Pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian Says Church Reaction to Hiring Tullian Tchividjian is "Overwhelmingly Positive"

Last night, I posted the news that Tullian Tchividjian had taken a position as Director of Ministry Development at Willow Creek Presbyterian Church* in Winter Springs, FL. In June, Tchividjian stepped down from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church after admitting marital infidelity. More recently, his status as teaching elder was removed and he announced less than two weeks ago that he had filed for divorce.
Reaction to the news on social media was mixed but often critical. Earlier today, the Christian Post posted an article led by the question, “Too Soon?” Blogger Tony Arsenal called on the Presbyterian Church in America’s South Florida Presbytery to suspend Tchividjian from Communion and to investigate the pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian, Kevin Labby.
(UPDATE: Arsenal has retreated a bit from his prior position with a post well worth reading.)
Is it too soon for Tchividjian to return to church work? To facilitate conversation on the matter, I briefly interviewed Willow Creek Presbyterian Church’s pastor Kevin Labby via email. Labby addresses some of the social media questions flying around and offers his rationale for Tchividjian’s new position.  Labby’s answers follow my questions in bold print.

What is your reply to the critics who think it is too soon for Tullian Tchividjian to re-enter ministry?

I think it would be helpful and important to clarify a few things. First, the South Florida Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) deposed Tullian from what we Presbyterians call the office of teaching elder (what most American Christians would label “pastor”), but did so without further censure. He was not excommunicated. 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.
Second, the position offered to Tullian does not involve responsibilities unique to the office of teaching elder (or pastor). His work will be as a support staff member.
Thirdly, 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.
Finally, I understand that some might disagree with the timing. We sense genuine confession and contrition from Tullian, and are eager to welcome him to Willow Creek. 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. 

What does the Director of Ministry Development do?
Tullian followed a founding pastor at Coral Ridge, as did I here at Willow Creek – although I did so on a much, much smaller scale. We believe that he can be of great assistance as our leaders work together to shape Willow Creek’s vision, organization, and processes for its next season of ministry. As a significant part of this, Tullian will be helping us strengthen our connections with mercy ministries in the local community, helping us strengthen and better coordinate our efforts to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the weary, and provide other forms of mercy ministry.
I suspect the reaction to you is mixed. What are you hearing from folks?
Candidly, the response within our church is overwhelmingly positive, even excited. Of course, some have questions like those you’ve asked. I think those questions are not only natural, but healthy. The reaction on social media and the like is predictably mixed. As people approach me with questions, I’ve tried to do my best to answer them as quickly as possible. Most of those dialogues have been very helpful, a good evidence that the body of Christ can work through even difficult things like this with Spirit-born graciousness and respect toward greater unity. 

Thank you for your time. I hope that this is helpful and answers questions that people might have about our decision and desire to love Tullian and, by extension, his family during this difficult time. 

Readers, what do you think?
*No relationship to the megachurch near Chicago.

Is Gospel for Asia's Board Independent as Defined by ECFA?

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability provides guidelines for governance which member organizations must follow. One important feature is independence which is defined as follows:

Board independence.  The organization should take care to maintain the reality, not just the appearance of independent board governance. Requiring the predominance of independent board members helps ensure the board will take official action without partiality, undue influence, or conflict of interest.

To assess the reality of board independence, ECFA looks beyond the majority of independent board members on the board roster. ECFA is just as concerned about the reality of board independence as with the mathematical determination of a majority of independent board members.

ECFA defines independent board members as:

  1. Persons who are not employees or staff members of the organization.

  2. Persons who may not individually dictate the operations of the organization similar to an employee or staff member. A person who is an uncompensated CEO, for instance, is not independent.

  3. Persons who are not related by blood or marriage to staff members or other board members. Blood or marriage relationships are defined for the purposes of the standard as being his or her spouse, ancestors, brothers and sisters (whether whole- or half-blood), children (whether natural or adopted), grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and spouses of brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

  4. Persons who do not report to, or are not subordinate to, employees or staff members of the organization.

  5. Persons who do not report to, or are not subordinate to, other board members.

  6. Persons who do not receive a significant amount for consulting or speaking, or any other remuneration from the organization.

