I just received this from a Liberate Network board member:
The remaining board members of the recently launched Liberate Network have decided to cancel the 2017 Liberate Conference and dissolve the organization. Those that had registered for the conference will be issued full refunds.
We’d like to thank those that have stood alongside Liberate in championing the message of ‘God’s inexhaustible grace for an exhausted world.’ However it is in the best interest of that very message—which is bigger than any network and any man—for Liberate to come to an end.
– Board of Directors Liberate Network, Inc.
This decision follows the actions of Willow Creek Presbyterian Church to terminate Tullian Tchividjian’s employment after new allegations surfaced earlier this week. Five of the nine Liberate Network board members had already resigned.
In 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.
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 (facebook.com/LiberateNetwork) and Twitter (@LiberateNetwork) for exciting news and ministry content.
Board of Directors
Liberate Network, Inc
Dr. Chris Crawford, M.D. – Partner, Dallas Associated Dermatologists
Mrs. Barbara Juliani – Editor, New Growth Press
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
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
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.