South Florida Holy War

Battle for control of Coral Ridge megachurch

A Holy War is brewing in South Florida between the descendants of two well-known religious families engaged in a fight over control of a Ft. Lauderdale church.

Reverend D. James Kennedy founded and led the renowned Coral Ridge Presbyterian megachurch for 50 years until his death two years ago, and now some parishoners are saying the church's new leader is less-than-worthy to walk in Kennedy's footsteps.

Tullian Tchividjian seemed like a natural choice to take over the church. As the grandson of evangelical legend Billy Graham, Tchividjian seemed to have the pedigree that the church was looking for, despite his label as the black sheep of the Graham family.

Tchividjian, who found God years ago and straightened out his life, became the church's senior pastor in April, and it didn't take long for him to make waves.

Just last week, Tchividjian banned six church leaders from the congregation, including Kennedy's own daughter, after they questioned the direction Tchividjian was taking the church.

At least one church leader, who is standing by Tchividjian, thinks the opposition is small and that the other leaders are fearing change.

"A small group of people, many of whom we know did not vote for Tullian when he was first called by this church, have been disappointed that he has made some changes which I view as primarily stylistic," said leader Bill Ashcraft.

There's no doubt Tchividjian is different from Kennedy. The 37 year old sports a more laid-back style than Kennedy, spiky hair, scruffy beard, often foregoing robes at services. And he seems less interested in using his pulpit to influence politics, as Kennedy was extremely active during his time as pastor.

Kennedy's daughter, Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, has already called for Tchividjian's ouster. Ashcraft said it's only natural when you've had a presence such as Kennedy for so long.

"You have people here who have a 50-year history with this church. And any new pastor is not going to be the second coming of D. James Kennedy," Ashcraft said. "And that is always going to be a disappointment to some of those people who have only known this pastor during their entire Christian life."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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