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Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

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Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is a Christian megachurch within the Presbyterian Church in America located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was founded in 1960 by D. James Kennedy (1930–2007), who served as the church's senior pastor until his death in 2007. The present church building seating 2,800 persons was dedicated on February 3, 1974 by evangelist Billy Graham. It became affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America denomination on May 16, 1978; Coral Ridge was originally a member congregation of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the so-called "Southern" church before 1983.

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States.jpg
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is located in Florida
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
26°11′45.2″N 80°06′46.4″W / 26.195889°N 80.112889°W / 26.195889; -80.112889Coordinates: 26°11′45.2″N 80°06′46.4″W / 26.195889°N 80.112889°W / 26.195889; -80.112889
Location5555 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
DenominationPresbyterian Church in America
Previous denominationPresbyterian Church in the United States
Membershipover 2,000[1]
Founder(s)D. James Kennedy
Architect(s)Harold E. Wagoner
Senior pastor(s)Rob Pacienza

Beginning in 1978 under pastor D. James Kennedy, the church's weekly services were televised as the Coral Ridge Hour, eventually reaching a nationwide audience of more than 3 million.[2] While production of new broadcasts from the church were discontinued in 2007 after Kennedy's death, Kennedy's media ministry, D. James Kennedy Ministries, now airs excerpts of Kennedy sermons, along with current news segments, on its nationwide weekly half-hour TV program Truths That Transform.[3]

The Westminster Academy and Knox Theological Seminary, also in Ft. Lauderdale, are educational ministries of the church. W. Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham, succeeded Kennedy as senior pastor of the church in April 2009 until June 2015.

In June 2016, Rob Pacienza officially assumed the role of Senior Pastor.

In 2017, the ministry was named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[4] The ministry brought suit stateing it was falsely labeled for subscribing to the historic biblical view of homosexuality.[5][6] A district court judge ruled the SPLC labeling of "hate group" is protected under the first amendment as freedom of speech; he did not address whether the ministry was a hate organization.[7]


The church was founded by D. James Kennedy on May 22, 1960, who began with a congregation of 45 persons attending a typical Sunday service at a rented elementary school auditorium.[8] Kennedy developed the "Evangelism Explosion" ("EE") method of evangelism in the 1960s, which emphasizes the training of church laypeople to share their faith by home visitation in the community.[9] Coral Ridge became the fastest-growing Presbyterian church in the U.S. in the 1960s and had 1,366 members by 1968.[9] Outgrowing its first church built in the early 1960s, construction of the church's present 2,800-seat sanctuary, surmounted by a 300-foot (91 m) tower and designed in a modern style, was undertaken in the early 1970s, making it one of the tallest churches in the United States. On December 21, 1973, the first services were held in the church's new building. In February 1974, the sanctuary was formally dedicated by Billy Graham.[10] By the 1980s, the church's membership had grown to a few thousand persons.[11] Evangelism Explosion was the subject of Kennedy's doctoral dissertation, who said he earned a Ph.D. "to dispel the idea there is an inconsistency between evangelism and education...evangelical ministers [need] to be thoroughly educated and equipped to meet on equal terms anyone with whom they come in contact".[9][12] A 1970 film, Like a Mighty Army, starring actor Chris Robinson as Kennedy, portrayed the Evangelism Explosion story at the church.[9]

By the 1980s, the church's television ministry had a weekly audience of 3.5 million viewers, as the Coral Ridge Hour aired on more than 400 stations and four cable networks, including the Trinity Broadcasting Network, The Inspiration Network (INSP) and the NRB Network, as well as broadcast to more than 150 countries on the Armed Forces Network.[11]

Kennedy last preached at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church on December 24, 2006, suffering a cardiac arrest four days later.[13] His retirement was officially announced at the church on August 26, 2007, and he died in his home ten days later.[14][15] In a statement following news of Kennedy's retirement, the church announced the development of the D. James Kennedy Legacy website in tribute to the life of the Christian evangelist.[16]

Current ministryEdit

The church's senior pastor from 2009-2015 was Tullian Tchividjian, a native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Named after third century theologian Tertullian, he is a grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham.[10] Previously, he was the pastor of New City Presbyterian Church, an Evangelical Presbyterian Church congregation meeting at a high school in nearby Coconut Creek. He was invited on January 12, 2009, to become Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church's senior minister, as part of a merger of the two congregations.[10] The Coral Ridge congregation approved Tchividjian's appointment and merger of the two churches by vote on March 15, 2009, with 920 of the 1,014 members present voting in favor.[17][18] Tchividjian was installed as the church's senior pastor on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009.[19] He studied philosophy at Columbia International University and earned a divinity degree at Reformed Theological Seminary. His writings include Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life's Most Important Relationship, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different, Surprised by Grace: God's Relentless Pursuit of Rebels and Jesus + Nothing = Everything. At the beginning of 2009, the church had 2,200 members and weekly attendance averaged 1,800 persons.[10]

On June 21, 2015, Tchividjian announced that he had resigned as senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian after admitting having an affair himself, following an affair on the part of his wife.[20] After almost a year-long search, Rob Pacienza, who had been executive pastor under Tchvidjian, was named as Coral Ridge's third senior pastor.[21]


The church has had a rich history of traditional music, especially with the Rufatti pipe organ at its heart, beginning with the start of the church, more than 50 years ago. With the appointment of Tchividjian the musical style shifted toward a contemporary style, and for the first time it became more commonplace than traditional. Shortly after assuming their roles, current Senior Pastor, Rob Pacienza, and Director of Choral Music, Bernie Gonzalez, reintroduced a traditional service lead by the Rufatti and accompanied by the church choir on October 30, 2016.

