Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery. Joyce Brothers
I am currently in a board meeting for a community organization. I am pretending to listen while I am posting this. My impression is that the elders are still not admitting that anything happened except for some boundary violations and not *listening deeply.* Am I in error? Sadly, in my opinion the problem is much, much deeper than that. I look forward to your thoughts.
Dear Willow Family,
We have been diligently praying and processing how to best respond to recent events. Last night, we had another productive and encouraging Elder Meeting. We are unified and seeking God’s direction on next steps, and we felt it was important to communicate with you.
This has been such a difficult time. Our church has been facing one of the most challenging seasons in our history. In the midst of this time, you have been responding with love, grace, and an openness to engage in dialogue. We are so proud of you. You are living the Gospel. We are also especially proud of the staff. Not only have you gracefully demonstrated strength, you have also joyfully assumed additional responsibilities due to an accelerated transition of leadership.
Over the last several weeks, we have been in a process of deep learning, seeking clarity, and building a path toward reconciliation. Even though Bill is no longer in his role, our work to resolve any shadow of doubt in the trustworthiness of Willow Creek Community Church and its Elders is not done.
With the benefit of hindsight, we see several aspects of our past work that we would have handled differently, and we have identified several areas of learning. Moving forward, we have a renewed commitment to engaging well, listening deeply, and further developing a culture of transparency and accountability.
As a board, we unanimously agree there are several areas where we could have served you better:
- We have at times communicated without a posture of deep listening and understanding. We are sorry that at times our process appeared to diminish the deep compassion we have for all those involved in these matters. We will do better in the future.
- Bill acknowledged that he placed himself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid. We agree, and now recognize that we didn’t hold him accountable to specific boundaries. We commit to strengthening the relationship of accountability with our church leaders in the future.
- In hindsight, we wish we would have worked harder to collaborate with all parties that were impacted to bring clarity and reconciliation when accusations were first made. While attempts were made, we could have done more.
- Additionally, we recognize that our board structure sometimes causes us to be slow in decision making. Our mandate as an elder board is to speak with a unified voice. Accordingly, we are not at liberty to release information publicly until we have everyone’s consent. As we continue to navigate this season, we are committed to providing regular updates to you that are transparent and informative.
Our desire is to serve you in the highest degree and humbly ask for your grace, patience, feedback, and prayer.
In the next 45 days we will intentionally pursue the following next steps:
- We will fully support the new leadership team. We have great confidence in Heather and Steve and will further develop relationships with both leaders allowing for greater connectivity, transparency, and accountability.
- We will examine allegations against Bill that have not been previously investigated by the Elder Board. We will respectfully reach out to each woman who has made an accusation, even if she has not brought her concerns directly to the Board. We commit that each woman willing to speak with us will be heard, and that we will respect her story. We commit that making steps toward understanding and toward restoring relationship will be our primary goals. We will seek wise counsel and work with experts, developing a collaborative process. We are identifying ways to ensure a safe environment for constructive dialogue tailored to each individual.
- We will continue to methodically examine our church culture, enhancing policies and informal practices that support healthy and valuable working relationships between men and women. We will also examine our policies about how concerns are raised about senior leaders and make any necessary improvements.
- We will review and modify Willow email retention policies to reflect the best practices of organizations that deal with sensitive data.
- We will ensure that the Elders will be more available in person to answer questions and we commit to communicate as needed with the church.
- We will walk alongside Bill in stewarding his season of reflection well and are committed to working together on appropriate next steps with him.
Finally, we commit to pray fervently for all involved. We humbly ask for your prayer and your grace as we move forward.
With you, we will continue to be focused on the mission of this church. We will continue to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength and mind.
With love and resolve,
The Willow Creek Elders
“Our church has been facing one of the most challenging seasons in our history.”
The term “season” minimizes responsibility & accountability. Using this language is just more of the word games that Hybels used to escape reality.
The letter sounds too professional to me.
blah, blah, blah…. Why not just say: We messed up and we’re working on discovering exactly where and how.
