Part #4 of 4, by Julie Anne Smith
The public ministry platforms of Tullian Tchividjian — including his books — have become an issue of public concern and debate, in light of his various degrees of involvement with multiple women.
- Part #1 introduced the third woman reportedly seduced by Tullian Tchividjian into a sexual relationship. Her story extends his womanizing behaviors back into 2013.
- Part #2 shared an infographic showing what Tullian Tchividjian’s pursuit of multiple women looks like, when it is layered over some of his ministry platform and publication data for Fall 2013 through 2016.
- Part #3 provided reference information about Tullian Tchividjian’s publishers and his publications, both out-of-print and presently available, from three publishers: Crossway, David C Cook, and Multnomah. It also highlights the “Christian Living” category bestseller status in 2014-2015 for his most recent book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World (David C Cook, released October 2013), and related character contradictions in light of his self-admitted moral failures plus newly emerging reports of emotional grooming and clergy sexual misconduct.
- Part #4 addresses issues with David C Cook specifically, given their reported intention to publish a future book by Tullian Tchividjian.
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One of the more frustrating things about abuse is that sometimes you know the truth about an abuse situation before others. It’s especially difficult when your friends or people you respect are still believing and defending the abuser. This is what happened in the case of Tullian Tchividjian. Some people came to realize that Tullian Tchividjian was not who he claimed to be after the first sexual relationship outside of marriage went public. Many more saw the light after the second woman was revealed. Yet, many church leaders still extended grace, believing that Tullian had been truly remorseful and wanted to make a positive change.
This seeing-the-light process that other people needed to go through seemed extremely long for me, but that is because I had information directly from the victims — information which I held in confidence. But as the victims have slowly recovered and have agreed to release more from the accounts of their experiences, they discredited Tullian’s testimony, which was previously the only testimony. With the victims’ narratives going public, more people saw the truth and were no longer being duped by someone whose intention was to control the narrative.
The following is a brief summary of the rest of the article. The article is a bit long because the situation is complicated. But, that’s often what happens in these types of cases as we slowly put the pieces of the big puzzle together. We had a lot of missing pieces, but now we have much better clarity. Details follow the bullet section overview.
- In September, I was given new information that had not been released publicly, about a third victim of clergy sexual misconduct by Tullian Tchividjian.
- In October, I contacted his publisher, David C Cook (DCC), to ask if they knew about the new information. I was giving them an opportunity to investigate and rethink their relationship with Tullian Tchividjian, as it had been reported they had contracted another book from him.
- Three months later, there had been no healthy response from DCC.
- This led me to wonder: What is their primary objective? It’s long past the time to “work” with Tullian Tchividjian. Protective measures need to take place. So, I decided to publish the results of this part of the ongoing investigation.
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Because this case is so convoluted, it will make better sense if it is detailed in chronological order.
September 2016: New information
On September 6, 2016, Warren Throckmorton reported on his blog that Tullian Tchividjian was writing a book.
In late September, the third woman with whom Tullian Tchividjian had a sexual relationship contacted me privately. I had to carefully weigh the information now in my possession. This was information that most likely David C Cook didn’t know, but needed to know in order to protect their business and witness for Christ.
I decided that I needed to contact the publisher, David C Cook, to ask questions in an effort to “do no harm.” There were two primary reasons behind this: (1) to get clarification on the book contract and Tullian Tchividjians’ current status with David C Cook, and (2) because the third woman had contacted me about Tullian Tchividjian’s sexual relationship with her while he was married, and I wanted to know if they were aware of that important information.
Many people expressed anger as they watched Tullian Tchividjian wanting to get back into the limelight again. They also knew that publisher David C Cook reportedly had an ongoing contract with him. They had found out he preached October 31st, 2016, at Spring Hills Community Church in Santa Rosa, California.
But now there was another victim that no one else knew about. Tullian could once again play the repentance card and pull the wool over every one’s eyes while continuing to earn an income writing books on spiritual matters. Were conferences next? Something was wrong with this picture.
So, I reached out to David C Cook, his main publisher, in October. Tullian still has an audience through books published by DCC; he could continue to write and get books published with little oversight and accountability. Had Tullian confessed to his publisher about this particular woman? I knew there was most likely a moral turpitude clause that publisher David C Cook requires.
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What is a “moral turpitude” clause?
Literary agent Steve Laube discussed moral turpitude clauses in his excellent article, What to do about Morals? He mentions that “many faith-based publishers have had a ‘moral turpitude’ clause in their contracts for a long time. . . . It is understood in the legal community as actions or activities that can get you fired from your job, deported if you are a foreigner in this country on a Visa, or have your contract cancelled if you are an author.”
