D. James Kennedy

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D. James Kennedy
D James Kennedy.jpg
Born (1930-11-03)November 3, 1930
Augusta, Georgia, U.S.
Died September 5, 2007(2007-09-05) (aged 76)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.
Cause of death Heart condition
Education Ph.D. from New York University
Spouse(s) Anne Craig Lewis
Children Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy (b. 1962)
Church Presbyterian Church in America
Congregations served
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Dennis James Kennedy (November 3, 1930 – September 5, 2007) was an American pastor, evangelist, and Christian broadcaster. He founded the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he was senior pastor from 1960 until his death in 2007. Kennedy also founded Evangelism Explosion International, Coral Ridge Ministries (since 2011, Truth in Action Ministries), the Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale, the Knox Theological Seminary, and the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, a socially conservative political group.

In 1974, he began Coral Ridge Ministries, which produced his weekly religious television program, The Coral Ridge Hour (now "Truth that Transforms"), carried on various networks and syndicated on numerous other stations with a peak audience of three million viewers in 200 countries.[1] He also had a daily radio program, Truths That Transform (1984-2012).[2] During his lifetime, Coral Ridge Ministries grew to a US$37-million-a-year non-profit corporation with an audience of 3.5 million.

In 2003, the National Religious Broadcasters association inducted Kennedy into its Hall of Fame. As a result of a heart attack (in 2006), from which he never fully recovered, Kennedy last preached at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church later that year, on December 24, 2006. His retirement was officially announced at the church on August 26, 2007, and he died in his home ten days later.

Early life[edit]

Kennedy was born in Augusta, Georgia, and moved with his parents to Chicago, Illinois, during his childhood. His father was a glass salesman, and his parents were Methodists.[3] Kennedy joined the Boy Scouts. He later moved with his family to Tampa, Florida, where in 1948 he graduated from Henry B. Plant High School and began studying music at the University of Tampa. After two years, he dropped out of college, began working as a dance instructor at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Tampa, and later won a first prize in a nationwide dance contest.[3] On August 25, 1956, he married Anne Lewis, whom he had met while giving her dance lessons at Arthur Murray. They had one daughter, Jennifer, born in 1962.[3]


Bethel Presbyterian Church, where Kennedy began preaching in 1956

Kennedy became a Christian in 1953 after hearing a radio preacher present the Gospel, which Kennedy later said he had never heard up to that point. In December 1955, Kennedy decided to quit his Arthur Murray job to enter the ministry. He resumed his studies at the University of Tampa (graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1958) and began preaching at the small Bethel Presbyterian Church in nearby Clearwater, Florida.[3] The following year, Kennedy entered Columbia Theological Seminary, receiving a Master of Divinity degree.[4] After his ordination in 1959, Kennedy became the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, where he remained until his death. In the 1970s, he earned a Master of Theology summa cum laude from the Chicago Graduate School of Theology,[3] and in 1979 a doctorate in religious education from New York University.[4][5][6] His doctoral dissertation was on the history of an evangelism program he founded.[7] Kennedy said that he earned the Ph.D. degree "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."[3]

Ministry and theology[edit]

Initially ordained in 1959 by the Presbyterian Church in the United States, Kennedy later became an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America after he and his church left the PCUS in 1978. Adhering to traditional Calvinist theology, Kennedy's theological works include Why I Believe, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born, Skeptics Answered, and Truths That Transform. In 1971, he founded the Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale and in 1989, he founded Knox Theological Seminary.

Kennedy was a conservative evangelical minister who was often involved in political activities within the Christian right. He wrote, with Jerry Newcombe, What if America Were a Christian Nation Again? and frequently preached messages that argued that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Kennedy started the Center for Christian Statesmanship, an evangelical ministry on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The Center closed in 2007 by Coral Ridge Ministries but quickly reopened under the auspices of Evangelism Explosion International, as the non-partisan Christian outreach to Members of the United States Congress, now with Dr. George Roller as executive director. The Center awards a "Distinguished Christian Statesman Award" annually to high-profile Christian political leaders.[8][9] Award recipients include Tom DeLay, Sam Brownback, John Ashcroft, and Mike Huckabee.