What’s with the continued use of the term, “wise counsel”? Andy Savage used it to coverup his lack of accountability after his assault of Jules. Bill Hybels used it in his resignation (sorry, not sorry) speech. Now the WC Elders drag it out in point #2.
The whole letter reads to me like a corporate CYA exercise. Use a lot of trendy words that sounds official and important, like “connectivity, accountability, and transparency,” but actually softens and deflects from the actual issues.
I had to go back a ways, but Mark Driscoll used the “wise counsel” bit as well in his first public appearance at Gateway Church. After a glowing intro by Robert Morris followed by standing ovation, MD discusses his difficult season and seeking wise counsel. Sounds all too familiar…
This is soooo seeker mega. The calvinist just tell you ‘you are gossiping and you’re a sinner’.
The Seeker megas drown you in meaningless flowery platitudes and faux sincerity to try and make it go away. They pay image consultants and PR people to help them with their so-called “listening” endeavors and projecting the Right image.
Let’s cut to the Chase and let me encourage all creekers to demand a detailed budget of not only Willow Creek but all of its spin-off Ministries. And I mean detailed- down to everyones salaries and benefit packages, travel, etc. They are Masters at hiding stuff in budgets.
That should get heads rolling.
“What’s with the continued use of the term, “wise counsel”?”
It’s supposed to be a softer way to appeal to Authority.
From the email…
“Bill acknowledged that he placed himself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid.”
Bill didn’t simply place himself in unwise situations, he CREATED the unwise situations.
I’m recently new here, and have until now been following along in the many comments threads related to the WCC situation.
Does anyone else see an issue with Heather Larson sitting on the board of elders that is supposed to hold the pastorate (of which she is now a part) accountable?
Well that makes it all better, WCCC. Seriously, that’s all you’ve got after weeks? Write that again with no Christianese or buzz words. Boil it down. I think I could and it didn’t help anything.Those “wise counselors” they all refer to have some ‘splainin to do!
The board, basically, publically attacked the credibitly of people coming forward with charges against BH right before BH resigned. Then BH resigns.. Hmm, so, does the board still question the credibilty of the women, or does the board have a different opinion now?
The board has significant responsibilites in all of this and they are dodging it big time…
“We have at times communicated without a posture of deep listening and understanding.” Love this statement. Is it supposed to be reassuring that, in the future, they will ‘strike a posture of deep listening’? Gee, I feel better already.
“We will examine allegations against Bill that have not been previously investigated by the Elder Board. We will respectfully reach out to each woman who has made an accusation, even if she has not brought her concerns directly to the Board. We commit that each woman willing to speak with us will be heard, and that we will respect her story. We commit that making steps toward understanding and toward restoring relationship will be our primary goals. We will seek wise counsel and work with experts, developing a collaborative process. We are identifying ways to ensure a safe environment for constructive dialogue tailored to each individual.”
This too, is very troubling, and shows that these people do not get it. No, it is not good enough that these ‘defenders’ promise to once again interview ‘adversarial’ accusers of their beloved leader. Or that “making steps toward understanding and toward restoring relationship will be [their] primary goals.” There can be no proper resolution when the goal of the institution is ‘understanding’ and ‘restoration’. The proper goals should be truth and justice for the victims, not ‘healing’ and coverup.
It is this exact issue of a biased, insider investigation that has been repeatedly pointed out by those who reluctantly came forward with their concerns. These people still don’t get it.
I don’t know. Although I think the question is, what problem do they think they really have?
Yeah, that sounds like my CYA speech. They aren’t coping to what the accusers are saying. I believe those calling out Bill Hybels.
CT ran an article on this (link below)…looks like it is up to seven accusers now.
@ Jeffrey Chalmere:
If I were one of the women publicly trashed by the board, I woul be a tincey, wincy &#$$…. at the board..
Creekers hell, let’s get our lawmakers to change the non-profit financial transparency statutes so that it’s public record for all regardless of whether the non-profit is a church or not.
