D. James Kennedy

D. James Kennedy, author, theologian, biblical scholar, pastor of the 10,000-member “Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church” in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and founder of the highly influential Coral Ridge Ministries, died early this morning in his sleep following complications from a heart attack.

Kennedy, 76, died at home at about 2:15 a.m. with his wife and daughter at his bedside.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Anne, and his daughter, Jennifer Cassidy.

“There are all kinds of wonderful things I could say about my dad,” his daughter said. “But one that stands out is his fine example. He ‘walked the walk’ and ‘practiced what he preached.’ His work for Christ is lasting – it will go on and on and make a difference for eternity.”

Kennedy suffered a major heart attack in December, and just last week Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, where he had pastored since 1959, announced his retirement.

Frank Wright, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, said in a statement, “We will miss Dr. Kennedy enormously.”

“His moral leadership and his legacy of impacting the globe for Jesus Christ is unmatched by few in the history of the church,” Wright said. “It is our desire to honor him by sustaining and multiplying his impact through Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and all the ministries founded by Dr. Kennedy in the years to come.”

A legacy website has been set up to pay tribute to Kennedy’s life and faith.

James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said the church “has lost one of its truly significant figures, and American families have lost one of their most passionate, effective defenders.”

For decades, Dr. Kennedy has been a passionate defender of biblical truth in a culture that increasingly forgot it,” Dobson said. “He was a giant in the battle to restore traditional values in our nation. Most importantly, I believe, Dr. Kennedy would want to be remembered as a man whose greatest desire was to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Believers around the world are indebted to him for holding firm to that important calling.”

Janet Folger, WND columunist and president of Faith2Action, who served with Kennedy for five years as the national drector of the Center for Reclaiming America, called him “an inspiration, a mentor and an example of unwavering integrity.”

“He spoke the truth in love – even in the face of adversity,” said Folger. “His legacy of being salt and light in a dark and decaying culture changed the face of America and lives on today.”

Kennedy launched his weekly one-hour television show, “The Coral Ridge Hour,” in 1978. It has been broadcast nationally every Sunday morning on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and syndicated on other networks. Available to 81 percent of the nation’s television households, “The Coral Ridge Hour” has the greatest number of TV station affiliates of any religious program in the U.S. His daily radio broadcast, “Truths that Transform,” is carried on nearly 750 radio stations across the country.

Announcement of his retirement Aug. 26 prompted a flood of accolades from Christian leaders and ministries.

“Dr. Kennedy is one of the nation’s most respected Christian leaders,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. “His teachings on the positive influence of Christianity on Western Civilization and America have motivated modern-day Christians to impact our culture and country.”

Alliance Defense Fund President and CEO Alan Sears called him “a man of great moral courage and vision.”

“Dr. Kennedy is one of my personal heroes,” Sears said. “He is a man of unquestioned integrity, great moral courage and vision. As a co-founder of ADF, he has been a constant source of godly wisdom and service to me. His life and testimony have had an incredible impact upon so many people for the Kingdom of God, and he is an example to us all of a good and faithful servant.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said Kennedy fulfilled his mission to help change the world.

“I commend Dr. Kennedy, for his stalwart leadership in defending faith, family and freedom,” Perkins said. “Most of all, I am grateful for his godly example, his integrity and his unwavering dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Kennedy, born Nov. 3, 1930, became a Christian in 1953. Sleeping late on a Sunday morning, his radio alarm went off and a preacher’s booming voice invaded his slumber. “Suppose you were to die today and stand before God and He were to ask you, ‘What right do you have to enter into My heaven?’? what would you say?”

When he came to Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in 1959, it had just 45 members. Along with his pastorship and leadership at Coral Ridge Ministries, Kennedy founded Evangelism Explosion International, Knox Theological Seminary and Westminster Academy.

Evangelism Explosion is a lay-witnessing training program first developed in 1962 that has been used to spark growth in churches worldwide. In 1996, it became the first Christian ministry to be established in every nation on earth.

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