He Is Not A Pastor Any More
Credit: Richard Graulich/Palm Beach Post
Investigative journalist Julie Roys has alerted us all to news published in the Palm Beach Post that Tullian Tchividjian has planted a new congregation in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. This is news because Tchvidjian’s ministerial credentials were revoked by his PCA presbytery on the grounds that he committed adultery with one of his parishioners, an act which, in some states, might have found him facing criminal charges. After he was removed from the pastoral ministry by his presbytery he was very graciously given a position as an advisor/consultant by Willow Creek PCA in Orlando, FL. Only after he took that position did it emerge that Tchvidjian had committed adultery with yet another woman.
Tchvidjian, who was pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, in Ft Lauderdale, FL, was deposed from ministerial office by his presbytery according to the PCA Book of Church Order (34.7), which says:
When a minister, pending a trial, shall make confession, if the matter be base and flagitious, such as drunkenness, uncleanness, or crimes of a greater nature, however penitent he may appear to the satisfaction of all, the court shall without delay impose definite suspension or depose him from the ministry.
His presbytery deposed him, i.e., removed him from office. When Tchvidjian committed adultery he knew that he was liable to removal from office. When he was ordained to the office of minister (in the PCA the office is also known as Teaching Elder) he took several vows. The third and fourth vows say,
Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity?
Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?
The seventh vow says:
Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?
He violated these vows solemnly taken in before the church and before the face of God. Even more fundamentally, he violated God’s law repeatedly, namely the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14). He also violated the ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness.” For all these, he may surely be forgiven and received again in the church as a sinner justified and saved by unconditional grace of God in Christ (sola gratia), received through faith alone (sola fide). Of that there can be no question.
His standing before Lord, however, is not what is directly before us now. What is before us now is his status as a minister and his authority to plant a congregation and conduct himself as a minister to preach the Word of God, to administer the holy sacraments, and to lead and supervise the discipline of a congregation.
By acting in this way he has shown himself to be contumacious. Contumacy is the “stubborn refusal to obey or comply with authority, especially disobedience to a court order or summons” (Oxford Dictionary). There are courts (or assemblies) in Presbyterian and Reformed churches and the courts of the PCA have made a considered decision and he has defied those courts (session and presbytery). That is the definition of contumacy.