The Taste of Crow

Earlier today, I recieved the following letter, forwarded to me by a person in the Central Florida Presbytery.

Dear Fathers and Brothers –

Our decision to invite Tullian Tchividjian to relocate to Orlando, join Willow Creek Church, and even serve as a member of our support staff was motivated by love for Christ, the peace and purity of His Church, and Tullian and his family.

Our Session voted unanimously to extend these offers, confident that we were in a unique position to offer Tullian a safe haven to continue in his healing and repentance. Tullian attended Willow Creek during his seminary years; maintains encouraging friendships with members of our congregation and community; and will benefit from a church body that knows him and will endeavor to love him accordingly, in the grace and peace of Christ.

As a member of the Presbyterian Church in America, I proactively reached out to the South Florida Presbytery through the chairman of the committee overseeing Tullian’s care and discipline process. I wanted to make sure that we were pursuing this course decently and in good order.

We received an encouraging word that while Tullian was indeed deposed from the office of teaching elder, he was not excommunicated or given further censure. I was very clear in our intent, and nothing in the conversation led me to believe that we were circumventing the South Florida Presbytery’s decision. We proceeded in good faith. If we were mistaken, it was a joint error. However, and more importantly, I am confident that our system of government can accommodate the error and correct it in a manner that promotes Tullian’s growth in grace and the peace and purity of Christ’s Church – all with gentleness and respect.

The position offered to Tullian is a non-ordained, support position. Recognizing his deposition from office, it does not involve any functions unique to the office of elder in general or teaching elder in particular. It provides him a community of grace in which to work and worship; the means to provide for his family; and an opportunity to display his repentance before the body of Christ. For these reasons, we are overjoyed and eager to welcome him into our church family.

Please pray for us and all involved in caring for Tullian and his family.

Sincerely,

Kevin Labby, Senior Pastor

Willow Creek Church

Although there has not been a formal statement made by the Central or Southern Florida Presbytery’s, I have good reason to think that the leadership of the Central Florida Presbytery does not believe that a violation has occurred.

Just as Luther had to clarify the various kinds of statement he has made, I so must also.

  1. I still believe that this is an unwise decision, and that it is inappropriate for Tullian to be serving in any role as an employee of the Church, especially one that is in any way tangentially connected to the ministry of the Gospel. I do not regret making statements to that effect, nor do I withdraw them.
  2. I still believe that the conclusions I drew were reasonable conclusions based on the information which was made publicly available. I am intentionally not deleting the posts, since I do not feel it is appropriate to erase the evidence of my former mistakes, and I think that were my conclusions not proven incorrect with the revelation of further information, it represents an appropriate and biblical exhortation.
  3. I made strong statements regarding Chris Rosebrough and his inconsistent approach in the matter. While I still believe that there are inconsistencies in his approach, I do regret making strong statements without all of the facts. I ask that Chris forgive me for speaking rashly.
  4. I made strong statements regarding the implications of this transition and what it says about Tullian’s repentance and submission to Church discipline. I ask that Tullian forgive me for making erroneous conclusions and speaking publicly regarding them.
  5. I made strong statements regarding the leadership of WCC regarding this decision. As stated above, I still believe this to be an unwise decision that is ultimately not beneficial for Tullian, his family, the congregation members of WCC. I ask that Kevin and the other leadership at WCC forgive me for speaking rashly.
  6. Because I have sinned against my brothers, I have also sinned against God. I trust in the finished work of Christ who not only began a good work in me by justifying me, but also to complete that good work in me by perfecting me in sanctification.

27 thoughts on “The Taste of Crow

  1. Thank you, Tony. This statement and apology truly brings tears to this old man’s eyes. God bless you for what you have said here.

  2. I cannot even begin to convey to you my deepest appreciation for your humility and kind expression toward us. I read this post through tears of joy. Of course, I forgive you. It’s an absolutely delight to do so. Also, although I haven’t yet spoken to them all, I am exceedingly confident that our elders and Tullian will forgive you.

    We’ve endeavored to do an admittedly unique thing well, with proper deference to the courts of the church. We’re moving forward in good faith, and appreciate your Spirit-born willingness to clarify things for your readers.

    Finally, and this is going to be redundant, I honestly don’t know that I’ve come across a more beautiful expression of Christian humility in a blog in a long time, maybe ever. Differences in thinking and approach aside, the love of Christ and the fellowship of his Spirit have clearly won the day here.

    Thank you. Thank you so, so very much.

    Much love in Christ,

    Kevin Labby, Senior Pastor
    Willow Creek Church

    P.S. Feel free to reach out to me if you require any further clarification for you and your readers.

