Liberate, Founded by Tullian Tchividjian, Relaunches Amid New Allegations

TullianTWCPCIn June 2015, Tullian Tchividjian stepped down from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church after admitting marital infidelity. He announced later in the year that he filed for divorce.
Not long after the divorce papers were filed, Tchividjian reemerged as a staff person at Willow Creek Presbyterian Church in Winter Springs, FL. Tchividjian took a non-ministry position according to Willow Creek Pastor Kevin Labby. Initially Tchividjian and Labby were criticized for moving too quickly to restore Tchividjian to a ministry position. Labby later clarified that Tchividjian’s job did not involved preaching and teaching. 
Then, on February 19 of this year, the relaunch of Tchividjian’s ministry called Liberate was announced by the board of directors. The directors said Tchividjian would not return to the board at present but that his restoration process “is going remarkably well.”
For his part, Tchividjian appears to have started his comeback. Recently, he spoke about his struggles on the “These Go to 11” podcast. On March 4 and 5, Tchividjian spoke at Spring Hills Community Church in Santa Rosa, CA to promote his book, One Way Love. 
After the Liberate announcement, problems began to surface. Some evangelical bloggers (e.g., Janet Mefferd and Spiritual Sounding Board) have wondered aloud if again Tchividjian is moving too quickly.
On the Liberate Facebook page, a woman identifying herself as Tchividjian’s affair partner posted a pointed rebuke to Tchividjian and Liberate. The post, which was promptly removed, referred to a unpaid financial debt owed to the woman’s husband who has left his wife and the church. The woman also suggested that Tchividjian may have fooled his counselor, specifically naming Paul Tripp, while carrying on with her.
While I have not been able to verify all of the details revealed in the Facebook posting, I have been told that Liberate board members are taking the allegations seriously along with new information recently learned. A new statement from Liberate is in the works.

From the Board of Directors

Dear Friends:
It is with much excitement that we announce the relaunch of LIBERATE.
As many of you know, LIBERATE was founded in 2011 by Tullian Tchividjian as a resource ministry whose mission was to connect God’s inexhaustible grace to an exhausted world through books, conferences, television, radio, social media, and a variety of other mediums. Over the next several years, LIBERATE grew to become a unique and vibrant ministry.
In light of what has transpired with both Tullian and LIBERATE over the past year, you may be asking, “What will Tullian’s involvement be as LIBERATE moves forward?” Today, Tullian continues an encouraging season of rest and healing as a part of the Willow Creek Church family in Winter Springs, FL. The elders of Willow Creek Church are presently overseeing a care plan for him, one involving routine worship, prayer, fellowship, study, professional counseling, and more. The process is going remarkably well, and we are very encouraged by his honesty, humility, repentance, and commitment to healing.
Our prayerful hope and expectation is that Tullian will join us fully in this great work one day. In the meantime (and in keeping with his care plan) he is presently on sabbatical from the board of the Liberate Network.
Thankfully, the Liberate Network is ultimately about the message of the gospel, not any particular messenger, and so we’re moving forward together. To God’s glory, we look forward to the Liberate Network sharing the good news of God’s inexhaustible grace to an exhausted world for many years to come.
Please be sure to connect with us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@LiberateNetwork) for exciting news and ministry content.
Board of Directors
Liberate Network, Inc
Dr. Chris Crawford, M.D. – Partner, Dallas Associated Dermatologists
Dallas, TX
Mrs. Barbara Juliani – Editor, New Growth Press
Philadelphia, PA
Rev. Matt Popovits – Lead Pastor, Our Savior New York
New York, NY
Rev. Kevin Labby – Lead Pastor, Willow Creek Church
Winter Springs, FL
Mr. Peter Ouda, J.D. – Peter Ouda Law
Somerville, NJ
Ms. Lana Trombly
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Mr. Dwayne Williams – Executive Vice-President, Frontline Insurance
Winter Springs, FL
Ms. Catherine Wyatt – Vice President of Development, Key Life Network
Winter Springs, FL
Rev. Dr. Paul F.M. Zahl – Retired Episcopal minister and author
Winter Garden, FL

