A widely known megachurch founded by an architect of the religious right and seen as a national political force selected a grandson of Billy Graham on Sunday as its new leader.
The vote by congregants at Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort Lauderdale to appoint the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian could represent a softening of the message by the Rev. D. James Kennedy, who was pastor at the church until his death in September 2007.
Kennedy’s preaching against homosexuality and abortion made him one of evangelical Christianity’s most divisive figures. Tchividjian insists he holds the same theological positions of Kennedy, but he cuts a far different image.
His hair is spiky, his beard sometimes scruffy, his skin tan. He offers a classic prodigal son story of youthful forays into drugs and sex, then his return to the fold. He has said he wants people to know what Christians are for as much as what they are against, and has rejected the idea that politics is the most important way to change the country. “Politics is one strategic area of cultural engagement,” he said. “But I also think that the sphere of art and the sphere of education and the sphere of media and technology are also strategic.”
Tchividjian, 36, is the middle of seven children born to Stephan Tchividjian and Graham’s eldest daughter, Gigi. He attended Coral Ridge and its adjacent school, but at 16 he dropped out, spending five years partying on South Beach, seeking the company of women and getting high.
He says he bottomed out, recommitting to Christ and joining the seminary and becoming a minister. He started a church of his own, New City Presbyterian, which will merge with Coral Ridge.