In 2005, the National Religious Broadcasters association inducted Kennedy into its Hall of Fame.

Founding of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church[edit]

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Kennedy founded the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale in 1960. Beginning with 45 persons attending a typical Sunday service, it became the fastest-growing Presbyterian church in the U.S. in the 1960s and had 1,366 members by 1968.[3] 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.[3] A film, Like a Mighty Army, was produced in 1970 and starred actor Chris Robinson as Kennedy, portraying the Evangelism Explosion story at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.[3] In 1978, Kennedy began the weekly Coral Ridge Hour on national television, which at its peak had a weekly audience of three million viewers in 200 countries and was 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.[1][10] By the 1980s, the church's membership had grown to almost 10,000 persons.[10] As of 2009, the church has 2,200 members and weekly attendance averages 1,800 persons.[11]

Later life[edit]

On the evening of December 28, 2006, Kennedy experienced prolonged ventricular tachycardia at his Fort Lauderdale home, leading to cardiac arrest which deprived his brain of adequate oxygen for six to eight minutes. As a result, he sustained a loss of short-term memory and speech impairment.[12] Despite several months of rehabilitation and convalescence, he was unable to resume preaching and his retirement was announced on Sunday, August 26, 2007, at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church by his daughter, Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy.[10][13]

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.[14]

Kennedy died in his sleep at home in the early morning hours of September 5, 2007.[4][10][15][16] The White House issued a statement the following day, saying that U.S. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush were "deeply saddened" by Kennedy's death, calling the Florida-based televangelist and author "a man of great vision, faith, and integrity ... Dr. Kennedy's message of love and hope inspired millions through the institutions he founded ...".[17] Kennedy is buried at Lauderdale Memorial Park Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale[18]

Shortly after Kennedy’s heart attack, Coral Ridge Ministries reduced The Coral Ridge Hour syndication and shortened the program from an hour to 30 minutes.[19][20] Kennedy's daughter, Jennifer, stated on the program in February 2008 that viewers' donations to the broadcast ministry had declined significantly in the wake of the founding pastor's death. The Coral Ridge Hour, featuring taped messages of Kennedy’s sermons and newly produced news and interview segments, continues to air nationwide on the Inspiration Network, The Church Channel, Daystar, NRB Network, CTN, and other local stations.[21] The Center for Reclaiming America for Christ, Coral Ridge Ministries' social action group, folded shortly after Kennedy's heart attack.[1][4]

In 1970, the actor Chris Robinson portrayed Kennedy in the film Like a Mighty Army.

The D. James Kennedy Institute of Reformed Leadership was established in 2013. Kennedy’s daughter, Mrs. Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, introduced Dr. Michael A. Milton as president of the legacy institute in proceedings at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Center and Ranch, Rancho del Cielo, in Santa Barbara, California."Milton Named President of D. James Kennedy Institute | byFaith".  In 2017 the D. James Kennedy Institute entered into partnership with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to train pastors through a one-year Post-Seminary “Residency program.”"ARP News – Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church". 


In Christian apologetics, Kennedy contended for Christianity as a reasonable faith and wrote several books (Why I Believe, Skeptics Answered, and Solving Bible Mysteries) to make the case for Christian faith from history, science, and logic. “Skeptics are welcome,” he wrote in his book, Skeptics Answered: "Christianity has answers that are not only satisfying for the soul but also satisfying for the mind.... Throughout the ages, many skeptics have looked at Christianity’s historicity and have ended up coming to faith in Christ. The evidence is there. It just needs to be looked at with an open mind."[22] Kennedy also offered a "cultural apologetic" and he argued for the earthly benefits brought by the influence of Christ and the Bible. His books, with Jerry Newcombe, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born and What If the Bible Had Never Been Written, seek to document the positive impact of Christianity and the Bible in education, law, civil liberty, science, economics, the family, medicine, and the arts.