Top Ten Posts in 2015

The ten top posts during 2015 are as follows with the most popular first:
1. Open Letter to Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church – This was posted on November 2, 2014 but remained popular throughout 2015. Driscoll recently joined Jimmy Evans as a director to form The Trinity Church in Phoenix.
2. Former Chief Financial Officer at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists – This story about David Jeremiah’s questionable tactics from a former insider was a scoop but not one which stuck to Jeremiah like  a similar scandal did to Mark Driscoll.
3. Hillsong’s Brian Houston Interviewed Mark and Grace Driscoll After All (VIDEO) (AUDIO) – First, he said he would interview Driscoll, then he said he wouldn’t, then Brian Houston aired an interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll. It was great theatre but didn’t draw good reviews from former Mars Hill leavers.
4. A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited – This post from 2009 is one of the most popular articles in the history of the blog. In it, I demonstrate a key mistake in a journal article often used to link homosexuality and child abuse.
5. Southern Baptists Say Enough to Perry Noble and NewSpring Church – I am surprised that this post got so much attention.
6. Gospel for Asia Faces Allegations of Misconduct; GFA Board Investigation Found No Wrongdoing – The GFA story received the most attention from me this year.
7. Pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian Says Church Reaction to Hiring Tullian Tchividjian is “Overwhelmingly Positive” – I briefly covered Tullian Tchividjian’s comeback as a development minister at a PCA church in FL.
8. A Few Thoughts on The Village Church Controversy – Village Church’s leadership apologized for their response to a young woman who sought a divorce from her husband who had admitted having child porn.
9. Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Issues Statement On Mark Driscoll at the Hillsong 2015 Conference – Mark Driscoll’s return to the spotlight garnered much reader attention.
10. Gospel for Asia’s K.P. Yohannan and the Ring Kissing Ritual – While the financial scandals were of interest to readers, this article ranked higher than the money problems.
To fully capture activity on the blog, one should consider the Gospel for Asia scandals (Patheos considered my coverage as a part of one of their top ten Evangelical stories of 2015).
It has been a good year and I thank my readers and those who support the blog with their comments and regular visits.

Pastor of Willow Creek PCA Kevin Labby Apologizes and Clarifies Matters in the Case of Tullian Tchividjian

UPDATE: Tchividjian advises on how to recover from failure.
Kevin Labby told me today that they are “working within our Presbyterian system to satisfactorily address the issues associated with Tullian’s [Tchividjian] entrance into the Willow Creek Church family.”
To that end, Labby posted an apology and clarification on the Willow Creek blog today.

Greetings Brothers and Sisters in the Lord –

First, I want to apologize for creating confusion regarding the nature of Tullian Tchividjian’s employment at Willow Creek Church through a poorly chosen title for his position. That fault rests squarely with me. Please forgive me. We will be choosing another in due time, one better reflecting his limited role with us.

Second, I want to reiterate that we recognize the propriety of the South Florida Presbytery’s decision to depose Tullian Tchividjian from ordained ministry as a teaching elder. Also, and as stated previously, Tullian’s position does not involve responsibilities unique to the office of teaching elder. His work with us is as a non-ordained support staff member.

Finally, I appreciate your continued prayers as we endeavor to care for Tullian and, by extension, his family during this difficult time.


Kevin Labby, Senior Pastor
Willow Creek Church

Tchividjian’s title was “Director of Ministry Development” which sounded like a ministry position and one which might require ordination. In his post, Labby clarified those points. What seems clear is that the Tchividjian’s role with the church continues.

For all articles on Tchividjian’s new position, click here.

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.

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.

Note to Evangelical Culture Warriors and Pastor Tullian Tchividjian from Benjamin Rush

The Father of Psychiatry, Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), signed the Declaration of Independence  and was a delegate to the Constitutional Congress. Rush was good friends with both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Despite his universalist beliefs, he is a favorite of David Barton and other Christian Nationalists because he was a founder who articulated many Christian interests and pursuits.
I thought of Rush after reading a World Net Daily article today by John Aman criticizing Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church pastor Tullian Tchividjian for avoiding culture war issues in the pulpit. Specifically, I thought of Benjamin Rush’s response to Thomas Jefferson’s famous “altar of God” letter to Rush. Michael Coulter and I deal with this exchange between Jefferson and Rush in our book Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President.
In his article, Aman cited Barton and others to claim preachers should preach about political issues. However, Rush told Jefferson in his October 6, 1800 letter, Saint Paul would tell modern preachers to “cease from your political labors.” Rush’s position is not unlike Tchividjian’s.
From Getting Jefferson Right:

