Category Archives: Tullian Tchividjian

Reflections on Erasures

As I noted in my article regarding Tullian’s Current Membership Status, I will be offering some reflections. Many would look at a simple act of declaring a person to be no longer a member of a local church to be something of a non-issue, that could not be further from the truth.

I’ll again here quote from the PCA‘s Book of Church Order for reference:

When a member of a particular church has willfully neglected the church for a period of one year, or has made it known that he has no intention of fulfilling the church vows, then the Session, continuing to exercise pastoral discipline (BCO 27-1a and 27-4) in the spirit of Galatians 6:1, shall remind the member, if possible both in person and in writing, of the declarations and promises by which he entered into a solemn covenant with God and His Church (BCO 57-5, nos. 3-5), and warn him that, if he persists, his name shall be erased from the roll.

If after diligently pursuing such pastoral discipline, and after further inquiry and due delay, the Session is of the judgment that the member will not fulfill his membership obligations in this or any other branch of the Visible Church (cf. BCO 2-2), then the Session shall erase his name from the roll. This erasure is an act of pastoral discipline (BCO 27-1a) without process. The Session shall notify the person, if possible, whose name has been removed.

Notwithstanding the above, if a member thus warned makes a written request for process (i.e., BCO Chapters 31-33, 35-36), the Session shall grant such a request. Further, if the Session determines that any offense of such a member is of the nature that process is necessary, the Session may institute such process.


A quick excursus. Many of my readers have noted that some of these terms are confusing. I think that is because there is a general lack of awareness of Presbyterian Polity, even among the Young, Reformed, Restless / New Calvinism crowd. Presbyterianism functions generally by the presence of a regional Church called a Presbytery. This Presbytery is composed in its membership of the ordained teaching elders of the local congregations in the region. The teaching elders, along with ruling elders (usually lay persons who are ordained by the Session which they are being elected or appointed to), of each congregation make up what is called the Session. This session is comparable to an elder board in Baptist and Evangelical churches.


The first thing to recognize in reference to this action taken by the Session of which Tullian was a member is that this is not a neutral action. It is formal church discipline. Neglecting to attend the Lord’s Day service, especially on a repeated basis, is a sin. The action which the Session takes to “remind the member […] of the declarations and promises by which he entered a solemn covenant” is essentially the equivalent of step one or two of the Matthew 18 process. The Session is attempting to confront this member with their sin and call them to repentance and returned participation and fellowship with the Church.

Once the Session has made these attempts, they make a judgement. They are not required to make this judgement, but if they do make the judgement that the member is neglecting his vows to faithfully attend to the Lord’s Day, “in this or any other branch of the Visible Church” then the session erases the member’s name from the membership rolls.

This is significant for two reasons. First, Tullian’s session made the determination that Tullian was not attending worship in any local congregation on a regular basis. This may not be true, but since Tullian refused contact with the Session they were forced to come to this conclusion. Had they been made aware of a difference set of circumstances (Either by Tullian, by a direct acquaintance of Tullian’s, or by word of mouth) they would not have taken this action. There are provisions in the BCO to transfer membership without this kind of erasure. Second, this is essentially a form of excommunication. Tullian, by severing himself from the Visible Church has excommunicated himself. The Session’s judgement and action here is a confirmation of that self-imposed excommunication. Dr. Rev. Glen Clary, Teaching Elder at Providence Presbyterian Church (OPC) says this:

Even though erasure is not exactly the same as excommunication, the effect is the same as if it were. The man was removed from the membership of the church of Christ. Unless he has obtained membership in another visible church, he is to be regarded as “a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17). I.e. he should not be regarded as a “brother in Christ.”

I called for Tullian’s excommunication recently and a little over a year ago, although this is a sad result and I would have much preferred that Tullian repent and be restored… excommuncation, or in this case erasure confirming a self-imposed excommunication, exists both for the good of the wayward individual, but also to protect the peace and purity of God’s Church. At this point, as Dr. Clary notes, we are not to regard Tullian as a Christian. The Session which was responsible for his soul (Heb 13:17) has assessed Tullian’s fruit, and based on his refusal to submit to church discipline and willful abandonment of the responsibilities to his local church —which he solemnly vowed to uphold— has determined that he is not a Christian. This spiritual reality which the Church has recognized (not determined, Tullian did that) is made visible by removing him from membership in the Visible Church.