Muff Potter wrote:
Ooh, you who dare to blaspheme against ‘THE CHURCH’! How dare you suggest holding her accountable – she is the . . . what? Vicar of Christ? Voice of God? Burner of heretics? Even Jesus was willing to cough up a coin and pay his taxes . . . maybe ‘The Church’ needs to do the same. Although, ya have to admit, public accountability has never given us ‘good government’, so I’m not holding my breath.
I noticed they made no reference to the over ONE THOUSAND emails exchanged between Bill and the alleged mistress. That doesn’t seem to fit the minimizing language of an inappropriate “situation,” IMO.
Brief thoughts here:
“We will examine allegations against Bill that have not been previously investigated by the Elder Board.”
What? It seems there were issues with the previous investigation. Why would they not review those allegations again? This does not seem right.
I had a hard time getting past this sentence (though I did read the whole letter). The very specific wording struck me.
They didn’t say something like, “regain your trust” or “prove we can be trusted” or “fix areas where our trust is rust.”
No, they said “resolve any shadow of doubt in the trustworthiness of …” which I read as implying they see themselves as currently trustworthy but some of all y’all in here and out there don’t, so we’ll take care of any doubts.
I am wondering, with the additional allegations against Bill Hybels posted by *Christianity Today* just this morning, whether they should have used language that more clearly suggests their trustworthiness rating is currently in limbo and they must work to restore credibility that will regain trust so they can move forward.
From what I see, this is a crucial time for them to prove who they really are, without it looking like crisis management PR spin.
Link to CT article posted April 21:
The thing that struck me in the reading was the love bombing, along with the repetition of “season”.
Good, insightful comments, everyone. Thanks.
***We will walk alongside Bill in stewarding his season of reflection well***
This is coherent language ???
Their Attorneys wouldn’t let them.
Liability, you know.
Well said Willow Creek elders! Such a long letter but you were able to avoid that terrible, nasty word “sin”. It is such an unpopular, out-of-fashion concept, don’t you think? No, it is so much better to turn away from the Bible and seek your examples on how to handle an incident from the wonderful examples set by our trustworthy politicians and responsible corporations. After all, this is all about protecting the Brand and retaining your customer base.
Defend your Founder Bill now, but then slowly and quietly separate him from the Brand so that you can survive to woo another generation to your highly entertaining weekend shows. Well done, Willow Creek elders. Keep your priorities straight, for the show must go on.
When your elder letters start sounding like a mixture of gobbledygook from the HR and the PR departments, you know you’ve reached the pinnacle of Corporate Christianity. Well done!
What is it with these Standing Ovations?
Just like a Nuremberg Rally, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)?????
As in Written by Attorneys?
“What is it with these guys? THEY ALL TALK LIKE LAWYERS!”
— KFI afternoon drive-time
And the church’s statement reiterates that no independent investigation is being considered.
“WE ARE UNITED BEHIND THE VISIONARY!”
— Pastor Furtick Coloring Book
Which sounds like all prior allegations have been adequately investigated and have been deemed “case closed.”
And how is it that Willow Creek’s Elders can suggest they will bring open hands to those women with newly-brought-forth allegations, when they just used them to slap (again) the faces of those previously investigated?
“ENCHANGING” policies and informal practices … implies they already have policies in place that just need some shoring up and polishing down — with no gaps where the Elders need to CREATE policies or COMPLETELY OVERHAUL others that apparently may have proven significantly shadowy over some number of decades.
For any individual or institution that seeks a platform of public influence, trust is earned — and I don’t find these kinds of statements helpful. Seems to me this is more of the same mixed messages to both concerned Willow Creek insiders and outsiders.
Weasel words attempt to soften the impact of failures noted, but actually harden the criticism.
ENCHANGING –> ENHANCING.
They are also reinforcing the idea that Bill hybels had very little accountability– if at all. If what they say is true they barely knew him.
@ Muff Potter:
That would effectively end the closed “institutional” status of the body of Christ.
What about conducting some Side-Hug Seminars for Staff?
This seems to be a trend! (Remember what Mickey Connolly told me about Sovereign Grace last week in Louisville.)
You’re absolutely right, Lydia.
FWIW, I believe the Elders would do far better now to follow the advice given them several years ago and have a rigorous, independent investigation done.