    1. This may sound harsh: It doesn’t seem to be a unique move to put a celebrity pastor back into a position of authority as all the prosperity gospel preaching churches tend to do the same thing.
      As a married women this looks like a man getting off the hook in loving his wife as Christ loved the church. I don’t think Jesus is really happy with what the PCA has done.

  3. This is such a breath of fresh air, and quite the example of humility and clarity. I pray the Lord bless you and keep you. We are also praying for Tullian and for Willow Creek Church in these tough times. God is faithful.

  4. Hi,

    Look i’m a nobody who doesn’t really have any right to post anything regarding TT except that it was devastating to my wife and myself who were struggling with our church which had gone astray from the gospel and had found some solace in TT’s preaching, we were both depressed when we heard the news and my wife was just starting to get the real gospel into her life for the first time but has for now given up listening to podcasts.

    My only other question and i ask this in all humility not wanting to accuse or speak of things i don’t know, and that is should TT be banned from social media as part of his rehabilitation process? I asked this because I follow him on twitter and for the most part twitter and social media are soapboxes, virtual pulpits if you like, and no matter what he tries to say about god and faith, coming from a pastor it is a kind of preaching. Maybe church discipline processes haven’t caught up with the technology of the age?

    Thank you

    Jeff Brislane
    Sydney Australia

  5. Is it true that TT is going through a divorce, and if so, who initiated the divorce?

    Given what happened, is it fair to say that TT should be prohibited from ever remarrying and should be excommunicated if he does?

    1. Daniel, I don’t want to make extensive comments on this.

      It is true that Tullian is currently going through a divorce, and my understanding is that he initiated this divorce.

      My understanding of Scripture is that he has the prerogative to do so since his wife committed adultery.

      Given the context of this divorce, I am not sure regarding his prerogative to remarry, and would leave that decision to the discretion of his session and presbytery.

      Please pray for Tullian and the session at WCC as they care for him and his family.

  6. You overeached in your apology, in my view, and it seems as though some people have never experienced someone apologizing. You still maintain your position that this lacks wisdom and discretion and that Rosebrough is inconsistent. Interesting he only stopped by to “forgive you” but nary is any concession on his part, nevermind his apology to you. Don’t melt so fast and so completely that you do not maintain your points with force.

    Rosebrough doesn’t take confrontation well, it seems.

    1. Alex, I was very intention about what I apologized for and I assure you that I don’t melt. I spoke rashly, harshly, and without all of the facts. That was unwise, and it caused me to sin against my brothers.

      I maintained the points I intended to maintain, and with the force that I intended to.

      Thanks for taking time to read my posts though.

      1. I don’t imagine you do melt. I suspect I used it as a poor synonym for re-framing your objects which I believe are still being ignored other than to be addressed with sugary language by WCREEK and technicalities by Rosebrough. God’s grace to you.

  7. “be slow to speak” > blogging/reacting to something online in haste.

    Thanks for being a good example of public repentance though. That takes courage.

  8. Whether it’s been handled biblically (as the pingback link says) is highly questionable. How the presbytery can sign off on him divorcing her so quickly after this debacle ESPECIALLY when they both sinned in the same way is beyond me. I have imagined up the wildest scenarios and it simply does not compute, BIBLICALLY unless you want to be a hard hearted pharisee. It shows that Tullian’s message of grace for the undeserving sinner is just a ruse. It only works if someone repents at the moment you demand it. Another variation on that is when someone who is in the wrong (or even if he is believed to be in the wrong) announces “I’m ready to forgive you.” Even done with the floweriest prose that doesn’t work very well. God can do it, because he is not ever wrong. When a person does it, he sounds like he thinks he’s God. I’ve had that done to me too.

    People keep telling me “there’s no formula for repentance” which is exactly what I say all the time. Except that there does seem to be when it comes to the woman in this particular scenario. Maybe her repentance is just taking longer. If there’s no set formula for repentance, there can’t possibly be a set formula for forgiveness either and everyone should just cut us dissenters some slack because clearly, we’re also forgiving… in our own way. (Not that we had anything to forgive him for, since he didn’t actually sin against us, I’m just using the terms that have been used against us facetiously.)

    Sure glad God is more patient than to give us 2 months to figure out what we are doing is wrong!

