An Open Letter to Chris Rosebrough

Dear Chris,

First, I want to thank you for your influence over the years. My first exposure to Fighting for the Faith was when you hosted the debate between James White and one of his KJV Only interlocutors. I was impressed by your willingness to allow a Reformed Baptist on the show, even though you were a Lutheran. Over the course of the next several months I continued to listen and was impressed by your penetrating critique and biblical prowess. Fighting for the Faith was the first real discernment “ministry” that I had listened to.

Over time, I began to see the wisdom in your response to people like Mark Driscoll (who I was very much a fan of at the time) and Steven Furtick (who I had no major qualms with, because I had not listened to much of what he had to say). I learned to be demanding of those who consider themselves to be leaders in God’s church, and to hold them to a higher standard than I held other Christians to. That is why I’m writing this letter to you. You are a leader in God’s church, and you are held to a higher standard. You taught me that.

When Tullian was dismissed from the Gospel Coalition, I eagerly awaited your interview with him. I expected you to hold him accountable to what he was teaching, and to force him to support his conclusions from Scripture. I was disappointed as your interview missed the point of Tullian’s critics completely. I stared at my phone in disbelief when you allowed Tullian to get away with a preemptive “haters” defense… almost immediately after playing a parody of Furtick doing just that. Tullian did exactly what you critiqued other people doing, but rather than rebuke him… you joined in.

Fast forward to July of this year. Tullian announces that he is resigning from his role as Sr Pastor of CRPC due to an “inappropriate relationship” and an “affair” he had in the aftermath of his wife’s own marital unfaithfulness. Having listened to you for so long, and heard you latch on like a pit-bull (rightfully so) to  people whose public “confessions” included phrases like “mistakes were made” or “I have regrets”… rather than “I have sinned” and “please forgive me”, I immediately wondered if you were going to call out your friend Tullian for not calling his adultery what it was. I was disappointed, although not surprised, that rather than confront it… you responded with a statement that sounds reminiscent of Robert Morris’s claim that “Mark is receiving counsel from me and others,” and made no mention of his public pseudo-confession. You are on the inside of Tullian’s team of counselors, and thus are privy to statements that others are not. However, you in the past have been very apt to draw conclusions based on what is publicly available, and call people to task for those things. This is appropriate and necessary for those in the Church to do. You taught me that.

Then yesterday happened. The news broke that Tullian has come on staff at another church in his area. Not a year after his adultery and confession, not 6 months after having been deposed of his credentials as a minister of the Gospel, not 3 months after having filed for divorce… less than 2 months after confessing his adultery, 2 weeks after having been deposed, and less than a week after filing for divorce.

I don’t consider myself a discernment blogger… I do consider myself a theologian who cares deeply about the Church and the purity of Christ’s bride. As people began to talk, I wrote my letter to the South Florida Presbytery. You read it. I am honored that you would take the time to read something written by little old me (I hope you give this letter the same attention). I was again disappointed by your response, although not at all surprised. You came at me. I expected as much, and it doesn’t bother me. When you speak truth that is uncomfortable, people are going to get mad. You taught me that.

So, I guess that brings me to the conclusion of my letter. I have a few questions for you. Over the past year since Mark Driscoll has resigned, he has made various indications that he is planning a return to ministry. You have been very critical of that. If Mark Driscoll were to show up as the “Director of Ministry Development” at a congregation in Phoenix… would you be telling everyone to calm down because it is just an “administrative position”? I think we all know that you wouldn’t. If a pastor in your district committed adultery, was deposed, and then within two months was hired as a “Director of Ministry Development” in a neighboring district… would you be okay with that? I think we all know that you wouldn’t. You are acting inconsistently because of your relationship with Tullian, and inconsistency is a sign of a failed argument. You taught me that… or maybe that was James White.

Chris, you are not doing Tullian any favors by ignoring this behavior. You are only undercutting the good work that you are doing for the Kingdom with Fighting for the Faith. You know better than this. I beg you to step back from this and listen to reason. God doesn’t need your good works… but Tullian does, he needs good biblical counsel and you are in a position to be able to give it. Tell him to step down from this position. Tell him to go back to the presbytery where he can be disciplined properly. Your defense of him in this new position is indefensible, and you really are better than this.

Your brother and co-laborer in the Gospel,

Tony Arsenal

Please see my update at https://reformedarsenal.com/2015/09/02/the-taste-of-crow/

Please also see my update at https://reformedarsenal.com/2016/12/02/another-open-letter-to-the-south-florida-presbytery/

Please see Chris’s update at http://www.piratechristian.com/fightingforthefaith/2016/12/tullian-resources-removed


For a thorough timeline of events regarding Tullian Tchividjian’s history, please see Resource Bibliography on System Issues Related to the Tullian Tchividjian SituationBy linking to this site I am not endorsing the site as a whole, nor testifying to the veracity of the information present. However, the timeline presented does appear to be accurate to the best of my knowledge and research.