On August 22, 1800, Jefferson’s friend and fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush, wrote to Jefferson asking for a clarification of his religious views. At their last meeting, Rush had extracted a promise from Jefferson to read William Paley’s book, A View of the Evidences of Christianity. In addition, Jefferson apparently promised to explain his “religious Creed.” As of that writing, Jefferson had not complied with the request.
Rush wrote:

You promised me when we parted, to read Paley’s last work, and to send me your religious Creed.–I have always considered Christianity as the strong ground of Republicanism. Its Spirit is opposed, not only to the Splendor, but even to the very forms of monarchy, and many” of its precepts have for their Objects, republican liberty and equality, as well as simplicity , integrity and Economy in government. It is only necessary for Republicanism to ally itself to the christian Religion, to overturn all the corrupted political and religious institutions in the world. I have lately heard that Lord Kaims became so firm a Beleiver in Christianity some years before he died, as to dispute with his former disciples in its favor. Such a mind as Kaims’ could only yeild to the strongest evidence, especially as his prejudices were on the other Side of the Question. Sir John Pringle had lived near 60 years in a State of indifference to the truth of the Christian Religion.–He devoted himself to the Study of the Scriptures in the evening of his life, and became a christian. It was remarkable that he became a decided Republican” at the same time. It is said this change in his political principles exposed him to the neglect of the Royal family, to whom he was Physician, and drove him from London, to end his days in his native Country (p 318) [144]

Apparently, by telling him of those who converted to Christianity later in life, Rush hoped to convince Jefferson that it was not too late for Jefferson to turn to orthodox Christianity. Jefferson wrote back on September 23, 1800 saying that time constraints had prevented him from honoring his pledge. Jefferson had been thinking about it and wanted to have adequate time to write a complete answer. To Rush, Jefferson wrote:

I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten. On the contrary , it is because I have reflected on it, that I find much more time necessary for it than I can at present dispose of. I have a view of the subject which ought to displease neither the rational Christian nor Diests, and would reconcile many to a character they have too hastily rejected. I do not know that it would reconcile the genus irritabile vatum( 2) who are all in arms against me. Their hostility is on too interesting ground to be softened. The delusion into which the X. Y. Z. plot showed it possible to push the people; the successful experiment made under the prevalence of that delusion on the clause of the Constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion , had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, and they believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me, forging conversations for me with Mazzei, Bishop Madison, &c., which are absolute falsehoods without a circumstance of truth to rest on; falsehoods, too, of which I acquit Mazzei & Bishop Madison, for they are men of truth.– But enough of this. It is more than I have before committed to paper on the subject of all the lies which have been preached or printed against me. [145]

Jefferson does not address Rush’s proselytizing but instead described his frustration with his critics and his opposition to establishment of Christianity “through the United States.” Rush then wrote back on October 6, 1800 in order to clarify his views on religion and the state.

I [Rush] agree with you [Jefferson] likewise in your wishes to keep religion and government independant of each Other. Were it possible for St. Paul to rise from his grave at the present juncture, he would say to the Clergy who are now so active in settling the political Affairs of the World: “Cease from your political labors-your kingdom is not of this World. Read my Epistles. In no part of them will you perceive me aiming to depose a pagan Emperor , or to place a Christian upon a throne. Christianity disdains to receive Support from human Governments.” From this, it derives its preeminence over all the religions that ever have, or ever shall exist in the World. [146] (emphasis added)

Throckmorton, Warren; Coulter, Michael (2012-05-01). Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims about Our Third President (Kindle Locations 2267-2328). Kindle Edition.

Rush believed that Christianity supported the republican impulse. He did not express support in this letter for clergy being active in “political labors.” Rush paraphrases St. Paul as declining to work toward political positions for Christians. It appears that Tchividjian and Rush have something in common.