Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham with the funny name, was pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Miami, Florida until 2015 when he resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair.
Tchividjian is back. He has written a blog post along with Chad Bird, a former pastor who likewise committed adultery, in which he calls upon Christians to extend forgiveness to disgraced leaders.
Here are some choice quotes:
The grace of God is not reserved for the “well-behaved.” Yet that is the message we send every time the word “fall” is used in reference to someone who is by nature already fallen. These people are sinners, just like everybody they ever led. That doesn’t justify destructive behavior, diminish the sting of consequences, or minimize the harming effects of destructive choices. But if we’re only okay with preaching grace in theory, but not when someone—even an esteemed leader—is actually in need of it, then perhaps we should all take a sabbatical. As someone once said, “People love it when preachers say they are broken just like the rest of us, until that preacher does something that the rest of us broken people do.”
…It is anti-Christian to remember people primarily by the scandalous things they’ve done. We love to whittle an entire life-story down to a single season. Then, with the authority invested in us by the state of self-righteousness, we proclaim, “This, and nothing else, is who you are.” But the truth is, all of us (including disgraced Christian leaders) are more complicated than the singular narrative by which most people identity us. We have done very bad things, very good things, and plenty of cocktails of them both. Sadly, most people remember only the bad. Thankfully, we have a God who remembers only the good. And the only good he remembers is the good that Christ has done for us, in us, and through us. So, if we want to reduce our life story down to one adjective, if we want to whittle our biography down to a single word, then let it be this: Beloved.
…If the church truly wants to stand apart from the world, it will stand alongside those who have been disgraced. It will risk being falsely attacked as “soft on sin” because it knows how hard life is when guilt and shame are one’s only companions. Rather than shooting its wounded, it will pick them up and carry them to safety, to rehab, to repentance, to whatever it takes to make them whole again. While the world drinks itself drunk on outrage of every kind, the church will exercise outrageous grace and scandalous mercy that doggedly refuses to give up on those ensnared by evil. In other words, the church will be exactly the kind of church Jesus established. Not a gym for spiritual muscle flexing but a triage for the wounded, where moral insurance isn’t checked at the door, but all are welcome and treated, no matter who they are or what they’ve done.
Okay. I am with you on that. As the Church, we talk a great game on grace but are largely AWOL when it comes to showing actual grace. As Michael Spencer would say:
“Amazing Grace” may be the church’s favorite hymn, but I’m not the first person to notice that the subject of God’s actual grace seems to give many Christians a case of hives. Singing about it is way cool. After that we need a team of lawyers to interpret all the codicils and footnotes we’ve written for the new covenant.
That should not be. The Church should be a place where people are scandalized not by sin but by the forgiveness shown to sinners. If you are truly dealing in grace then there will be no shortage of voices saying that you are soft on sin. And you never said, and you made it clear you were not saying, that grace and forgiveness involved restoring fallen pastors to their former positions.
You don’t get to go around waving forgiveness in the faces of family, fellow pastors, former congregants, and others impacted by your poor decisions, while continuing to build your brand and profit from your story/ministry. That’s not how this works.
At this point your calling is to quietly and humbly receive the scandalous grace God has extended to you, and to–quietly and humbly–walk the path God has laid before you, working quietly and humbly for restoration of the relationships damaged by your poor decisions, to whatever extent that is now possible.
I now live with ghosts because a beautiful young woman whom I liked a lot and wished to go out with could no longer feel safe or comfortable in my presence after I expressed that to her. That is the path God has given me to walk at this time. That is hard enough. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you–you had a wife and a family and now you have lost all of that.
But that is your path to walk, and walk it you must. Quietly and humbly, before God and the community of faith where he has placed you. You don’t get to put this part of your journey on blast for all the blogosphere to see, building your brand and driving sales of your book (I have a copy. I got it back in happier times before all this broke).
Just go away and let this part of your journey be between you and God and your faith community. Go away, and give us a chance to miss you.