Now, what of this talk of “process.” The PCA BCO uses the term “process” to speak of formal disciplinary action. Essentially, and in most cases, this takes the form of a trial. Erasure of this type is no less discipline, but it does not require any sort of public trial. The final clause of the final paragraph indicates that the Session could have taken this action through process if they so desired, and Tullian could have responded to the notification that his name was being erased by requesting process.

Now, I want to say this clearly: I have not been in contact with the leadership of the Session of which Tullian was subject. I do not know their reasoning for taking the approach they did, and I in no way want to question their judgement. Without knowing what their reasoning was, I simply am not in a position to speculate or assess it.

However, if I were on the Session making this decision, I would have advocated for this discipline to take place with process, and here is why:

First, Tullian is guilty of far more than just not being faithful to his membership vows. During his time under this Session’s jurisdiction —at least from what I can tell, it isn’t clear when he was removed from the membership rolls, but it probably was not prior to August of 2016— he lied publicly to the entire nation, he continued to teach —both in non-elder capacities at conferences and events, and at least once in an elder capacity on the Lord’s Day— he divorced his wife without biblical grounds, and he remarried. He did all of these things without any real indication of repentance at this point. The divorce and remarriage in itself is worthy of excommunication. Churches like Spring Hills would be less likely to have him teach (or offer him a job) if he had been excommunicated. Non-denominational church members have a tendency to move from church to church, and many non-denominational churches don’t do membership at all. Leaving a church is no big deal, getting kicked out of a church is. Furthermore, publishers like David C Cook would face more pressure not to publish Tullian or give him a platform to propagate his theological error. As it stands, they are currently publishing a book in which he makes the destruction that his lust, manipulation, lies, and arrogance wrought to be a good thing.

Second, as you can see from previous posts —which was operating on information from persons within the South Florida and Central Florida Presbyteries— it was unclear exactly where Tullian’s membership was. For nearly a year it was assumed that his membership was at Willow Creek, then for a brief time it was assumed it remained with the South Florida Presbytery. One of the hallmarks of Presbyterianism is its desire to do everything decently and in good order. I can understand why there might be a desire to not make this public, no congregation wants that kind of attention. However, a public action with process also comes with a kind of clarity and transparency that was lacking in this situation. Again, I don’t want to cast aspersions on the Session which made the decisions they did, I have no idea why they chose the course of action they did and they probably had good reasons that I am not privy to. However, where they to have pursued this with process, it would have been clear where his membership resided.

Finally, as we have seen in the past, Tullian is a master manipulator. He twists narratives to fit his needs. This often takes the form of bald faced lies, but also takes the form of subtle shifts in the story which paints him in a different light. I can imagine at least three ways he could do so as things went. Perhaps he didn’t know where his membership lay. Perhaps he did respond to them and tell them where he was going to church. Maybe he has actually been attending the church and the leadership is lying. At this point, he could say just about anything and there is no public counter narrative. However, discipline with process would involve evidence, public statements by the Session, witnesses, and ultimately a formal judgement by not just the Session involved, but likely the Presbytery as a whole. This would include the Session at Coral Ridge PCA which is constituted by men Tullian served with, as well as men whom Tullian was an Elder over.


Please also see a helpful article published in the Ordained Servant, which is a publication of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. While there are differences between the OPC and PCA, in my study the way they treat erasure and excommunication has not proven to be substantially different.

Peter II Stazen, “Unbiblical Erasures,” Ordained Servant 4, no. 3 (1995): 67–70.


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.

Tullian’s Current Membership Status

After my recent Open Letter to the South Florida Presbytery, and a Call to Repentance by many of Tullian‘s former confidants, I began to receive emails and messages asking what Tullian’s current status was. Did I know where he held membership? Was he going to be excommunicated?

In order to begin to seek answers to these questions, I reached out to the Stated Clerk of the South Florida Presbytery and asked him to read my recent letter. He graciously responded to my email and provided me with the following information. I will, at a later point, be offering some thoughts. However, in order to avoid confusion I will simply be providing the information he provided to me regarding Tullian’s current status. The following is a summary of the information that the Stated Clerk provided to me (Posted with permission):

Tullian was deposed by South Florida Presbytery and therefore no longer an ordained Teaching Elder of the PCA. According to the policies outlined in the Book of Church Order, his membership was assigned to a church in South Florida Presbytery. The Session was was asked to transfer Tullian’s membership to Willow Creek, located in Winter Spring Florida, under the jurisdiction of the Central Florida Presbytery. However before the transfer was completed, Tullian left Willow Creek. The church where Tullian’s membership remained, in the South Florida Presbytery, attempted to contact him unsuccessfully and eventually followed Chapter 38, Paragraph 4 of the PCA Book of Church Order and removed Tullian from their membership rolls.

