In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right,
until someone comes forward and cross-examines.
-Proverbs 18:17, NIV
This verse has a particularly unhappy history with me. It is a verse that was part of the instructions for ministers applying The Divorce Policy Exception process to a divorced minister in the EFCA. Essentially, the quotation of it implies an implicit distrust of any divorced pastor who had sought to go through this now, thankfully, defunct process to retain their credentials.
My anger over the whole Tullian Tchividjian saga is related to this part of my personal history. His abuse of trust and people’s goodwill towards him is what creates the cynicism that paints all divorced pastors and survivors of infidelity in the church. Let me explain.
More information has now emerged to paint a stark picture of TT’s true character:
Reportedly, he had a two year long affair with another married woman prior to the other affair that led to his pastoral position ending at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (link here with a shout out to the Spiritual Sounding Board blog for finding this source about TT).
What makes this especially reprehensible is how TT very publicly threw his (now ex?) wife under the bus in this situation. I wrote about the situation here where TT created a narrative that his affair happened because his wife had left him and was involved herself with another man. This latest news article blows up that public narrative that he promoted by exposing another affair that existed before his wife left and reportedly cheated on him.
If the source is accurate, this means that Tullian Tchividjian was not a poor victim of vulnerability engaging in a comfort affair. He is a serial cheater who used people’s sympathies to manipulate himself to look better.
This feeds cynicism towards real victims of adultery. It creates an environment where pastors and elders are loath to trust a faithful pastor because people like TT were/are both willing and active in abusing such sympathy and grace for their own nefarious purposes.
Such behavior makes church leaders more likely to assume deceit on the part of a divorced pastor–like the EFCA did–than innocence. They do this, because they do not want to look like fools getting played–like those who trusted Tullian are looking right now.
Besides this awful consequence, I am also annoyed that Mr. Tchividjian was willing to make a very public statement that his affair was a lapse of judgment while his (now ex?) wife was cheating; however, he has not–to my knowledge–corrected that to reflect the truth of his serial infidelity predating hers.
No excuse exists for cheating to be clear! If both spouses cheat, then they both are wrong and need to repent. However, I find it highly dishonest and shady for a serial cheater to treat his spouse the way Mr. Tchividjian did his through this well-designed manipulation of public opinion. If he is truly repentant, then I would expect a public correction of this narrative to reflect the truth.
Finally, a professional question arises out of this awful scenario. Were these women members of TT’s church? If they were, then these affairs really are maters of predatory action by a pastor, e.g. TT, abusing his office for personal gratification.
In seminary, we were taught such relationships–between pastor and parishioner–are considered Ministerial Sexual Abuse. This last point might be why so much silence surrounds these matters as legal issues might arise from such possible misconduct (just speaking as a pastor here, not a lawyer).
The Tullian Tchividjian Story is a tragedy of much betrayal. He has betrayed his (now ex?) wife, family, church leaders, congregants, and Christ by acting with such deception. Stories like his make it more difficult for faithful spouses–particularly divorced, faithful pastors–to get much needed support from their Christian brethern after being betrayed in their marriages.