A famous church in southern Florida is undergoing a rift, over approaches to evangelism and political activism. Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft Lauderdale had been home to the famous late Religious Right activist pastor D. James Kennedy. The South Florida Sun Sentinel reports on this schism:

Divisions grow at Coral Ridge Presbyterian with more resignations

Divisions deepened at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church as two elders resigned Tuesday night, following the first service of a breakaway congregation on Sunday.

The two have accused Pastor Tullian Tchividjian and his officers of retaliating against members who tried to have him fired, criticisms Coral Ridge officers have denied. …

The developments follow the exit last week of organist Samuel Metzger and John Wilson, director of the traditional worship service. Both men helped lead music at the Sunday service of 400 dissidents at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek.

Those remaining at Coral Ridge are downplaying the rift, saying that any new pastor would have caused some folks to bolt. And that is largely true … that will happen in a church which accumulated members during the long tenure of a single well-known preacher. But this appears to be more than just a slight bit of disappointment that D. James Kennedy is no longer there to offer his fire & brimstone preaching:

The events are the latest turmoil for the prominent evangelical congregation, a flagship of conservatism under Kennedy, who died in September 2007. This past March, the church picked a successor in Tchividjian, pastor of New City Church.

Over the summer, however, several members of the church choir were upset at the speed of changes under Tchividjian, including what they felt were a watering down of evangelism, political advocacy and traditional worship. They petitioned for a congregational vote to have Tchividjian fired, but lost by 69 percent on Sept. 20.

The failure of this vote appears to have sparked the creation of this new congregation, which has a very creative name (not!):

The split does seem lasting: Organizers of the new congregation, tentatively called The Church, are applying for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status and searching for a permanent home. They plan a second service on Sunday, again at Butterfly World.

Yes folks, the best name these breakaway folks could come up with for their new church, is “The Church.” Wow.

Now for a little backstory: D. James Kennedy was very much a political activist. He was a Dominionist, who for example supported the Constitution Restoration Act, a legislative attempt to make the US into a “Christian government.” He was, in fact, much more of an activist than most other preachers. It is therefore unlikely that anyone who might have succeeded him, would be as politically militant as Kennedy had been. That Tchividjian is a grandson of the famous and respected Rev. Billy Graham appears insufficient to sway these folks.

One last note about Kennedy: He came up with a defense of Christianity’s veracity which is, to say the least, astonishingly creative. See if you can follow his reasoning:

  1. If Christianity is not true, it’s a fraud

  2. Frauds are perpetrated by evil men

  3. Christianity’s message is “love thy neighbor”

  4. “Loving thy neighbor” is not a message evil people would send

  5. Therefore Christianity cannot have been made by evil men

  6. Therefore it cannot have been a hoax, and is thus 100% true

Yes, folks, he seriously believed that. I won’t even begin to address the logical flaws and fallacies that weave themselves through this apparent syllogism. I’ll simply point out that “love thy neighbor” is not Christianity’s only message (nearly two millennia of sectarian violence and Christians preying on others utterly refute this); and even if it were, it is nevertheless possible for evil men to have used such a message to manipulate and control others; not to mention, it might not have been a malicious “hoax” … there is such a thing as “pious fraud” in which otherwise well-meaning people propagate falsehoods anyway — either without realizing it, or with the belief that their dishonesty serves a higher cause and is therefore acceptable.

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