    I had commented on Paul Tripp’s FB page that TT could not have even begun to fix his marriage until after he stepped down and threw his wife under the bus so at minimum it’d been 2 months before he decided to put the final bullet in the heart of his marriage. (incidentally his sister seemed to like that comment, as well as my comment in agreement with another responder who said Tripp’s article was all SPIN in behalf of his friend Tullian.) Before that stepping down, he was still undermining it because a truly wise repentant, marriage-reconciling man doesn’t have the attitude that says go out and cheat in response, and damage the marriage further. And since his stepping down everything he has done publicly has only served to undermine his case and cement in my mind that he’s a seeker driven attention whore who uses his family for crass sexual-sin-minimizing jokes in his messages. It would be utterly miserable to be married to such. Not that that excuses cheating, but someone doesn’t abandon a 20 year marriage with three kids on a whim. TT seems to be behaving as if no one should ever abandon *him* when all along his message is that we all deserve such treatment but don’t get it because God is merciful.

    (if indeed she did cheat, which I reserve the right to be skeptical of since she made no accusation or confession herself and if she did only makes her as bad as him… and he’s getting all the defense here so…)

    It stands to reason that Kim has been unhappy for a long time. What wife can survive three kids with a husband who is always gone and receiving such public accolades? Maybe she isn’t a Ruth Graham. Is that a sin? It’s the woman he married, and that is his first priority. Why is it ok that he hasn’t given it more than two months to his 20 year marriage (dubious that it is that) nor treated her according to the long suffering he has advocated for (even using her as a theoretical sermon illustration of this sometimes)? If he reacted this way to her sin, then he has a whole lot more to work on in the department of generally healthy relationships ( not confined to romantic relationships either) than just this latest sinful action.

    The very fact that she has not made any accusation but simply said that his story differed from hers after he threw her under the bus before the world is a bit telling. Isn’t the man supposed to protect the woman?

    But then when seeker driven pastors run into someone who doesn’t comply with the program, that’s what they do.

    Who said this? No googling!
    “No church government can tolerate such an insurrection from those who will not listen to admonition, refuse all counsel, and will stop at nothing until they have overthrown legitimate authority and replaced it with their own.”

    hint: the author of this line had recently come into a church and fired most of the staff and replaced it with his own. ‪

    And it’s funny how people who expose this kind of purpose driven hostile takeover falsehood for a living can’t see it when they’ve got an emotional connection with the person. #favoritism #goodoldboysclub

    1. Oh and the quote you gave is from Tullian when he had the dissenters at Coral Ridge removed. Oftentimes in these situations, it is a minority that takes the hard stand and they usually suffer from the majority for it. The way of wisdom is not readily accepted by most. God’s way is difficult. Rightly so, look at the unfathomable price He paid for our sins. “Easy believeism” it’s been called. Yeah I’m saved by grace and don’t have to worry about fighting sin! If I sin, well, it was gonna happen anyway and God understands. Taking up a cross? Jesus did that for me, right? All I need to do is stay in the Gospel.

  9. Your apology really isn’t necessary. You just need to amend your condemnation to include the Central Florida Presbytery, if it’s indeed supporting the appointment of Mr. T. to a “ministry” position so soon after adultery and filing for a divorce. And, of course, the South Florida Presbytery hasn’t diss’d the Central Florida Presbytery if they’re partners to the idea.

    Did the Central Florida Presbytery also support his filing for a divorce? We’d want to think it through, and I hope the PCA has some position on the issue, but it seems wrong for an adulterer to be able to divorce his wife. Indeed, the implication is that whenever both spouses are adulterous, either can get a biblical divorce and remarry.

    The speedy filing for divorce is particularly scandalous in light of Mr. T.’s emphasis on grace, mercy, and forgiveness. “Mercy for me but not for thee!” Why the haste? Is he eager to marry someone else?

    As for the job, I’m sure there are lots of ordained evangelical men who are looking for jobs with churches and can’t find them. Whoever donated the money for the position (was it Mr. T. himself?) could have donated it for a more humble position such as lawnmowing or church secretary, or, if he’s particularly concerned about the poor, for helping out at a soup kitchen. A grand-sounding position in a big wealthy church is the last thing that’s helpful to the soul of a celebrity pastor gone wrong.

    1. And maybe the position could have gone to a faithful family man who really needs to support his wife and children. Most defrocked pastors I’ve known of have had to get secular job and were not coddled by the church.

  10. I gotta agree with you and most people on here as it seems even though they dotted their i’s and crossed all their T’s it kinda is circumventing the whole process. I mean if a sports coach got caught cheating in the game he couldn’t just go become some type of administration role. I mean I know that’s a crude analogy but theirs something shady with the whole thing. I mean time will tell but in a situation like this it just seems like he should just focus on his walk and not try so quickly to career mode.

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