Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, has landed a new job with Willow Creek Church in Winter Springs, Florida, two months after resigning from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church due to an extramarital affair.
According to an announcement on the church's website, the 43-year-old pastor will now serve as Willow Creek's new director of ministry development.
"We're so delighted to welcome Tullian Tchividjian to the staff of Willow Creek Church. A graduate of Columbia International University (philosophy) and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando (M.Div.), Tullian is a best-selling author, having written seven books on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its liberating implications," states the announcement.
"Most recently, Tullian served as the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and founded Liberate, a ministry devoted to connecting God's inexhaustible grace to an exhausted world. He loves the beach, loves to exercise, and when he has time, he loves to surf. He's also a huge fan of both the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Heat," it continues.
The move has been widely criticized, as it comes less than two weeks after Tchividjian filed for divorce from his wife, Kim, and about three weeks after the South Florida arm of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), voted to depose the pastor of his ordination credentials.
"Our goal in doing this is to both protect the integrity of the Church from which his credentials were given while, at the same time, wrapping Tullian in the grace offered by Jesus Christ to all those who confess sin, pursue repentance and desire restoration," the Presbytery explained in a statement following the decision.
However, in a recent interview with Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton, Labby argued that while Tchividjian has been deposed from the position of teaching elder by the PCA, he is not prohibited from serving within a church.
"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," Labby said.
"Tullian is not new to our church family. He and his family attended Willow Creek years ago, during his seminary studies. He has friends here, and so his re-entry into our community during this difficult time seems quite appropriate and natural. We simply want to care and help provide for him and, by extension, his family," he continued.
Labby acknowledged that some may "disagree with the timing," but emphasized that his church decided to bring Tchividjian on staff after sensing "genuine confession and contrition."
"[We] eager to welcome him to Willow Creek," he told Throckmorton. "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."