27 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Chris Rosebrough

  1. Amen. Used to really enjoy Rosebrough but this is inconsistency and is ultimately not loving to Tullian let alone God’s church.

  2. Very well said! Reading Rosebrough defend this was very painful and was obvious that a Driscoll or Furtick would have never gotten the same pass (and rightfully so). We love you Chris but please have some consistency.

  3. T.L.,

    Comparing Tullian to Driscoll or Furtick is like comparing apples to oranges.

    Tullian, unlike Driscoll, is penitent.

    Tullian, unlike Driscoll, has put himself under the pastoral care and authority of a PCA church in good standing.

    Tullian accepted an administrative support position at Willow Creek. He did NOT accept a pastoral position within the church, nor could he.

    Tullian is in no way acting contrary to or against the discipline that he received by the South Florida Presbytery. Nor is Tullian in any way acting in a way to avoid discipline or accountability, in fact his actions show that he is abiding by the discipline imposed by the South Florida Presbytery AND voluntarily put himself under the accountability of the elders and pastor of Willow Creek.

    Furthermore, the elders and pastor of Willow Creek are fully aware of the circumstances of Tullian’s sin and his divorce. Yet, they are receiving Tullian into communicant membership. That would not be possible if Tullian were persisting in impenitent sin.

    Those who see this move as some type of attempt to restore Tullian to pastoral ministry are conveniently forgetting that the pastors and elders of Willow Creek do not have the authority in the PCA to independently decide to remove the censure that Tullian is under as a result of his being deposed from the pastoral office.

    The Book of Church Order clearly lays out the path to restoration and Willow Creek cannot deviate from this procedure: Here is what the Book of Church Order states:

    34-8. A minister under indefinite suspension from his office or deposed for scandalous conduct shall not be restored, even on the deepest sorrow for his sin, until he shall exhibit for a considerable time such an eminently exemplary, humble and edifying life and testimony as shall heals the wound made by his scandal. A deposed minister shall in no case be restored until it shall appear that the general sentiment of the Church is strongly in his favor, and demands his restoration; and then only by the court inflicting the censure, or with that court’s consent. The removal of deposition requires a three-fourths (3/4) vote of the court inflicting the censure, or a three-fourths (3/4) vote of the court to which the majority of the original court delegates that authority.

    So, unless y’all can produce tangible evidence that Tullian and the pastor and elders of Willow Creek are in fact acting contrary to the BCO or the disciplinary actions of the South Florida Presbytery, I have no reason to believe that Tullian is behaving in a rogue fashion akin to men like Driscoll and Furtick.

    As I’ve already stated, comparing Tullian to Driscoll and Furtick is comparing apples and oranges.

    As for taking issue with the amount of time that has elapsed, I seem to recall that Jesus had some pretty messed up men on his “staff”. One was a tax-collector who was put into ministry by Jesus mere hours after he was actively engaging in the sinful practices of the tax collectors of his day. The other was a fisherman named Peter who was restored to the Apostolic Office mere days after he denied even knowing Jesus. Tullian, unlike Mathew and Peter has not been restored to one of the teaching offices of the church. But, Tullian like Mathew and Peter is a penitent and forgiven sinner.

    1. Chris, there are people who say that Driscoll is penitent based on their private conversations with him. What is publicly available in regard to Tullian that demonstrates the difference?

      1. First, Tullian has publicly acknowledged his sin. Driscoll has yet to publicly acknowledge many of the sins that he committed in the pastoral office.

        Second, as I’ve already stated above, “the elders and pastor of Willow Creek are fully aware of the circumstances of Tullian’s sin and his divorce. Yet, they are receiving Tullian into communicant membership. That would not be possible if Tullian were persisting in impenitent sin.”

        The fact that a PCA church, in good standing, is receiving Tullian into membership is public evidence that after being examined by the pastor and the elders of the church they are convinced that he is penitent and bearing fruit in keeping with that repentance. Their actions in receiving Tullian into membership is public evidence, not private, of Tullian’s repentance.

      2. Chris, appealing to Willow Creeks decision as evidence for the veracity of Willow Creeks decision is circular reasoning.

        Beyond that, Tullian confessed to an “inappropriate affair” while at the same time shielding his mistress more than his wife. That is not penitence… Penitence doesn’t say “my wife did this, so I stumbled into sin because of how hurt I was.” Penitence says “I committed adultery. This was my sin, please forgive me.” How is Tullian’s confession substantially different from someone saying “I made mistakes”?