Every new paragraph they issue compounds the understandable perception that this is all crisis management PR spin, and not contrition and remediation. They are adding new problems, which does not resolve the doubts about how they deal with the old problems.
Blah blah blah blah blah
IOW “We got our spin wrong.”
It all sounds so ……..Christian. How about…We are sorry. We are bringing in unbiased and INDEPENDENT counsel to fully investigate and interview the victims without Elder interference.
“Wise council” seems to be the default ‘christian speak’ nowadays. As a member of a large church, I would wish my leaders talk to me in a straight manner and bypass the spiritual talk-it only obfuscates reality. I am sure this does not go unnoticed by leadership.
” … we have been in a process of deep learning … we see several aspects of our past work that we would have handled differently, and we have identified several areas of learning … We have at times communicated without a posture of deep listening and understanding … our process appeared to diminish the deep compassion …”
Deep learning, deep listening, deep compassion. It’s hard to dive deep when you swim in shallow water. My experience with seeker-friendly Christianity Lite is that there is very little deep about any of it! You know folks, there are just things you should already know when you are church leaders – you shouldn’t have to learn them when you are in a leadership capacity.
“We agree, and now recognize that we didn’t hold him accountable to specific boundaries.”
Well, the elders are making some headway by ‘almost’ admitting they made some mistakes with Hybels. Now, if Hybels would stand up, confess, and repent (absent a standing ovation), Willow Creek ‘might’ be able to move forward without him. The leadership team failed a basic element of damage control: Be straight from the beginning.
“Deep learning, deep listening, deep compassion. It’s hard to dive deep when you swim in shallow water. ”
Good point, Max!
Yes, that immediately popped into my mind when I read that. In addition to a Governing Board at Driscoll’s new church, he has a 4-member “Wise Counsel” team. Robert Morris is his main wise counselor – perhaps Willow Creek has in mind to pull Morris in to help resolve tensions at Willow Creek.
Why? Often the dissent can be very informative. Tell us what went into the decision, what was considered and why was it not adopted. In such a controversy, everyone saying the same thing does not signify unity but rather coercion. Unity is much more than lining up and mouthing the same talking points.
Forrest, I prefer to think of the Willow Creek phenomenon as an “experiment” rather than a “model.” Some experiments fail.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
That was my first thought – this was either written by lawyers or approved by lawyers before being released to the congregation.
Wouldn’t resolving a shadow make it more distinct? I thought that was weird wording. Wouldn’t it be better to shine a light into the shadow so that it no longer remains a shadow? It seems like this is an (unintended?) admission that they will purposely keep some things in the dark, but define the boundaries better.
Like John Piper advising abused women to endure it “for a season.”
Unfortunately, for many, propaganda works – that’s why it is so common. It is truly up to those who see through all of this – like the readers of this blog – to figure out how to increasingly communicate these issues to ‘the masses’, much as I hate the term.
If I’m a creeker, or even just a loyal evangelical, there is nothing I want more than to be given evidence – however flimsy – that all is well, there is nothing behind the curtain, all accusations are a ‘conspiracy’.
Folks, this strategy has worked pretty well for centuries, because it is really frightening to admit you have been deceived, and that you are going to have to do hard work to figure out how much of what you believe is actually true. I do believe, however that more and more are beginning to see the cracks. I pray that as we do, we seek wisdom and courage to do what God wants us to do to protect his deservedly holy reputation, not that of so-called celebrity pastors or even the Institutional Church.
I had the same thought. The Elder Board at our former church (Harvest Bible Chapel) used the same phrasing about “unity” in their Elder Updates, especially when responding to controversy.
Where does this “mandate” to speak as one voice come from? It’s not Biblical as far as I know.
And if we cannot unite, the dissenters are dismissed… as we have witnessed.
Mot and Lydia hit on the same thing. The odd language of this letter.
Abuse and control happen in all sorts of contexts.
In this case, it’s the seeker friendly, egalitarian version.
The letter is major creepy, and the signatories don’t even perceive how creepy it is.
No repentance-only that “we could have served you better” and “we will do better in the future.”