Religion in public life[edit]

Many of his public messages focused on American history and the faith of the Founding Fathers of the United States in relation to a Christian worldview. For instance, Kennedy cited John Quincy Adams' claim that Christianity is "indissolubly linked" to the founding of America.[23] Kennedy wrote the foreword to the 1987 book '"Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers" authored by law professor John Eidsmoe.[24]

Moral Majority[edit]

Kennedy was a founding member of the board of Moral Majority, a political movement in the 1970s and 1980s.[25][26] Kennedy, in opposition to same-sex marriage, called for a constitutional "Firewall" to protect the nation from "counterfeit marriage."[27]

The Constitution Restoration Act was a bill promoted during the 2005 Confronting the Judicial War on Faith conference that sought to authorize Congress to impeach judges who fail to acknowledge "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government" and to limit the power of the federal judiciary to rule in religious liberty cases.[28] Kennedy was a co-signer of the "Land Letter" sent to President George W. Bush in October 2002 which outlined a "just war" rationale for the military invasion of Iraq.[29] Kennedy sought to "reclaim America for Christ," a project that he said was to "bring this nation back to God, back to decency, back to morality, back to those things that we wish America was like again."[30]

During his life, he was harshly criticized by secularists and progressives. The Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AUSCS, "Americans United" or simply AU) criticized Kennedy's founding of Center for Reclaiming America for being "just another Religious Right outfit obsessed with opposing legal abortion and gay rights and bashing public education."[31] AUSCS also says, "Kennedy's ministry has always promoted right-wing politics.... it isn't uncommon to tune in to 'The Coral Ridge Hour' and hear him preach against legal abortion, anti-discrimination protections for gays or the teaching of evolution in public schools." AUSCS also criticized Kennedy and his ministry for that it "frequently sends out fund-raising appeals" and said, "One recent letter asked for funds to stop PBS stations from airing a 'homosexual-propaganda program' called It's Elementary."

In an interview with NPR's Terry Gross, Kennedy was asked whether he wanted all public office holders to be Christians. Kennedy answered, "We have people who are secular and humanist and unbelievers who are constantly supporting in every way possible other people who share those views. And I don't object to that. That's their privilege. And I think that Christians should be allowed the same privilege to vote for people whom they believe share their views about life and government. And that's all I'm talking about."[32]


In creation-evolution debates, Kennedy was a proponent of the general tenets of a special creation by God and the supernatural presumptions of young earth creationists and proponents of intelligent design. He argued that the expression and promotion of such beliefs should be protected as free speech and that, contrary to scientific consensus, such beliefs were scientifically accurate.[6][31][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41]

Kennedy disputed the facts and theory of evolution by saying, "The two most notorious and blood-soaked political movements of the twentieth century, Nazism and Communism, both rejected God and were animated by the idea of evolution."[42] According to Kennedy, "if one believes that evolution is true, then we are simply the product of time and chance and there is no morality and no intrinsic worth to human life."[42] That theme is reflected in Coral Ridge's 2006 documentary Darwin's Deadly Legacy. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a press release in 2006 strongly criticizing the movie,[43] as a neo-creationist documentary produced by the Coral Ridge Ministries,[44] which attempts to link evolution to Adolf Hitler:

This is an outrageous and shoddy attempt by D. James Kennedy to trivialize the horrors of the Holocaust. Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people. Trivializing the Holocaust comes from either ignorance at best or, at worst, a mendacious attempt to score political points in the culture war on the backs of six million Jewish victims and others who died at the hands of the Nazis.

The ADL further denounced Kennedy as "a leader among the distinct group of 'Christian Supremacists' who seek to 'reclaim America for Christ' and turn the U.S. into a Christian nation guided by their strange notions of biblical law." The ADL's response also quotes Christian geneticist Francis Collins, who was interviewed for the program, repudiating it, saying he was "absolutely appalled by what Coral Ridge Ministries is doing. I had NO knowledge that Coral Ridge Ministries was planning a TV special on Darwin and Hitler, and I find the thesis of Dr. Kennedy's program utterly misguided and inflammatory".[45] In a release,[46] Coral Ridge Ministries rejected the statement attributed to Francis Collins that he was misled and had "NO knowledge that Coral Ridge Ministries was planning a TV special on Darwin and Hitler":

A producer told Dr. Collins in person before the interview began that he was being interviewed for a program that would address the adverse social consequences of Darwin. In addition, he was asked specifically, during the interview, about the Darwin-Hitler connection and responded on tape that he did not agree with that view.