The large Fratelli Ruffatti pipe organ, built in 1974, has 6,600 pipes in 117 ranks. In 2004 the organ became expanded with the addition of 61 digital voices, resulting in the equivalent of 178 ranks altogether.[22] Samuel Metzger, the organist from 2003 until his resignation on September 24, 2009, has recorded seven CDs of music on the Rufatti instrument.[23][24] The organ is also regularly featured on the world-renowned Joy of Music television programs of Diane Bish, one of the church's former organists, and is often heard on the Sacred Classics radio show and in recordings by the church's choir. Other former organists include Rebecca Owens, Colin Howland, and Garrett F. Martin. Beginning in early 2013, Chelsea Chen began playing occasionally for services as guest organist, and was officially appointed to the position of organist and artist in residence at the church until 2018. In January 2018, Dr. John L. Wilson, who previously directed the music ministry until his resignation in 2009, returned to CRPC and is currently serving as the Director of Traditional Worship and The Coral Ridge Concert Series.[25]


A number of phonograph records and compact discs of the choir and organ have been released since the 1970s, including:[24]

Title Artist(s) Genre
  Artistry at the Coral Ridge Organ    Diane Bish        organ   
  Be Still My Soul    Samuel Metzger        organ   
  The Best of Coral Ridge    Chancel Choir    choral   
  Christmas Festival    Diane Bish    organ   
  Fanfare!    Samuel Metzger    organ   
  His Truth is Marching On    Chancel Choir    choral   
  Hymns on the Coral Ridge Organ    Diane Bish    organ   
  Joy to the World!    Samuel Metzger    organ   
  King of Instruments    Samuel Metzger    organ   
  Majesty and Glory    Samuel Metzger    organ   
  Morning Has Broken    Chancel Choir    choral   
  Pipes and More Pipes    Diane Bish and
St. Andrews Bagpipes
   organ and bagpipes   
  Prayer and Meditation    Samuel Metzger    organ   
  Shout to the Lord!    Coral Ambassadors    choral   
  Toccata!    Samuel Metzger    organ    


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-03-12. Retrieved 2013-08-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Robert Samuels (September 21, 2009). "Coral Ridge Presbyterian votes to retain controversial new pastor". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2009-10-05.[dead link]
  3. ^ "Home - D. James Kennedy Ministries". Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  4. ^ "Southern Poverty Law Center has First Amendment right to call Christian ministry hate group, judge says". The Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved 2019-09-22.
  5. ^ EDT, Jeffery Martin On 9/20/19 at 5:57 PM (2019-09-20). "Southern Poverty Law Center scores First Amendment win over "hate group" labeling of Florida ministry". Newsweek. Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  6. ^ Man, Anthony. "Worldwide Christian ministry based in Fort Lauderdale fights 'hate group' label". Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  7. ^ "Southern Poverty Law Center has First Amendment right to call Christian ministry hate group, judge says". The Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved 2019-09-30.
  8. ^ "Church History". Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-05-22. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
  9. ^ a b c d Chandler, E. Russell (1972). The Kennedy Explosion. Elgin, IL: David C. Cook Publishing. ISBN 0-912692-02-2.
  10. ^ a b c d Davis, James D. (January 19, 2009). "Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church chooses pastor". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-30.
  11. ^ a b "D. James Kennedy, influential Christian broadcaster, retires". St. Petersburg Times. August 26, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Kennedy, D. James. "The Genesis, Development, and Expansion of Evangelism Explosion International, 1960-1976". DAI. 40 (03): 1381.
  13. ^ "A Tribute to Dr. D. James Kennedy".
  14. ^ "Rev. D. James Kennedy, 76; pioneering Christian radio, TV broadcaster". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2007-11-06.
  15. ^ "Powerful pastor D. James Kennedy dead at 76". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. September 5, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-07.
  16. ^ "Dr. D. James Kennedy Retires: Founder and Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Steps Down from Pulpit with Rich Legacy of Faith". Coral Ridge Ministries Press Release. August 26, 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-07-04. Retrieved 2007-08-27.
  17. ^ Davis, James D. (March 16, 2009). "Coral Ridge Presbyterian has its man: Tchividjian". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
  18. ^ "Graham Grandson to Lead Megachurch". The Washington Post. Associated Press. March 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  19. ^ Young, Eric (2009-04-13). "Coral Ridge Church Installs Tchividjian as New Senior Pastor". The Christian Post. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
  20. ^ Bailey, Sarah Pulliam (June 21, 2015). "Billy Graham's grandson steps down from Florida megachurch after admitting an affair". The Washington Post.
  21. ^ Kurmar, Aungrah. Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Appoints Rob Pacienza as New Pastor After Tullian Tchividjian Resignation. The Christian Post, 2016-03-21.
  22. ^ "The Sanctuary Organ". Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-03-22. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
  23. ^ Davis, James D. (October 1, 2009). "2 Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church elders resign". The Miami Herald. Retrieved 2009-10-05.[dead link]
  24. ^ a b "Compact Discs". Metzger Music. Archived from the original on 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
  25. ^ "Music". Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-03-08. Retrieved 2014-03-07.

External linksEdit