Mr. Laube referred to this Wikipedia article on moral turpitude:
MORAL TURPITUDE. In the event Author is publicly accused of an act of moral turpitude (substantiated by the preponderance of evidence, a court decision, or Author’s own admission), a violation of any Federal law or any other conduct which subjects or could be reasonably anticipated to subject Author or Publisher to public ridicule, contempt, scorn, hatred or censure, or could materially diminish the potential sales of the Work, Publisher will have the right to terminate this Agreement upon written notice to Author of the public disclosure of such conduct or alleged conduct. In the event of such termination of this Agreement, Publisher will have the right to demand from Author and receive payment within thirty (30) days of the demand, a sum equal to all advances paid to Author under terms of this Agreement that have not been recouped by Publisher prior to said termination. Upon such payment all rights granted to Publisher in the Work will terminate and vest exclusively in Author, provided that Publisher will have the right to sell or otherwise dispose of all remaining copies of the Work in any manner Publisher deems appropriate.
I cannot imagine a Christian publisher not having a moral turpitude clause. This important legal clause would protect them in case an author committed some crime or moral behavior that caused financial harm to the publisher. David C Cook could recoup any money paid to Tullian Tchividjian if he failed their moral turpitude clause. Surely infidelity and lying would be part of that.
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Back to my thought process
about contacting David C Cook.
Now, of course I understand that contractual agreements are confidential. I get that. But I wanted David C Cook to know that I had additional incriminating information about their money-making poster boy. Did they, as a Christian publishing company, and a non-profit corporation at that, want to be promoting an ex-pastor who has a history of lying, and chronic predatory sexual grooming behavior, and now three times followed through on the grooming to get into sexual misconduct while he was still married to his now ex-wife, Kim?
If DCC is still in a contractual agreement, who are they speaking with to ensure that Tullian is being honest with them? Keep in mind, the only time Tullian has ever admitted to his sexual relationships is after he has been confronted. He has never volunteered any confession of his own accord about wrongdoing . . . ever.
Here are some of the questions I tried to get cleared up:
- Was/is Tullian Tchividjian being truthful with them?
- Did he confessed about this additional woman to David C Cook?
- How involved is David C Cook in monitoring Tullian’s personal life?
- Who else are they in contact with to confirm Tullian’s testimony to them?
- Did they give Tullian an advance on royalties for his next book with them? (Several reliable sources claimed they had given him a sizable one.)
- What is the status of the new book that Warren Throckmorton reported about?
- Did Tullian Tchividjian sign a contract that contained a moral turpitude clause?
- Was David C Cook adhering to their agreement in the moral turpitude clause? In other words, if Tullian Tchividjian had violated the moral turpitude clause, were they going to follow through with the agreement?
My initial conversation was with someone who handled Tullian Tchividjian’s business at David C Cook. This person asked me not to reveal their name, so I will honor that request. The conversation did not get off to a good start. I sensed immediate defensiveness. There was a reluctance to reveal information. Most of my questions were answered with, “That’s confidential, I cannot disclose that information.”
So, because of confidentiality reasons, I was not able to gain much information in my call with the source at David C Cook. This source, who was clearly in the know, said they were in regular contact with Tullian Tchividjian, and had also been in contact with others to follow up on care for him. The source refused to indicate whether Tullian Tchividjian had signed a moral turpitude clause, even when I pushed further. The person did, however, permit me to release the following statement (which I have not released until now). Keep in mind, this quote is from October 2016:
“We are not currently working with Tullian on a book in progress.”
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December 2016: Are they going to publish
Tullian Tchividjian’s new material or not?
So — I was not able to ascertain in October 2016 whether David C Cook’s people knew about this new woman he’d reportedly engaged in sexual misconduct with. But, at least I knew they were given the information by me.
Whether they found out the info from me is irrelevant, but what is important is that Tchividjian’s publisher needed to make important decisions based on that information. What were they going to do with this information? My hope was that they would soon “see the light.” But on December 2, Leonardo Blair at The Christian Post reported that publisher, David C Cook, said that “nothing has changed” with their relationship with Tullian Tchividjian:
Tim McDonald, chief advancement officer with David C Cook, told CP on Friday however that nothing has changed.
“Our status with him (Tchividjian) hasn’t changed. We’re committed to him and his family as a publisher and will continue to be so,” he said while declining to comment on an expected release date for the book.” (emphasis added)
This puzzled me because it conflicted with what I had heard from the employee of DCC back in October:
“We are not currently working with Tullian on a book in progress.”
You can probably see why I was puzzled. So I contacted the same source at David C Cook again on December 2, 2016, and left a voice mail telling him that I was confused by The Christian Post’s comment and asked for clarification.
He texted me this response on that same day, December 2, 2016.