For reference, the Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America, states the following in Chapter 38, Paragraph 4:

When a member of a particular church has willfully neglected the church for a period of one year, or has made it known that he has no intention of fulfilling the church vows, then the Session, continuing to exercise pastoral discipline (BCO 27-1a and 27-4) in the spirit of Galatians 6:1, shall remind the member, if possible both in person and in writing, of the declarations and promises by which he entered into a solemn covenant with God and His Church (BCO 57-5, nos. 3-5), and warn him that, if he persists, his name shall be erased from the roll.

If after diligently pursuing such pastoral discipline, and after further inquiry and due delay, the Session is of the judgment that the member will not fulfill his membership obligations in this or any other branch of the Visible Church (cf. BCO 2-2), then the Session shall erase his name from the roll. This erasure is an act of pastoral discipline (BCO 27-1a) without process. The Session shall notify the person, if possible, whose name has been removed.

Notwithstanding the above, if a member thus warned makes a written request for process (i.e., BCO Chapters 31-33, 35-36), the Session shall grant such a request. Further, if the Session determines that any offense of such a member is of the nature that process is necessary, the Session may institute such process.


As stated above, I will forego any extensive comments to a later post. However, at this point I will simply note that currently Tullian is no longer a member in congregation, session, or presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. Furthermore, he neglected attendance or communication with his church of membership for at least a year.


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.

A Response to a Call to Repentance

On Monday, several pastors and other prominent figures— who have been involved in events surrounding Tullian Tchividjian— issued a call to repentance. This statement has been received with —from what I can tell— three basic responses.

  1. Approval – There are those who see this and applaud it. They believe this to be an appropriate step taken by men and women who were involved in counseling and disciplining Tullian.
  2. Dissatisfaction – There are those who do not think the statement is strong enough, are disappointed that certain names are missing, or are frustrated that this statement did not come sooner.
  3. Disapproval – There are those who think this is an inappropriate thing to do, and view it as a kind of public shaming and think that it should be handled privately under the auspices of the local church.

I think, upon reflection, that I probably hover somewhere between Approval and Dissatisfaction, leaning heavily on the Approval side. As one might surmise from my call to excommunicate him, that I think things are further along on the Matthew 18 process than the words of the letter indicate. As I understand it, the signatories of the letter appear to be at step three, publicly calling for repentance in the presence of the whole Church. Since I have been doing that for over a year now it is understandable that we’re at different places on the path, and I think that’s just fine.

I wanted to highlight a few reasons why I think that those in the third category are wrong, and a few things that those in the second category should consider.

First, when this all broke, there were a group of men and women who rallied behind Tullian. The defended him against claims (like the ones that I made) that he did not appear to be adequately repentant. They cited his willingness to submit to church discipline, his general avoidance of the spotlight, and their personal interactions with him as the evidence that he was truly repentant. Many of those people (although not all) are signatories of this letter. This is a very public statement which clearly says that their conclusions were wrong. Now, we can go back and forth about whether or not they should have been able to see through Tullian’s lies, and that may be a worthwhile discussion. However, the fact of the matter is that at this point, they are saying in no uncertain terms that Tullian was not repentant, and that he is in danger of damnation if he does not repent. Phrases like “impenitently used his public platform,” “for the sake of his eternal soul,” and “repent of his wickedness” are strong phrases that were intentionally and carefully selected.

Second, related to the first, Tullian has continued to forward the narrative that he has a group of advisers who are working with him, and know everything. Tullian recently stated

I am very grateful for the small group of wise and godly people who are (and have been) walking through this meticulously with me. I am fully accountable to them and there is nothing that they do not know.

Now, for some of us who have been attentive, and have had communications with people directly involved in the situation, it was clear that the original group which stood behind him was falling away as the realized the reality represented in the letter published on Monday. However, many people reading Tullian’s statement assumed that figures like Kevin Labby, Chris Rosebrough, and Elyse Fitzpatrick were among that group. That is simply not the case, and this letter makes that clear. In fact, no one that I have talked to who is close to the situation has any idea who Tullian is talking about, and given his past track record of deception, partial disclosure, and narrative management… I doubt that there is a group of people to whom he is fully accountable to, or who know everything about Tullian’s past and present.