According to the Coral Ridge press release, Collins had signed a "talent release", giving "Coral Ridge Ministries the right to use his interview 'without limitation in all perpetuity.'"[46] Out of courtesy to Collins, the Ministry decided to delete his interview for all future airings and DVD copies of the program.

Coral Ridge Ministries answered other parts of the ADL's criticisms in an August 22, 2006 press release,[47] stating that “ADL National Director Abe Foxman, who has not viewed our television program ... ignores the historical fact that Adolf Hitler was an evolutionist.”

The release cited three sources for the assertion of a Darwin-Hitler connection. First, historian Richard Weikart, a supporter of the intelligent design movement who said,

Among German historians, there's really not much debate about whether or not Hitler was a social Darwinist. He clearly was drawing on Darwinian ideas.

The release also cited a Hitler contemporary, Scottish anatomist and anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith, who wrote in the 1940s,

The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist. He has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution.

In the next sentence, Keith says, "He has failed, not because evolution is false, but because he has made three fatal errors in its application." The context is Keith acknowledging Hitler's abuse of evolutionary biology, that Hitler misused evolutionary theory as a justification for his crimes.)[48]

Finally, the release claimed that evolutionist Niles Eldredge "freely admits the link between Darwin and Hitler." The reference to Eldredge, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, was in regards to the following quote:

social Darwinism has given us the eugenics movement and some of its darker outgrowths, such as the genocidal practices of the Nazis in World War II — where eugenics was invoked as a scientific rationale to go along with whatever other "reasons" Hitler and his fellow Nazis had for the Holocaust.[49]


