FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Rev. D. James Kennedy, the longtime pastor of Fort Lauderdale’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and a driving force in the national religious conservative movement, was in serious condition Friday after a heart attack.
Church officials said Kennedy, 76, was rushed to a hospital from his home Thursday night. Although they were extremely concerned about his health, the officials said Kennedy was becoming more alert and responsive Friday.
As one of the most-recognized religious broadcasters in the country and pastor of one of the nation’s first mega-churches, Kennedy has been at the forefront of social conservative causes from abortion to homosexuality. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State this year ranked Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries as the third-most-powerful conservative religious group in the nation, behind only the Christian Broadcasting Network and Focus on the Family.
“He is a passionate man about family and country, and we are certainly praying for him,” said Roberta Combs, head of the Christian Coalition of America. “He was an early leader along with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and has been a strong voice for the pro-family movement.”
Kennedy preached Christmas Eve sermons at the church and was scheduled to be absent this weekend for a traditional post-holiday vacation, church officials said. They would not discuss his medical history or say in which hospital he was being treated.
“This is serious, and we covet the prayers of all the people on his behalf,” Kennedy spokesman John Aman said.
Coral Ridge Presbyterian was a 45-member church when Kennedy arrived as pastor in 1959. Today, sermons are televised from the 10,000-member church to 40,000 cities across the nation and to nearly 200 nations.
Kennedy also launched the Center for Reclaiming America, a political action group aimed at getting Christian conservatives involved in grassroots politics, and hosts an annual conference for politicians and activists on how to bring their moral views to bear on politics.
His fundamental message has been that Christians should be active in ensuring their voice is heard on social issues. In a book he authored in 1997, Kennedy wrote: “This is our land. This is our world. This is our heritage, and with God’s help, we shall reclaim this nation for Jesus Christ. And no power on earth can stop us.”