“This is what happened to me.I believe the women who have come forward because our stories are so similar. For the sake of the other women and for the sake of the church, I cannot stay silent.” -Vonda Dyer
Today, Vonda Dyer posted her statement about her experiences with Bill Hybels of Willow Creek. This disturbing account merely serves to bolster my belief that Bill Hybels should be removed from the pulpit. Let me say it another way. I believe Vonda Dyer. I think many of you will feel the same way after reading her account.
Dyer has a website and yesterday posted her response to the Chicago Tribune article, filling in a number of details. The following are a few things that jumped out at me. I look forward to hearing your impressions of the statement.
- I became aware for the first time that many of the situations I had encountered with Bill had also occurred with other women spanning more than 30 years.
- These emerged as patterns-what I now believe to be classic behaviors of grooming, perpetration and abuse of power.
- He often spoke to me privately about how difficult his marriage was, in detail.
- He sternly told me to change my brunette hair color back to blonde, because he did not like it.
- He invited me to his room for a leadership talk on a trip in Switzerland and asked me not to bring my husband.
- Her husband (on staff at the time) was removed from a planned trip to South Africa but not Dyer.
- (Hybels) “You’re an ‘A Player’, Scott’s a ‘B Player.’”
- A detailed account about what happened in the hotel room in Sweden is given.
- Dyer reports her concerns to some people on the team at Willow Creek but asked that it not be reported to the leaders, hoping it was just a moment of weakness.
- She confronted Bill Hybels about his flirting with other women and told him to cut it out. He said *understood.”
- In 2003, shortly after giving birth to her daughter, she was fired from Willow Creek after being told that 12-15 people had issues with her. She was not allowed to talk to anyone about this. For remaining silent, she was allowed to resign.
Interestingly, one of our readers, a long time member of Willow Creek, told me that the pattern of Hybels’ speech, reported by victims, is the same pattern that he observed. Specifically, Hybels had a habit of saying simply “Understood” in conversations. In this account, Dyer confronts Hybels regarding his flirting with 5 female leaders.
I went into his office, sat across from his desk, looked him straight in the eye and listed the women by name (including Nancy Beach), counting on my fingers 1-5. I then said, “You need to knock it off!” He sat silently staring at me. Then I said, “Do you understand what I am saying to you?” He said, “Understood.” I then said, “OK?” and he said, “K”, and I got up and left his office, trembling.
Finally, I am concerned that there are leaders or employees at Willow Creek who may have covered for Hybels and may have taken actions which assisted him in his pursuits.
In the mid 90’s Bill singled me out on one of my first international trips with the Willow Creek conference team in Australia. During the first leg of the trip, I was told by a leader that Bill liked how I looked and that I was his “type”.
…In 2000, I noticed Bill flirting with 5 female leaders that he was mentoring. The term for this behavior among leaders was Bill’s “flavor of the month”.
I have been a victims’ advocate since 2009 (actually before that but that is another story.) When I read the report in the Chicago Tribune, I believed the stories of the victims. One reason (there are many others) is the *little details* in their accounts. Victims remember small details due to the impact of the event. It is like their brain takes a snapshot of that moment. They want to talk about those details because they are telling the truth and every little detail matters to them.
My heart goes out to those who served the body of Christ at Willow Creek while dealing with the stress of a boss who does not appear to understand boundaries in relationships. Now, once again, the victims are undergoing much stress as they do the right thing. They are in the line of fire from critics who apparently do not understand that all of us are simultaneously saints and sinners. Heroes can fall. That is why we need the Cross and Easter.
Finally, why go to the secular press? Shouldn’t this stay inside the church? God uses those outside of the church to bring justice to those inside of the church. Think about the Old Testament. After many warnings, God allowed pagan nations to come in and lead the people into captivity and slavery. All truth is God’s truth, whether it is delivered from the pulpit or from the pages of The Chicago Tribune. I believe that this problem was known and could have been handled years ago. It wasn’t. Silence was the answer of the church but God doesn’t like silence when it comes to the sufferings of victims. I hope the leadership of Willow Creek is listening.