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CULTURE DIGEST: Billy Graham’s grandson to succeed D. James Kennedy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Tullian Tchividjian, a 36-year-old grandson of Billy Graham, has been chosen as the successor to D. James Kennedy, founder and longtime pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who died in 2007.

Tchividjian, son of Graham’s daughter Gigi, attended Coral Ridge as a child and was enrolled in the church’s school, Westminster Academy, until he dropped out at age 16 and embraced the party lifestyle of south Florida, according to a news release March 16.

At age 21, Tchividjian accepted Christ and then graduated from college and seminary with honors. He led a large Presbyterian church in Tennessee for two years before returning to Fort Lauderdale to start New City Presbyterian Church, which has grown to 650 people in just over five years.

“His hair is spiky, his beard sometimes scruffy, his skin tan,” an Associated Press article said of Tchividjian’s contrast to Kennedy. “He offers a classic prodigal son story of youthful forays into drugs, 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.”

With Tchividjian’s new assignment, New City will merge with Coral Ridge, a congregation of 2,200 members. Tchividjian will be the second pastor, following Kennedy’s 47 years in the role. Graham preached the dedication sermon for the church sanctuary in 1974, and 91 percent of the congregation voted to call his grandson as pastor.

“I consider it a great and high honor to follow such a giant in the faith. As different as some may think Dr. Kennedy and I are, our theological commitments are the same and our hearts beat with the same driving passion,” Tchividjian said. “Indeed, what he came to do in the 1950s — reach the people of south Florida with the Gospel and transform the world — is exactly what I have been seeking to do ever since I moved back home to start New City in 2003.”

Tchividjian will not oversee the church’s radio and television ministry, Coral Ridge Ministries. He will focus during the first months on merging the two congregations, which will worship together on the Coral Ridge campus starting Easter Sunday. The merger also means New City will alter its affiliation from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church to the Presbyterian Church of America, two denominations that Tchividjian said are theologically similar.

The new pastor acknowledged that he seems like an unconventional choice to succeed Kennedy.

“I think that at first glance it would seem that he and I were very different people,” he told AP. “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.”

Tchividjian and his wife Kim have three children, Gabe, Nate and Genna.

PCUSA PUTS HOLD ON ORDINATION OF HOMOSEXUAL — A court of the Pacific Synod of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has rescinded the San Francisco Presbytery’s certification that declared a homosexual woman ready to move forward in the ordination process.

Lisa Larges, who reportedly has attempted ordination for more than 20 years, was approved by the presbytery in a 167-151 vote early last year despite her revelation in 2004 of a relationship not in compliance with the PCUSA’s Book of Order, which limits ordination to those who “live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”

The presbytery’s vote marked the first time such a body had approved the consideration of a candidate who blatantly objected to the denomination’s ordination policy concerning sexual behavior, according to news reports.

In 2006, the PCUSA, the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States, gave ordaining bodies greater freedom to ordain candidates who declare conscientious objections to specific Presbyterian teachings as long as the ordaining body does not consider them essentials of church belief.

But the Pacific Synod court said March 25 that the San Francisco Presbytery erred in its recommendation because it ignored the candidate’s “clear statement of defiance to the mandatory qualifications for ordination found in the Book of Order.”

Larges said the ruling has “deeply personal and painful repercussions” for her and other homosexual clergy who want to serve the church, and the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-homosexual activist group, released a statement decrying the decision by the synod court.

Last year the PCUSA General Assembly voted to remove the fidelity and chastity requirements for clergy, and Larges expressed hope that this year the 173 presbyteries would approve the measure, opening the way for homosexual ordinations.

PEPSI FUNNELS MONEY TO HOMOSEXUAL MOVEMENT — The American Family Association is calling on PepsiCo to remain neutral in the culture war after noting that Pepsi is the leading corporate sponsor of a pro-homosexual activist group. AFA also is asking its supporters to boycott Pepsi.

The activist group, called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), is working to undo the progress being made by another group, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), AFA said in e-mail alert March 25.

“By issuing national press releases against PFOX, by organizing protests at ex-gay conferences, by publishing anti-ex-gay literature, and by opposing ex-gays equal access to public venues, Pepsi-supported Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays contributes to the intolerance of the ex-gay community, stereotypes former homosexuals, and continually misrepresents PFOX’s mission,” the e-mail from Don Wildmon, AFA’s chairman, said.

Wildmon also said PFLAG was “vociferous in its opposition” to California’s Proposition 8, which sought to restore traditional marriage in the state last November.

“By funding PFLAG, PepsiCo and its shareholders help promote fear and hostility against the ex-gay community and other heterosexuals. PepsiCo is the leading corporate sponsor of PFLAG,” Wildmon said.

“Clearly, PepsiCo has no intentions of being neutral in the culture war. Instead, PepsiCo has thrown their entire influence behind the homosexual movement,” he said. “Some shareholders will introduce a resolution in the upcoming PepsiCo meeting, asking it to be neutral in the culture war.”

As of March 27, PepsiCo had not responded to the AFA boycott on its corporate website.

On an AFA website called boycottpepsico.com, the pro-family organization said Pepsi “has made no effort to hide their support for the homosexual agenda,” and AFA lists some examples.

Pepsi gave a total of $1 million to the Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG to support the homosexual lifestyle in the workplace, AFA said, and HRC in turn gave $2.3 million to defeat Proposition 8.

AFA said Pepsi requires employees to attend sexual orientation and gender diversity training where employees are taught to accept homosexuality, and Pepsi is a member of the controversial National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce which got McDonald’s in hot water with pro-family supporters.

Employing a method that most recently was successful with McDonald’s, AFA is asking supporters to sign a Pepsi boycott pledge and to avoid purchasing products from PepsiCo companies which include Gatorade, Quaker, Frito Lay and Tropicana.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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