Another prominent minister toppled in Fort Lauderdale this weekend, as the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church agreed to resign following revelations of an extramarital affair.
Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham, said he was "heartbroken and devastated" to learn that his wife Kim had been having an affair and said he "sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself," according to a statement he gave to the Washington Post.
His resignation comes a year after the departure of Pastor Bob Coy, founder of Calvary Chapel, one of the largest megachurches in the United States. In an address to the congregation in 2014, another pastor explained that Coy had "committed adultery" and "committed sexual immorality, habitually, through pornography."
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, whose dramatic 300-foot steeple towers over North Federal Highway, is one of the best-known churches in South Florida, largely because of the prominence of its late senior pastor, D. James Kennedy as an opponent of gay rights, the teaching of evolution and other issues of concern to religious conservatives. The church released this statement:
"Several days ago, Pastor Tullian admitted to moral failure, acknowledging his actions disqualify him from continuing to serve as senior pastor or preach from the pulpit, and resigned — effective immediately.
"We are saddened by this news, but are working with and assisting Pastor Tullian and his family to help them through this difficult time, and asking people to join us in praying that God will bring restoration through this process and healing to all involved."
The couple's house, which they share with their three children, stands on a quiet street in Pompano Beach between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, with a basketball hoop and a silver Toyota sedan in the driveway.
Kim Tchividjian answered the door, holding a long-haired Dachshund.
"I'm here with my kids," she said. "We won't be doing any interviews."
In a message she sent to the Washington Post, she said, "The statement reflected my husband's opinions but not my own. Please respect the privacy of my family at this time, thank you. I do thank everyone for the outpouring of love for my family as well during this difficult time and we appreciate all the prayers and support we are receiving."
Tchividjian had been a controversial choice to head the church after Kennedy's death in 2007. Growing up in Coral Springs, he dropped out of high school and became caught in a life of drinking and hard drugs, according to a 2004 interview in the Sun Sentinel.
"I was a hedonist to the nth-degree," he said in the interview. "I pursued pleasure harder than any individual. I thought the answer was the more fun I could have, the better life would be."
Later he graduated from Columbia International University, an evangelical Christian school in South Carolina, and from the Reformed Theological Seminary of Orlando.
As pastor at Coral Ridge, he displeased many longtime members by tossing aside traditional services with the church's huge pipe organ in favor of less formal preaching and contemporary music. Dissident members quit to form their own church. In 2009, with complaints growing, the church held a vote on whether to fire him, in which he prevailed with two-thirds of the balloting.
In his statement to the Washington Post, Tchividjian said, "Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign.
"Both my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions and we ask you to pray for us and our family that God would give us the grace we need to weather this heart wrenching storm. We are amazingly grateful for the team of men and women who are committed to walking this difficult path with us. Please pray for the healing of deep wounds and we kindly ask that you respect our privacy."
At Coral Ridge, Executive Pastor Rob Pacienza referred inquiries to statements the church has posted on its website.
He briefly met a reporter and photographer in a room with a framed jersey for former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman.
"Tullian likes them," Pacienza said of the Cowboys.
Pacienza declined to answer questions about the former pastor. He said guest preachers will lead services until the church finds a replacement.