  1. ^ a b c Robert Samuels (September 21, 2009). "Coral Ridge Presbyterian votes to retain controversial new pastor". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2009-10-05. [dead link]
  2. ^ Current and archived versions of both programs are available at the Truth in Action[permanent dead link] website.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Chandler, E. Russell (1972). The Kennedy Explosion. Elgin, Ill.: David C. Cook Publishing. ISBN 0-912692-02-2. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Powerful pastor D. James Kennedy dead at 76". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. September 5, 2007. Archived from the original on September 7, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Rev. D. James Kennedy, 76; pioneering Christian radio, TV broadcaster". Los Angeles Times. September 6, 2007. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  6. ^ a b D. James Kennedy dies, National Center for Science Education, September 5, 2007
  7. ^ Kennedy, D. James. "The Genesis, Development, and Expansion of Evangelism Explosion International, 1960–1976". DAI. 40 (03): 1381. 
  8. ^ Center for Christian Statesmanship reopens on Capitol Hill Archived 2007-06-25 at the Wayback Machine. Allie Martin. OneNewsNow.com, May 16, 2007.
  9. ^ Evangelism Explosion International
  10. ^ a b c d "D. James Kennedy, influential Christian broadcaster, retires". St. Petersburg Times. August 26, 2007. 
  11. ^ Davis, James D. (January 19, 2009). "Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church chooses pastor". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Archived from the original on January 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  12. ^ "D. James Kennedy Retires From Ministry". Associated Press. August 27, 2007. Archived from the original on August 21, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  13. ^ Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy statement, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (August 26, 2007).
  14. ^ "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 July 4, 2008. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  15. ^ Dr. D. James Kennedy dead at age 76 retrieved 2007-09-05 Archived September 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Powerful pastor D. James Kennedy dead at 76 Archived 2007-09-07 at the Wayback Machine. retrieved 2007-09-05
  17. ^ "President and Mrs. Bush Deeply Saddened by the Death of Dr. D. James Kennedy". White House statement. September 6, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  18. ^ D. James Kennedy at Find A Grave
  19. ^ Brian Fisher, “Season of Change,” Impact, March 2008, Coral Ridge Ministries. At "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-24. .
  20. ^ Brian Fisher, “Accentuate the Positive,” Impact, April 2008, Coral Ridge Ministries. At "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-24. .
  21. ^ See Coral Ridge Ministries “Station Finder” at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-08-26. Retrieved 2010-08-24. .
  22. ^ D. James Kennedy, Skeptics Answered (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 1997), 13, 14.
  23. ^ D. James Kennedy, Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States (Fort Lauderdale, Fla: Coral Ridge Ministries, 2004), 2.
  24. ^ Eidsmoe, John (1987). Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers. USA: Baker Academic. ISBN 0801052319. 
  25. ^ "Megachurch pioneer D. James Kennedy dies at 76". USA Today. September 6, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-07. 
  26. ^ Jerry Falwell, Falwell: An Autobiography (Lynchburg: Liberty House Publishers, 1997), 383. Cited in John Barber, America Restored (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: Coral Ridge Ministries, 2002), 31.
  27. ^ "Dr. Kennedy Calls for Constitutional "Firewall" to Protect Marriage". 2003-11-19. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  28. ^ "In Contempt of Courts". 2005-04-15. Retrieved 2007-12-07. The article discusses how the director of Kennedy's lobbying front was strongly advocating for the bill at the conference. Even though Kennedy was not present, it is ultimately his organization. 
  29. ^ "Land Letter". Wikisource. Archived from the original on 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  30. ^ D. James Kennedy, "Why Reclaiming America?' Message delivered in 2000 to the Reclaiming America for Christ conference, Coral Ridge Ministries. Available at 14:25 at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-24. .
  31. ^ a b D. James Kennedy: Who Is He And What Does He Want? Archived April 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, April 1999 citing Kennedy's 1994 book Character & Destiny: A Nation In Search of Its Soul
  32. ^ "Closing the Gap Between Church and State," Terry Gross interview with D. James Kennedy, Fresh Air, May 18, 2005. Accessed at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4656600.
  33. ^ Excerpts from Lord of All, D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, Crossway Books, 2005
  34. ^ Creation Defender D. James Kennedy Goes Home, Institute for Creation Research
  35. ^ Solving Bible Mysteries, D. James Kennedy, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000
  36. ^ What If Jesus Had Never Been Born, D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994, revised 2001
  37. ^ Truth In Action Ministries (formerly Coral Ridge Ministries) promotes and sells Creationism books and videos "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-27. Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  38. ^ Fearfully And Wonderfully Made[permanent dead link], Sermon by D. James Kennedy. The Coral Ridge Hour, August 2003.
  39. ^ Forrest, Barbara; Gross, Paul R. (2004). Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 271. ISBN 0-19-515742-7. 
  40. ^ The Republican War on Science Chris Mooney.
  41. ^ C. L. Cagan and Robert Hymers (2006). From Darwin to Design, foreword by D. James Kennedy. Whitaker House, USA. ISBN 0-88368-122-6.
  42. ^ a b D. James Kennedy, "Ideas Have Consequences," Impact, August 2005, p. 8, Coral Ridge Ministries newsletter.
  43. ^ "ADL Blasts Christian Supremacist TV Special & Book Blaming Darwin For Hitler". Anti-Defamation League Press Release. August 22, 2006. Archived from the original on May 4, 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  44. ^ "Darwin's Deadly Legacy: The Chilling Impact of Darwin's Theory of Evolution". Coral Ridge Ministries. 
  45. ^ "ADL Blasts Christian Supremacist TV Special & Book Blaming Darwin For Hitler". Anti-Defamation League Press Release. 2006-08-22. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  46. ^ a b "Coral Ridge Ministries and Orthodox Rabbi Reject Anti-Defamation League Attack on TV Special Linking Darwin to Hitler," Coral Ridge Ministries, Aug. 24, 2006. Accessed 08-27-2010 at "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-27. .
  47. ^ "Coral Ridge Ministries Answers Anti-Defamation League Blast Against New Darwin-Hitler TV Special". Coral Ridge Ministries Press Release. 2006-08-22. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  48. ^ Sir Arthur Keith, Essays on Human Evolution (Watts 1946), 210
  49. ^ Niles Eldredge, Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life, W. W. Norton & Company, New York/London, 2005, p. 13.

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