Here’s that quote from the off-the-record source at David C Cook publishers:
“No, there is not an ‘upcoming’ book–no topic, no release date–there may be a book in the future, but that’s very far off in my opinion. Our highest hope is for restoration–that is our prayer for all.“
This response did not sit right with me. To me, it was a lame response. It said nothing about whether or how David C Cook planned to do anything regarding a more formal statement about Tchividjian’s chronic problem of sexual grooming and acting on it. I stewed more. I see this as something of grave importance because Tullian Tchividjian has a large following, even after his scandals. People are still clinging on to his every word. All you have to do is look at his Twitter or Facebook page to see that people are itching to have anything from him.
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January 2017: Corresponding with Tim MacDonald.
I called DCC again, and this time, I was directed to Tim MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald reports directly to Chris Dornboos, the publisher’s Chief Executive Officer.
Mr. MacDonald and I played phone tag for a few weeks, but were finally able to connect instead by e-mail. Below is a copy-and-paste of my correspondence to Mr. MacDonald dated January 30, 2017:
[Personal sentences redacted]
Mr. Tchividjian has publicly acknowledged his extramarital relationships from 2015 (Rachel; acknowledged June 2015) and from 2014 (kept secret except from at least Steve Brown and two Coral Ridge Presbyterian elders until publicly admitted in March 2016). Another woman has come forward whom he reportedly groomed starting October 2013 and engaged in a sexual relationship. Other women have reported his relational/emotional grooming and connection going as late as September 2016. So, this covers nearly the entire time since initial publication of the bestselling One Way Love.
This information is captured in the infographic found in this post at Spiritual Sounding Board:
I have asked the victims what they would want from institutions who have kept Mr. Tchividjian’s platform going. Are you interested in reading them?
A side note: during one of Mr. Tchividjian’s trips to the offices of David C Cook, one of the women with whom he had a sexual relationship actually picked him up from the airport. If anyone from David C Cook was curious as to why he needed no ride from the airport, there’s the explanation.
Another issue I specifically would like to get cleared up is regarding the statements attributed to David C Cook and interpreted by Leonardo Blair and Warren Throckmorton. I came to a different conclusion regarding David C Cook’s involvement with Mr. Tchividjian. Will you please explain the discrepancies between the statements attributed to you/David C Cook found in these online articles?
December 2, 2016. The Christian Post. Tullian Tchividjian Says His Family Is ‘Fighting to Breathe’; Book Publisher Remains ‘Committed’, by Leonardo Blair.
December 1, 2016 (updated December 2). Warren Throckmorton. Statement: Former Church Says Tullian Tchividjian Should Not Be in Ministry, by Warren Throckmorton.
Below are other general questions:
Do you plan on keeping Mr. Tchividjian’s books in print? Or will you be removing them from publication – and if so, when? Or have some other plans regarding his past books?
Does David C Cook have a signed contract with Tullian Tchividjian for a forthcoming book, or tentative plans of any kind with him in future projects?
What is your response to the statements of some within the “spiritual abuse survivor communities” that they intend to boycott David C Cook products permanently if you publish another book from Mr. Tchividjian?
Will you be issuing a public statement regarding the situation with Tullian Tchividjian and his moral failure and chronic lies?
Thank you, Tim, for your time. I strive to post accurate information and make great effort to speak directly with sources (as I have with the women involved, including his ex-wife, Kim). I believe my first ministry is to come alongside those who have been harmed in the church. Spiritual abuse survivors are my first priority. My second objective is to look at the “system” connected with the abuse and identify who has been involved in allowing the abuse to continue. This “system” includes identifying people, leaders/friends, churches, and organizations/institutions closely connected with the perpetrator of abuse. This objective involves identifying what Christian leaders and organizations have done or have not done when presented with factual information regarding a very public Christian leader who has a history of moral failure and/or spiritual abuse. Sadly, David C Cook became a part of this system once anyone from David C Cook found out about the issues surrounding Mr. Tchividjian. But with that knowledge comes a responsibility.
There are far more people involved than Mr. Tchividjian, his immediate family, and the women with whom he had sexual relationships. His former church, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, and his large number of followers still have questions and are in a lot of pain. They need clear answers. I have spoken with quite a number of people who used to go to Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and who have been so hurt by Mr. Tchividjian, they are no longer attending any church at all.
A response from David C Cook is very important. You can either validate these people who have been harmed by making an appropriate response, or you can cause more harm by doing nothing.
I would be happy to discuss this further with anyone from David C Cook if there are any questions, or you would like more information. My greatest hope is that you “do no harm” in this situation.
In His grace and truth,
Julie Anne Smith
Here is the response Tim MacDonald sent me:
Important text from MacDonald reads:
“We do not have any plans to publish a new resource with Mr. Tchividjian and as you know any contractual agreements with any author are confidential.”
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Readers, what do you think about how David C Cook has been handling: (1) the series of clergy sexual abuse scandals of Tullian Tchividjian, (2) questions about whether they do or don’t have a book contract with him, and (3) what they intend to do about his books that are already in print?