Third, this is a clear and appropriate instance of men and women taking Matthew 18 seriously. These people went to Tullian privately, and he refused to repent. They are now bringing it before the whole Church publicly. Tullian, from what anyone can tell, has not submitted himself to a local church, and thus there is no local church court to which these people can go. A public call to repentance, with a clear statement of what the first step toward repentance looks like, and a clear implication of what the consequences of refusal are is exactly what step three in the Matthew 18 process should look like.

Finally, these men and women are saying in no uncertain terms that they no longer consider Tullian to be repentant, and no longer are willing to publicly —or ostensibly privately— support him without repentance. They are saying that Tullian is not accountable to them, nor are they accountable for Tullian. Rather, they are publicly stating that Tullian is accountable to the local church in which he retains membership (which has been verified by multiple sources in a position to know is a congregation in Miami under the jurisdiction of the South Florida Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America), and directing him to go there for discipline and accountability. One of the criticisms that some leveled in the beginning of all this is that Tullian had an accountability group from all over the country, rather than the God ordained accountability of the local Church. This is an affirmation of that fact.

Ultimately, as I said, I resonate with those who would like to see more. A stronger statement, more names, more rebuke, more… however, I would also point to the strengths of this statement and ask those who are in the Dissatisfied group to consider what I’ve said. The people who signed this list, although not explicitly in the letter, have come to terms that they erred in their judgement. When I make a mistake, I really hate to publicize that mistake… but that is what they have done here. They have done it not to save face… this actually does the opposite and reveals that they were wrong about Tullian. Instead, they have voluntarily revealed that fact in the most public of ways… because they care about Tullian and want to see him repent and be reconciled to the Church, and to God in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. You may wish they made a stronger statement, but you can’t argue with their intentions.


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.

A Call to Repentance

The following letter was posted to the websites of Pastor Kevin LabbyPastor Chris Rosebrough, Paul David Tripp, and Elyse Fitzpatrick. Let us all pray that this represents the beginning of what will ultimately be Tullian’s repentance.


Dear Friends:

We join with others in expressing our shared grief regarding these latest allegations, as well as our thankfulness for the courageous women who came forward to tell their stories. We join our prayers together that they will receive the care and support that they need to heal and move forward in their lives.

In the wake of the initial revelation in June of 2015 that Tullian Tchividjian had engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship, a group of pastors and friends reached out to him in accordance with scripture’s clear admonition in Galatians 6:1–2:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

In the months that followed, we were encouraged that Tullian seemed committed to walking a path of healing and renewal through repentance under the authority of his church of membership. However, later disclosures, and these most recent allegations, cast grave doubts over the sincerity of this commitment.

Inasmuch as Tullian Tchividjian has habitually and impenitently used his public platform, his family’s good name, and the name of Christ for his own selfish ends, we believe that he has disqualified himself from any form of public vocational ministry.

For the sake of his eternal soul, we implore Tullian Tchividjian to repent of his wickedness and demonstrate his repentance by submitting himself to the leadership of his church of membership, pursuing forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation with those whom he has sinned against.

We send our plea to Tullian in a spirit of gentleness and with broken hearts.

May Christ have mercy.

Pastor R.J. Grunewald
Pastor Kevin Labby
Pastor Matt Popovits
Pastor Donovan Riley
Pastor Chris Rosebrough
Paul David Tripp
Mrs. Elyse Fitzpatrick
Mrs. Kimm Crandall


It should also be noted that Pastor Scotty Smith’s name was originally listed among the signatories on some posts, but has since been removed. The version I have posted was originally posted on http://kevinlabby.com


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.

Another Open Letter to the South Florida Presbytery

On September 1st, 2015, I issued an open letter to the Ruling Elders of the South Florida Presbytery. That letter was a strong call to action based on the activities of Tullian Tchividjian. A few days later I published something of a retraction as new information came to light. Well, more new information has come to light.

In a pair heart breaking posts by a woman named Rachel, one of the women which Tullian identified, groomed, manipulated, and ultimately committed adultery with, details her account of her relationship with him.

