    The burden is on Tchividjian to demonstrate, over an extended period of time, that he can be trusted, not only in his relationships, but also to tell the truth.

    In the meantime I’m suggesting that it is prudent to suppose that maybe, just maybe, TT’s admission of infidelity is in the nature of a Nixonion limited hangout, the purpose of which is to secure credit for having come clean, thereby deflecting inquiry into much that remains unconfessed.

    Like

  18. I’m so disturbed by this. I’m encouraged by reading what you all have written as I see I’m not alone is feeling like it is the good ole boys club in action, taking care of their own, and the wife and kids are out in the cold. The man should not be in any form of ministry inside the church. He should be taking care of his family and working on healing his marriage. Of course he can be forgiven, and used by the Lord to minister to others, but when a man doesn’t even give his marriage a few months to try and heal……well something is very wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. All I would say is that it reeks with nepotism! Just like in any worldly, corrupted corporation, which I guess this church is. “Paid position,” “staff member,” “bosses” etc… I wonder what Bible contains such positions, instructions, provisions? Tells you also that he can’t do anything else in his life but to live of/parasite of the faithful while calling it serving the Lord/ministry!? Well, go dig graves or sweep streets Mr. TT.

    Like

  20. My thoughts about the TT situation:

    1. A person who tells people to do one thing while he does another is a hypocrite and has lost credibility.
    2. Adulterers lie. It is part of the territory.

    I believe God can forgive, but the fruit of repentance is demonstrated over time. It is not about talk, it is about actions. Talk is cheap. If TT shows himself trustworthy over time, he will regain his credibility. Until then, I am unable to put any confidence in him.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. My family and I attended this church for over 10 years when we first moved to Florida from about 1998-2009. There was a different pastor then, Pete Alwinson. He works with Steve Brown at Key LIfe and both he and Steve attend this church. Pete also works with Patrick Morley (of Man in the Mirror books and conferences). This is the good old boys PCA celebrity network over here, in my opinion. When I read Willow Creek church in the headline, I thought, Oh no, my old church? Yup. There is so much wrong with this picture, as the other commenters have already mentioned…..

    Like

  22. Pingback: Resource Bibliography on System Issues Related to the Tullian Tchividjian Situation | Spiritual Sounding Board

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