No request for forgiveness–only for “grace, patience, feedback, and prayer.”
No mention of their sin–only of “areas of learning,” “appearances” that they conveyed, and an admission that “we could have done more.”
No mention of Hybels’ sin–only that “he placed himself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid” and that he’s going through “a season of reflection.”
Most glaringly, no mention of truth or the pursuit thereof–only of “respecting stories” and the decision to “pursue next steps.”
When I first saw the link to accusations against Hybels, my first thought was ‘Please let it be false’. Not because I am a big fan of Hybels – never was – or even the Institutional Church – growing increasingly jaded. But because, now don’t jump one me here, I do admit that there is some danger in believing every accusation. Anyone can make an unfounded accusation. And yet . . . And yet, those who put their reputations, jobs and privacy on the line must have pretty strong motivation.
Then, when I went to the article, and saw who the accusers were, my heart quickly sank. Not that we ‘little guys’ are not just as important and trustworthy, but our voice is much easier to dismiss. Who could easily dismiss the voices that were making these charges? Just as with Donald Macleod, it is ‘possible’ that a conspiracy to defame could arise, but when it is investigated, and the claims prove to be consistent and made by trustworthy, known entities, it is pretty difficult to believe in collusion. Yet – somehow – in Macleod’s case, that is exactly what was asserted without proof. Amazing. Who can blame Hybels et al., for using the same ol’ tactics that have worked so well the past when pushed through quickly by those in power?
Honestly, I give no little credit to this blog, and others like it, for blowing the lid off of these little games and holding the powerful people’s feet to the fire. Thank you.
Creepy. Rubbing a woman’s feet sitting on a bed?
Before long, she said, they were sitting on his bed, having a long conversation as the movie played. Hybels allegedly talked about all the pressure he was under while building the church and raising a family.
She remembers him saying that her boyfriend was not good for her and that she had great leadership potential.
“He told me he could get me a job at Willow Creek,” she said.
At some point, he started rubbing her feet.
He’s hitting on CEO of Zondervan? Really??? Telling her she should dress sexy? C’mon, man!
For example, she said, in 2008, “Bill indicated that if I wanted [to publish] his book, I needed to work on the terms with him personally on the way home in his private jet,” she told CT. “I asked if my husband could join us. He said, no, he needed to find another way home.”
Girkins left her husband to find his own way home and flew with Hybels to close the deal.
Once the deal was done, Girkins says Hybels insisted on meeting with her personally throughout the publishing process, rather than working with her staff.
That meant a number of one-on-one meetings: often at his beach home in Michigan, on his yacht, on his jet, or at restaurants near Hybels’s summer home. During those meetings, the conversations often got personal, she said. And at times inappropriate.
“A good example would be the first time he saw me dressed casually,” she said. “He made a big deal of how I looked in jeans and said I needed to dress sexy more often.”
Girkins said no other Christian leader she has worked with has asked her to meet one-on-one in a secluded place or private setting.
Their last one-on-one meeting happened in 2011, not long after she had left Zondervan.
According to Girkins, Hybels suggested they get together and talk. He docked his boat at a slip near her home in Michigan and asked her to pick up a bottle of wine and some dinner. He also asked her to keep the meeting secret.
“Then he asked me not to pick him up at the dock, but a couple blocks down the street,” she said. “When he explained that he didn’t want to be seen with me at the dock, I got this sick feeling in my gut.”
Reproach: a thing that makes the failings of someone or something else more apparent.
Elders must be above this…above reproach.
The failings now call into question their ability and calling and qualifications to lead in the church as elders on an elder “Board.”
If the elders want to do what is right then they should confess that clear lack of qualification(s) and step aside along with Billy.
I am thinking they put out this email knowing the Christianity Today article was coming out with new allegations. When I read the email yesterday, I thought they were investigating allegations they hadn’t investigated as of yet. It doesn’t matter that the women hadn’t taken the allegations to the elder board yet. Why would they after seeing what happened to others? The board should fully investigate and dump the lawyer protecting them. This is about the church and not about them.