        Was the Central Florida Presbytery aware of Gillian’s offer of employment? Did they support it?

  4. Chris, Would you counsel any church to hire a Pastor who committed adultery a couple months ago to a Director of Ministry development position? I wonder what the Elders and congregation at Coral Ridge are thinking. I don’t think they would employ him back within that short of time, why would it be wise then for another church?

    1. In addition, there is a quality of dark comedy about someone weeks off his own resignation for pastoral adultery being hired to promote and develop another church’s “ministry.” My five adult children look at his pig’s dinner of evangelicalism and shake their heads. All 5 have walked away from mit for EXACTLY this kind of situation. It’s a joke. Church discipline becomes a joke. Leadership becomes a joke. The Christian walk becomes a joke. THAT is the quiet but true legacy of the Tullians in leadership publicly crashing and burning by their own decisions as pastors (supposedly held to a higher standard according to Scripture.) and then getting a new ministry gig within weeks at another church. Shameful at every level. And all of it being enabled by those who should know better.

  5. If I were counseling Tullian, even if he had approval from the So. Fl. presby. to take this position I would have advised to not do so. He needs to refrain from any public ministry under any guise for quite some time. It’s the same advice I would give a man who has divorced his wife even with biblical grounds – don’t even think of a relationship with a woman for a couple years – there’s much more to work out in his heart and mind regarding his own sin, motives, and contribution to this tragedy than he can possibly realize in such a short period of time. Jumping back into a public Christian position after he had confessed to having to ore or less “fallen under the influence of his own fame” is just a bad idea at this point and a path fraught with potential pitfalls.

    Doing something even “if” allowable isn’t the same thing as doing the thing that is wise. And to apply wisdom to one’s life is to apply the theology of the cross to one’s life. “Whoever finds [seeks, saves, keeps] his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

  6. T.L.,

    There is no point confusing you with facts. You’ve already got your mind made up.

    If you have evidence that Tullian is acting contrary to the disciplinary decisions of the South Florida Presbytery then post it.

    As for the fact that Tullian is being received into membership at Willow Creek as some how being a circular argument, if you have evidence that the elders and pastor Willow Creek have acted contrary to their governing documents regarding who can be brought into membership, then post it. If you can’t produce such evidence then it is clear that after examining Tullian they’ve found that he is penitent and meets the qualifications as a penitent sinner to be brought into membership. If he were not penitent then they would be acting contrary to scripture, the PCA’s and Willow Creek’s governing documents.

    You’re questions, speculations, opinions and theories are not counter evidence.

    If Willow Creek is acting contrary to scripture, the BCO and their governing documents then produce the evidence an bring formal charges against them.

    The reason why you haven’t actually produced evidence to that effect is because there is no evidence that is what Willow Creek has done. Instead, Willow Creeks actions are completely in accord with scripture, the disciplinary decision of the South Florida Presbytery, the BCO and their own governing documents.

    Furthermore, Willow Creek’s actions are a very tangible example of what it looks like to fulfill Galatians 6:1 which states, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

    1. Chris, as I’ve said. If it is demonstrated that what you say is true, I will gladly apologize. All it would take is a letter of transfer from CRPC to WCC.

      The only difference right now between this situation and Driscoll’s is that you are on the inside circle… And Driscoll is still unemployed. All the public evidence available to the rest of us makes it look drastically similar.

      1. Chris, a Pastor of a PCA church is a member of the Presbytery. However, upon being deposed (but not excommunicated) that person is assigned membership in another congregation. This requires the approval of that congregation’s session. My understanding is that it is not possible to assign him membership in another presbytery. So, Tullian would have been assigned to membership in a South Florida Presbytery congregation (CRPC or another congregation). If he wanted to transfer his membership from there to WCC, a letter of transfer would be expected.

        If Tullian joined a congregation in the Central Florida Presbytery before the Southern Florida Presbytery had a chance to assign him to a new congregation, then I think that speaks for itself. If he was assigned membership in a SFP church, then there should be a letter of transfer. If he was assigned to WCC, then the CFP session that WCC is a part of would have had to approve it.

        Which of those three was it Chris?

      2. T.L.

        You asked, “Which of those three was it Chris?”

        Here’s My answer: You mean to tell us that you didn’t find out which of these three it was BEFORE you publicly called for Tullian to be barred from the Lord’s Supper??

        With that question you just proved my point that you didn’t get your fact straight before you decided to publicly accuse Tullian and Willow Creek of sin and call for Tullian to be barred from the sacrament of the altar.

        I’m not going to do your work for you.

        I suggest that you take down your posts until you get all the details. Only after you have all the facts will you be in a position to make an assessment regarding the actions of Willow Creek and Tullian. Until then it is patently obvious that your call for further discipline is extremely premature and not based in any factual evidence that a sin has taken place.