It is clear from the timeline of the account that the repentance which Tullian demonstrated was illusory at best. Not only was the South Florida Presbytery fooled, but the Session of Willow Creek was also fooled. Willow Creek, through their Sr Pastor Kevin Labby, has issued a statement indicating that Tullian should not be engaging in “any form of public or vocational ministry.” This includes his repeated speaking engagements at Spring Hills Church, guest posts on public blogs, guest interviews on podcasts, or the forthcoming book which is rumored to have been previewed on the expastors website previously linked.

I am in 100% agreement with Kevin Labby that Tullian should “immediately return to his church of membership, submit to its leadership, and pursue healing and renewal through repentance in the context of his local church.” It is unclear exactly where that is, but from what I can understand regarding PCA polity and the chain of events that happened between August of last year and today, his membership still rests with the South Florida Presbytery.

Tullian has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not repentant, and at this point continues to live in unrepentant sin. His divorce did not occur according to Biblical standards as understood by the Presbyterian Church in America. His remarriage was not approved, as far as I can tell or imagine, by the South Florida Presbytery.[1] This is a direct act of disobedience, and his remarriage to Stacie Tchividjian (Phillips) represents a state of ongoing and unrepentant adultery.

I am urging you brothers, for the sake of Tullian, his family, the congregations at both Coral Ridge PCA and Willow Creek PCA, and for the peace and purity of Christ’s Church at large, to issue a statement which directs Tullian to take heed of Kevin Labby’s admonishment within a defined set of time, with the penalty of excommunication for refusal. This is your biblical obligation according to Matthew 18.


  1. http://www.pcahistory.org/pca/divorce-remarriage.pdf – p252

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.

Tullian, Revelations, and Disgust

Recently, the Christian Post remarked on Tullian’s new marriage and return to preaching. The article, titled Tullian Tchividjian Emerges From Scandal With New Wife, Preaches Sermon on God’s Redemption, deserves a whole post to discuss it, and that will certainly happen, look for that in the week to come.

However, another set of blog posts by Nate Sparks deserves a repost here. Full disclosure, I do not know much about Nate Sparks, and a quick perusal of his post would indicate that he and I would find ourselves at odds in reference to many different subjects.

However, I have had enough exposure to people close to the situation to detect an air of truth about it. I cannot, and am not, testify to the complete veracity, but I submit it here for your consideration.

The first article, titled Do Unto Others…, follows the story of Lisa (not her real name) as she was targeted, groomed, and ultimately taken advantage of, by Tullian.

He insisted she call him if she needed anything at any time. Tullian often confided in her about how depressed he was feeling and seemed open and honest about his failings and insecurities.  He was not perfect, but she believed him to be largely the victim of circumstances beyond his control.

The second article, titled Master of Manipulation, follows a similar line of approach and traces the story of Kara. Of particular importance is this:

One of the more interesting things I learned from Kara was that Tullian targeted men, as well as women, for abuse.  Tullian had groomed several men to essentially function as his “yes men,” to never question him and to meet his emotional needs whenever he needed someone to reinforce his own opinions.  In much the same way as the women, these men were often persons with deep wells of pain related to abuse at the hands of loved ones, friends, and the church.

Some readers may remember, that after an article explaining Why I Care about Tullian Teaching, I temporarily removed all Tullian content from my site. The reason being, Tullian had reached out to me directly via Twitter to discuss my article. I did not share the content of any of those messages at the time, but I feel it is appropriate given Nate’s discussion to do so at this point. Our conversation was not extensive, and was mostly oriented toward trying to coordinate a time to chat on the phone. Once the second wave of news broke, which lead to his termination from Willow Creek and the dissolution of Liberate, the following exchange took place.

tullian-convo

It should be said, that at the beginning of the interactions Tullian requested that “our conversation (or the specifics of it) to be between you and me and off the record.” I have up until this point respected the agreement we had, but given this new information I feel that it is appropriate to release the above image. The interactions we had, which I will note were largely superficial and related to trying to coordinate schedules, took place of the course of a week. It seemed strange to me at the time that Tullian was saying I was “proving to be a dear friend.” It made me a little uneasy, but as you can see above, our interactions had already created something of a loyalty to him. When my pastor and family advised me to leave Tullian’s care to the people directly in his life, and to not muddy the situation with my thoughts, I must admit that I was disappointed. Even though I ultimately heeded his advice, I didn’t want to.

I cannot say that Tullian was engaging in the kind of behavior that Nate explains toward me, but looking back I would not be surprised if that was the case.


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.