If the proceedings are not open, if you are not honest about what was considered, then our conclusion will be that contrary opinions and evidence were not considered or dismissed out of hand. While closed discussion and a “unified” voice may keep the true believers in line it is cowardly and sows distrust that will be very hard for them to regain.
The approach used by the elders is reflective of the mass-marketing approach. Simply mollifying the masses at the expense of legitimacy is passing through the wide gate bypassing the small gate gate and narrow the way that leads to life.
Amen. These Elders have disqualified themselves. They should confess, ask for forgiveness, and resign.
Exactly. This reads like a letter from the power company to irate customers, explaining why rates will be raised 40% to ensure enhanced quality control and to serve you better.
It would have been better evangelical PR jargon if they could have fit the word “robust” in there with “stewarding” and “season.”
The elders were placed in a position of great responsibility. Put simply, they failed. They took the stage alongside Bill and gave him their full support while he called his Goethe’s and sisters in Christ liars and conspirators. Speaking in “unified voice,” they untruthfully represented statements by a prior-serving elder and published them on the internet for the ENTIRE WORLD to see. That’s not failing to communicate in deeply listening posture, that’s being PARTICIPANTS in the wrongdoing. The astounding lack of judgement THROUGHOUT this debacle is disqualifying. And all of this is before additional allegations are published by Christianity Today.
A synonymous translation of “elder” is “overseer.” The current elders have performed their role of oversight shamefully, thus, they should all do the honorable thing and resign.
I’m thinking OVERLOOKERS fits this team better.
In this case more reminiscent of the antebellum South, complete with whip to enforce the masters privilege.
This minister of the gospel of feet rubbing also has multiple homes, a plane, a yacht….? Seriously? It just reinforces Hybel’s playboy image.
Guaranteed what has been revealed is just the tip of the iceberg – he’s been doing this for decades – as only the braver women have come forward so far. Willow Creek needs to get out of the way and let GRACE or a similar organization come in and investigate independently before this blows up.
These elders were hand picked by Rev Hybles. He, himself, has been an elder from the beginning. Thomas055:
@ Jeffrey Chalmere:
But you know godly Christian women don’t get angry…
Two things stand out to me in this ridiculous letter!
1. He admits to putting himself in to situations that he should have avoided! I’m dumbfounded so if he avoided them he wouldn’t be a sexual predator?
2. While attempts were made (meaning the accusations) they could have done more! So basically they ignored and swept it under the rug.
3. We will research and look into allegations of the women who came forward and even those who have not. This is one of the most disturbing statements made for n this email.
I guess I’m reading between the lines here. Basically they are on a witch hunt because the women who have not come forward they are clearly saying they are going to investigate. If they want to come forward they will and in their own time or not at all. The arrogance of these jackasses!!!!
The statements on unity and puffing up the members by saying how they responded Ugh… make me puke! They don’t mean any of that! This letter is their poor attempt to save their own asses and plead with the sheep to believe that they truly want accountability. It’s a bunch of crap!!!
If they were serious I would then say what others are suggesting here, let’s see where the money is going and how much these “leaders” make! I use the term leadership lightly. This is a money making business, church! There are many of us who see it or else we would not suggest they cough up the churches financials!!!
It’s call CMA this letter is!!! and those of us that are awakened to the B.S. don’t buy the dung these people are selling and hopefully the church starts waking up! Stop giving money to these fools and to their buildings because your making them rich and arrogant.
I would rather go hand my money out to the needy directly than give churches like this my time, my service, or my money. There are better ways to serve and give. If I see building funds it’s not a church I want to be involved with!
Billy just visited Lake Church in Montgomery recently.Keep in mind it’s taken a lot for billy to just go after what happened to him. So billy is invited by another schoolmate to go to wed night youth. He goes and sees some friends from school the boys talk and hang out probably not paying much attention to the service as teenagers don’t always do.
