Dr. Billy Graham’s grandson will take over the leadership of an influential Florida church from the late Rev. D. James Kennedy, who is considered one of the chief architects of the religious right.
Rev. William Graham Tullian Tchividjian, the son of Stephan Tchividjian and Graham’s eldest daughter, Gigi, will become the new pastoral leader of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The church, which has over 10,000 members, described Tchividjian on its Web site as “an outstanding Christian leader.”
“His fervent pastoral heart, vigorous intellect, engaging personality, and uncompromised commitment to fulfilling God’s purposes in his generation, just as Dr. Kennedy did in his, bode well for a long and fruitful ministry at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church,” stated a church news release posted on its Web site. “We are excited about what God is doing to bring reformation and revival to our community and, we pray, the nation.”
Coral Ridge, a bastion for conservative thought, was one of the nation’s first huge churches. Kennedy was a conservative firebrand and a passionate, articulate defender of conservative social and political values.
Kennedy passed away in September 2007 of a heart attack at age 76. An Arthur Murray dance instructor before being called into ministry, Kennedy wrote over 65 books and was an early leader of Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority.
Kennedy founded Knox Theological Seminary, Evangelism Explosion International, and the now-inactive Center for Reclaiming America for Christ.
Tchividjian, 36, currently serves as pastor of New City Presbyterian, a church he founded in Coconut Creek, Fla.. New City’s congregation will now merge with Coral Ridge, according to the Coral Ridge announcement.
Some media outlets are speculating Tchividjian may soften Kennedy’s staunchly conservative message. Tchividjian insists, however, that his theological views track precisely with Kennedy’s.
The new pastor will certainly cut a very different image: He is young, bearded, and with spiky hair.
Tchividjian tells the Associated Press he is honored to follow a “giant of the faith” at Coral Ridge.
“I think that at first glance it would seem that he and I were very different people,” Tchividjian tells the wire service. “But what I’ve discovered in this process is that we have more similarities than differences. He was a man of his time and I’m a man of mine.”
The media-ministry arm is separate from Coral Ridge church and sources say Tchividjian will not be in charge of it.
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