      3. Chris, you are the one making the claim that despite what it appears to be, that Tullian and WCC have acted in accord with the PCA BCO. They have not, unless there is some secret behind the scenes communication that has happened that is not being publicized.

        My question of “which is it” is oriented toward you. Which of those three secret and out of the ordinary things is happening, that you have privy to that the rest of the world does not.

        I think that what happened is Tullian was given an opportunity to flee the discipline of his presbytery and regain a position of leadership in the Church, and he availed himself of that opportunity.

        I called for him to be suspended from the Lord’s Table for his own good. I’m sad that you can’t see that it is not safe for a man who is fleeing the covenant discipline of the Church to come to the table.

      4. Chris, please see my latest post. No need to keep fighting when I’ve already defeated myself on this one.

  7. Thank you Jack for your comments. Chris I’m confused (with your exegesis) to how you’ve used all your Scripture references to suggest that Tullian’s and Willow Creek’s decision was wise and biblical.Those SR have nothing to do with restoring a Pastor into a ministry position within months of admitted adultery? But yes we definitely want our brother Tullian and his wife to be restored. We want them to believe the words I use to hear Tullian preach, that it is finished and there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

  8. Really, guys……the man has to eat and support himself as well as his family. And you would deny him the ability to hold what is blazingly apparent as an administrative, advisory position in a church? I find that, frankly, shocking. Are you aware of any lack of repentance on his part? Are you intimately involved in the details? Were you there when he was questioned and when he displayed repentance? No on all counts. In the first place, you are holding him to pastoral ministry standards, which is wrong. Secondly, you seem determined to kick a man when he is down. What about the Scriptures that point to restoration after repentance? NOT restoration to pastoral ministry, but restoration to the church. Please think about your position.

    1. Soakland, why should someone who has been revoked of their credentials as a minister of the Gospel serve in an “advisory position” to those who are preaching the Gospel?

      I’m all about restoring a penitent sinner to the church, and the PCA has a process for that. It is to assign a deposed person to a congregation within the Presbytery.

      1. There was a PCA officer Robert Audet on twitter the other day telling Labby that TT has refused to submit to the disciplinary process and asking Labby if he was OK with that. Labby said that their decision was in accord with PCA polity. Well maybe, technically speaking, but then of course they’re adhering to the letter of the ‘law’ while ignoring the spirit of it. Someone needs to find out if this refusal to submit is true. Someone also needs to find out if this unbiblical office of ‘director of ministry development’ (which sounds like a title for a church growth consultant or at BEST a Christian Ed department director) is open to women.

        A “NO” to that question would be telling, wouldn’t it?

        But hey who cares about his soul, God needs his brilliant talents, otherwise the Kingdom shall not go forth!

        Also, those who are suggesting there is stuff we don’t need to know, who are hiding videos and audio, seem to be ignoring the fact that TT himself told us he wants to be out there so we can see him at his worst – he claims it is because he actually believes what he has preached about grace. Frankly taking the initiative to file for divorce, even if it was at Kim’s request (which we don’t know, I’m just throwing that out as a hypothesis) is still wrong. You don’t give your loved ones the ability to make you do wrong. That is not grace at all.

  9. I posted this to Chris Rosebrough on his page

    Shortly after this whole thing blew up, Tullian released a statement that said this, among other things, :

    “Both my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions and we ask you to pray for us and our family that God would give us the grace we need to weather this heart wrenching storm.”

    His wife responded to his statement “The statement reflected my husband’s opinions but not my own.”

    Now, we don’t have any further statement from Kim, and we don’t know the current state of her Christian faith as she’s requested prvacy and hopefully people are giving it/ But here’s the thing. Tullian said

    She is heartbroken over her actions
    She asks for prayer for their family
    She asks for Grace to weather the storm

    So according to Tullian, if both husband and wife are heartbroken and asking for prayer, how is it that you give it a few months and then surmise that the marriage is irrevocably broken, and then Tullian INITIATES the divorce.

    I’m told that he’s repentant and all, and yet i feel like I’m left to surmise that Tullian was not being upfront about how his wife feels., which makes me question his repentance. If his own wife is contradicting him and repudiating his side of things…and will not support his account…why should I believe him and not her? Repentant people don’t act this way.

    And what would be one good reason for him to initiate the divorce if he does not want a divorce?

  10. There’s the Evangelical Industrial Complex and then there’s the Rosebrough Fighting Pirate Industrial Complex. One is much larger than the other but both, it appears, know the language of technicality preserves their investments.

  11. There’s the Evangelical Industrial Complex and then there’s the Rosebrough Fighting Pirate Industrial Complex. One is just larger than the other but both appear to specialize in technicality when rescuing their investments.

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