Billy and his friend don’t know the ride situation for them to get home they decided to walk home since it’s outside our huge subdivision. It’s nighttime so the church members start texting his friend and are shaming him including an older youth leader (telling him he shouldn’t have left, he Disappointed all of them and so forth) the boy was now scared and felt shamed. Billy in an effort to encourage him told him that grown adults should not be texting him that the leader is a grown man who shouldn’t have his phone number. He tells his friends that they should not communicate with him outside of his parents authority and that adults agains shouldn’t have teenagers phone numbers ( at this point a majority of the church members were also texting the boys)
Billy found their behavior to be inappropriate and much like our former church. Both boys were upset. Billy was trying to reassure his friend and encouraged him to contact his mother. At that point another church member came fast in her car and ordered the boys in allowing her 14 year old to drive my son in addition her teen driver was on her cell phone and driving the boys. The response from the church was appalling and they said billy wasn’t invited back! Billy had no intention of going back and she must have been oblivious to the fact that I was telling her that the entire church was out of line for shaming the boys and exercising bad judgment in regards to how they were transported. Some of these churches and members have no boundaries and when called out on it they try to take the focus off themselves. In this case they tried to blame Billy. By the way the pastor was afraid to talk to me and had a female church woman call me. He refused to sit with me when I wanted an explanation
How many pastors get to choose their own successors? Shows what a weak elder board they have. Also, how many churches have equal co-pastors? Seems that Hybels has left a “poison pill “ on his way out.@ EricL:
Exactly, thank you!@ Thomas055:
The church statement contains small contrition, little mention of sin, no Jesus and much mention of failures. For Willow to survive and thrive, they may need a near total rebuilding.
I notice that the new co-pastor Heather Larson is also on the Elder Board. Will they ever learn ?@ truthseeker00:
Hybels got off on the grooming.
This is the problem with elder boards.
Because that’s exactly what it is. It sounds like one of their legal team wrote it, and someone on staff added the Christianese lingo. Whatever it takes to defend the 501c3.
Sounds like it was written by lobotomized lawyers. Do these people ever read the Bible? Do they ever read how the Bible handles the sin of God’s people—as in directly, frankly, straightforwardly, without idiotic, trendy catchphrases, hollow promises and sheer, unadulterated mealy-mouthed nonsense. I hate these sorts of letters—hate them with a passion. They sound nothing at all like the Bible. NOTHING.
Law Prof wrote:
As a seeker friendly church they want to sound nothing like the Bible, and Hybels acted nothing like the Bible.
I work as an editor in a science field – no flowery language or BS allowed. I volunteer to edit all future WCC communications about the “Bill problem” to remove passive voice, Christianese, and flowery statements that sound nice but say nothing.
I wonder if they’re going to try to play this as a “Billy Graham rule” problem? As in, “If we had just insisted that Bill follow the Billy Graham rule, none of this would have happened.” Because that simply isn’t true. Yes, leaders should use common sense in how/when/where they meet with others, but people who want to abuse are going to abuse. And people who have no interest in using their power to try to manipulate other people simply don’t have a problem going to lunch or dinner or meeting alone with a member of the opposite sex. They just don’t. It seems clear that the problem wasn’t the meetings, the problem was the person who initiated the meetings.
Law Prof wrote:
I do too Law Prof. They make me think of the German bureaucracy on ‘relocation’ with regard to the ‘Jewish question’.
I see there is another Lance on here, so after seeking wise counsel and engaging in a collaborative process, I commit to respecting the original Lance by renaming myself “Better Late than Never Lance” – in reference to how embarrassingly long it took me to leave The Village Church.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
“In the seance, the Shaman leads a sensuous panic…”
— From Oliver Stone’s Film The Doors —
Muff Potter wrote:
That pretty well nails it. Waiting for these abusive churches to start describing the vicious little hate fests they call “loving discipline” as “special treatment”—that would complete the WWII German metaphor.
Better Late Than Never Lance wrote:
Been there, done that. Don’t beat yourself up too much, a lot of us have made those mistakes–nay, sinned those sins (at least speaking for myself). I spent a half-dozen never-to-be-retrieved years of my life with my innocent family, including minor children. shuttling between three astonishingly abusive churches. Have an adult child now who, if you were to ask her to name the first five things she thinks of when you say “church”, probably four of them would relate to abuse (thank the Lord she hasn’t rejected Jesus—just most of them people who claim to follow Him).
