Predictable, all too predictable.

The return of Tullian Tchividjian to a ministry role is scarcely surprising, though the speed would no doubt make even Jimmy Swaggart green with envy.   It is the logical outcome of the culture of celebrity which has been consciously cultivated most disappointingly by some in reformed evangelical circles over the last decade.    Those who have decried the critics of celebrity culture as hypocrites because they too are known outside of their local neighbourhood really missed the point.   Celebrity is not just about being well known.  It is also about developing informal and formal extra-ecclesiastical structures of authority (and thus of accountability, or lack thereof) which focus on specific personalities and subserve the needs of those personalities.   Thus, for example, the faux intimacy of twitter helps build a popular, informal base of support.  Twitter followers come to think they really know the individual.  They then believe his propaganda, conflate message with messenger, and can ultimately even subordinate message to messenger.  This rapidly morphs into an angry bodyguard when the beloved celebrity is threatened.


At a more formal level, the language of accountability is transferred from church to specially selected individuals or parachurch organizations.  This is where it becomes really complicated.  If money changes hands, then an already problematic arrangement is potentially corrupted.   If no money changes hands but the parties have a mutual interest in brand protection and promotion, the same applies.  Thus, for Tchividjian, Paul Tripp, PCA officebearer and of Paul Tripp Ministries, entered the frame, having escaped just in time from that other place to which he had recently been called to help keep the pastor accountable, Mars Hill, Seattle. In the ensuing context (or perhaps 'contest'?), the Presbytery was bound to lose because it is bound by rules of due process which pay no heed to concerns other than the honour of Christ's name, the well-being of the church, and the spiritual health of the offender.


No one begrudges a man the chance to earn a living.  Further, I doubt that WillowCreek PCA has done anything wrong at a technical level with regard to the PCA’s Book of Church Order.  Tchividjian has been defrocked and has not been restored to ordained office.  Morally, however, the situation is this: a man deemed unfit to hold teaching office just three weeks ago is now occupying a position of teaching influence in the same denomination.  Maybe not illegal, but certainly irresponsible towards both him and those he will influence.  At the very minimum it is also most discourteous towards the Presbytery which acted to remove him and whose informed judgment in the matter has been for all practical purposes rejected. This raises interesting questions regarding of the practice of Presbyterian polity for the PCA.  Why has a PCA minister apparently played such a strange role in this?  And does the PCA really want ministerial development in the hands of a defrocked minister? 


And the really big lesson in all this?   It seems that when certain people are handling your public relations issues, the pastorate may not be such a dangerous calling after all.