Tullian Tchividjian, Bob Coy, Church Leaders Response, Clergy Sex Abuse, Sexual Infidelity, Spiritual Abuse, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
If you were a church leader, and your pastor was caught in sexual sin, how would you handle it? I was trying to think about this as it relates to the Tullian Tchividjian scandal.
Some church leaders may not be thinking clearly when it is discovered that their pastor has had a sexual relationship outside of marriage with another woman (congregant or otherwise). Now, perhaps their initial thoughts are that if the congregation finds out, they won’t be able to handle it, it’s too messy, and it will be a disruption. These justifications are valid. Maybe their thinking is that if those very few people who know about it can “take care of it,” then the church can move on as normal and everything will be fine. That seems legit So maybe their original intent of protecting the church body was initially a good one. But it doesn’t usually end well.
Another way leaders sometimes handle sexual sin is by addressing only some of the sexual sins. They minimize the extent of it, again, so as to not let it appear too messy. They are still covering up sin, and this is obviously not full disclosure. When congregants find out that it was far more than leaders disclose, this is problematic.
A comment came in last night from someone who is not the “other woman” or the wife of the pastor, or close friends of anyone involved. This comment came from a congregant. I suspect that this commenter was probably not very close with her pastor, but has been a regular attender, trusting her pastor(s) and church leaders to live according to Biblical qualifications of elders (1 Tim), and to appropriately shepherd the flock. That seems reasonable, right?
But what we will read below is how far reaching and destructive it is when, first, a pastor has a sexual relationship outside his marriage, and second, when church leaders fail to handle the sin appropriately.
When church leaders pay more attention to caring, covering up, and protecting their wayward pastor than the hurting sheep, the Body of Christ is harmed, sometimes spiritually and emotionally shattered. Is this what the Bible alludes to when the church becomes a sheep with no shepherd?
On a slightly different note, as I read comments from congregants about their pastors’ sexual sins, sometimes I read that a sinful and sexual relationship between a pastor and another woman is between them and God. This is not true.
The sexual sin of a pastor extends far beyond the bedroom and into the House of God.
It rocks people’s faith. It can makes people not trust any church leader. Some will quit church entirely. I hope Debbie’s story below will help to illustrate a common response from congregants whose pastors have failed morally.
I want to thank Debbie * for risking to share her personal story with us, especially after her story was not well received elsewhere. ~ja
Debbie’s Personal Story: Betrayed and Wounded
Gonna take a chance and post this here. First time poster. Former Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC) member. I was there when Tullian Tchividjian (TT) came in 2009. As a voting member, I took the word of our Pulpit Nominating Committee and voted to bring TT and merge his church with CRPC.
It didn’t take long for me to see something was wrong with TT. His sermons seemed, off, somehow. He had a bold yet somewhat (to me) arrogant presence in the pulpit. And then the trouble really began.
He disbanded CRPC’s contemporary worship team and installed his team from New City (his former church). Note that he did not bring the two together; he “fired” Coral Ridge’s group.
He made several other hurtful decisions and took some drastic actions. Just a few months into his tenure, many people were questioning the wisdom of bringing him in. We followed procedure to recall him. The voting process was NOT a secret ballot; I signed my name to the ballot when I cast it. I questioned this and was told, “well, that’s how we’re doing it.” I voted to recall him. By this time, the church was split. My dear, close friends of many years were split, some agreed with me and some sided with Tullian. It was a terrible, wrenching, hurtful time. After the vote, the recriminations began. They knew who had voted to oust him, and they proceeded with ruthless precision to cull the dissenters. I could give details of Tullian’s destruction, but I’ll withhold.
I left the church and after a year or two of not attending anywhere, ended up at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. Some time after I arrived, then-pastor Bob Coy was caught with his pants down and resigned. Another shocker. Initially the church was hush hush, then came clean. Bob left without any direct apology to the congregation. He left. We were told to pray for him. The church elders made a “Coy Family Care Plan” to support Bob. Later he divorced his wife.
So here I have experienced two devastating spiritual and moral betrayals by pastors. (Tullian’s brother, Stephan, is a pastor at Calvary Fort Lauderdale).
The Lord had me remain at Calvary, although I followed Tullian’s “career” from afar. I saw his falling out with The Gospel Coalition, and felt like I could see his spiritual arrogance and others could not. I was confused by this, as it seemed so obvious to me. His defenders seemed to indulge in a blind sort of hero worship. I felt angry but also somewhat vindicated as TT was showing his true colors.
Then came news of Tullian’s adultery. Like Bob Coy, he resigned and left. I was disgusted and angry. I hated how he threw his wife under the bus in an effort to justify his sin. I felt like yelling, “I WARNED YOU. He doesn’t care about anybody but himself. Why can’t you see how he refuses to accept correction?”
I shared on another blog about TT and was read the riot act. I was interrogated as to how I could dare say this man’s public statement didn’t show true repentance! I was told that his sin didn’t hurt anybody but himself and his family. I was shocked. I said, “He is a PASTOR!” I felt like I had to defend myself against this Christian blog by explaining how heinous it was for a minister of Christ to commit adultery. I’m still smarting over it. I actually had to lay it out for this guy how devastating this was for the congregation and for the Name of Christ. Unbelievable.
Now come the latest revelations regarding Tullian. I am angry and grieved all over again.
Tonight, a friend and I began looking for another church. It was Palm Sunday, and unbeknownst to us, the one we went to had a concert. It was very good, focusing on the seven last words of Christ. They talked about the sufferings of the cross and what Jesus did for sinners. I was moved to contemplate my Savior’s sacrifice for me and I felt humble gratitude. It was great to go to church and hear the Name of Jesus exalted in word and hymnody.
I am deeply angry at Bob and Tullian. They wrecked scores of lives and got off scot-free. People did not listen when I warned about Tullian, and others mocked me when I opined that he was unrepentant. I feel betrayed and wounded. I’m beginning to think that I was a victim of spiritual abuse. Why else would all of these feelings be coming out? I am taking a chance that this is a safe place. It seems like I needed to get a lot off my chest. Thanks for letting me write this; I hope this was the appropriate place to do it.
*Debbie’s name has been changed for privacy
photo credit: I believe this flower pot has fallen from a great height via photopin (license)