  7. Persons who do not have relationships with firms that have significant financial dealings with the organization, officers, directors or key employees.

  8. Persons who are not the paid legal counsel, related by blood or marriage to the paid legal counsel (see definition of blood or marriage in #3 above), or are employed by the firm that is the paid legal counsel of the organization.

  9. Persons who are not the auditors, related by blood or marriage to the auditors (see definition of blood or marriage in #3 above), or are employed by the auditing firm of the organization.

Gospel for Asia provided Guidestar with the names of 2015 board members as of April*:
GFA Board
Looking at this board, it is reasonable to question the independence of a majority of members. K.P. Yohannan is President, his son is Vice President (Daniel Punnose), and his wife is a volunteer (Gisela Punnose). Chuck Zink is a major donor to GFA and his son and daughter-in-law are employees of GFA. Yohannan is also employed by GFA (#1), Daniel Punnose is employed by GFA (#1) and is a family member as is Yohannan’s wife (#3). As mentioned, Chuck Zink’s son and daughter-in-law are employed by GFA (#3). That is four out of seven.
A case could be made that Gayle Erwin’s independence has been compromised by his reliance of K.P. Yohannan and Gospel for Asia for promotion of his book, Jesus Style, and speaking engagements. According to Yohannan, GFA has translated the book into multiple languages.
In any case, it seems misleading to have “No Affiliation” by Zink’s and Erwin’s names. It is also misleading for Yohannan’s wife and son to use their Indian last name while Yohannan reverses the order for his name.
The ECFA claims that the guideline is not met by simple appearance of independence. According to Christian Today, the ECFA is reviewing GFA. I wonder if board independence is one of the items under review.
*There was a rumor that Francis Chan joined the board but as usual GFA won’t confirm this.

Tullian Tchividjian Hired as Director of Ministry Development at Willow Creek PCA in Winter Springs, Florida

UPDATE 9/2/15 – Willow Creek’s lead pastor Kevin Labby informed me that the reason the video was removed was because it was not a church account and belonged to a family member.
UPDATE: Willow Creek has removed the video (see end of this post) at Vimeo where Tchividjian’s position was announced. The Daily Announcement series is now set to private requiring a password.
Just days after former Coral Ridge Presbyterian pastor Tullian Tchividjian acknowledged that he filed for divorce, he has taken a ministry position at Willow Creek Church (PCA) in Winter Springs, FL.
Tchividjian tweeted about it on August 30:

The video above was a Daily Announcement provided by pastor Kevin Labby for August 28. It has been removed. The following tweet once linked to a Daily Announcement but the Willow Creek account has now been set to private requiring a password.

Now the tweet above has been removed from Twitter. I do have a screen capture of it:
I have an email in to Willow Creek asking why they removed the video announcement. For some reason, the church leaders want to remove indications that there was a Daily Update with this information included.
UPDATE 9/2/15 – Willow Creek’s lead pastor Kevin Labby informed me that the reason the video was removed was because it was not a church account and belonged to a family member.

Update on K.P. Yohannan's Board Memberships: More Website Changes

In August, I pointed out that Gospel for Asia’s founder and CEO K.P. Yohannan claimed in May 2015 that he was not on any Gospel for Asia or Believers’ Church board in India. At the same time, court papers filed by Believers’ Church and GFA’s and BC’s own websites claimed he leads those boards.  Then, I showed that after my posts, Indian Believers’ Church websites taken off line for “maintenance.”
Now, one website is back up with no mention of K.P. Yohannan as chair of the Believers’ Church trust or a member of the Believers’ Church Residential School management committee. Yohannan’s son Daniel has also been removed from the committee listing.
Yohannan may indeed have stepped off of the school’s management committee. However, there is no evidence that is has stepped down from the Believers’ Church board. He is the Metropolitan Bishop so even if the church removes his name from this web list, Yohannan remains the leader of the church.
More importantly, Yohannan was listed on numerous legal documents in India as managing trustee of Gospel for Asia and the Believers’ Church at the time the church took out a loan in India (early 2013) in order to give nearly $20 million to GFA in the U.S. for the purpose of building a massive headquarters and compound in Wills Point, TX.