Richard. Have you been to a church, most any church, lately? ( not referring to denominations that have a Bishop select nominees )
@ Law Prof:
Dont make fun of those lobotomies. Got mine back in Christian School. There’re terribly comfortable.
@ Better Late Than Never Lance:
Hey man. Don’t be embarrassed at all. If your going to make that move towards redemption, you gotta get to church. The Reverend Cleophus James helped the Blues Brothers see the light. The Village Church helped you, but probably in a more white person way. What matters, is eerybody sees the light in their own way.
Nathan Priddis wrote:
Reminds me of a Pink Floyd song from The Wall, actually a couple Pink Floyd songs from that album. Can you guess which?
“While attempts were made, we could have done more.”
Well, as long as attempts were made, let’s move on and greet the new era of transparency with joy! Oh wait, they also alluded to the slowness of response due to org structure, so transparency might be slow — slow enough o have another issue come up in which attempts will have been made and further prompts for future-looking are called for.
“We will seek wise counsel”
501 c3 for lawyer up?
“We will review and modify Willow email retention policies to reflect the best practices of organizations that deal with sensitive data.”
That’s like having a tire on fire in the board room and saying “We will be implementing water application policies on our next tire fire.”
To be sure, I have great confidence that they’ll batten down hatches and be inclined to have lawyerly agreements and NDAs that could strangle true transparency and accountability within an inch of its life.
“We will ensure that the Elders will be more available in person to answer questions and we commit to communicate as needed with the church.”
Church just went through that, with the pastor pointing everyone to the oversight body to be quizzed on each and everything — this right after evidently discouraging said body to talk about pending matters to anyone outside the body.
“We will walk alongside Bill in stewarding his season of reflection well and are committed to working together on appropriate next steps with him.”
I’ll never forget that classic tune from the Willowettes in 1966: “Walking Alongside Bill”, off of that classic LP “Seasons of Reflections”.
Sorry to resort to the theater of the absurd, but it apparently has been thrust upon another professed Christian congregation who have been financing with a Kingdom-dedicated funds an entity which in this statement appears to offer some oopsie/our bad statements rather than relevant present accountability. They manage to squeeze out mini-measures of mea culpas, but that again points to the dearth of past accountability and oversight. And the picture painted is rife with bromides — seasons of relefection? Really? — that seem to be out of a crisis management PR handbook. Unacceptable.
Big time. How are you going to have honest conversations involving oversight and accountability of the pastorate in such a context? Worse, how hard would it be in that context to speak not only against the idea of another board member but someone who is the face of your church and is seen by most if not all in such churches as a spiritual leader? Throw in the overarching pressure to keep the revenue flowing, and the hard conversations that the churches need to have but too often spill into public view like in this case don’t go anywhere.
Turns out mentioning Hybels going forward might be as troubling to the seeker-sensitive as displaying a cross…
Thank you. Had a similar pressure from the head pastor to speak with a unified voice concerning a significant decision, but those who were not on board had to risk being cast as fomenters of disunity and distrust by daring to dissent and be willing to say so when asked (this was just prior to the pastor pointing everyone to the board to quiz them on their decision making process when it served a different agenda).
We totally failed in holding Bill accountable before, you know, with that failed first investigation, and we totally failed at communicating before, you know, what with not wanting to listen to the women and all, but now that we’ve been caught out and this has gone beyond our doors to a wider public, we are here to tell you that NOW we will communicate better, talk to those girls, sigh, yeah, now we gotta look interested, and we will even make an attempt to look like we will help Bill, even though we really don’t want to put ourselves out there because he is such a loose cannon, but telling you all this will certainly get you off our backs so we can work on keeping the money stream intact. [Phew, glad that’s over with. It’s really hard to be humble and truthful when you’re not.]
I don’t remember who initially made the comment that Bill was not placed in “situations” he created them. That is very important, as being “placed” is passive, “creating” is active and controlling, and again shows his lack of repentance.
I whole heartily Agree! Why are churches exempt from financial transparency when non-profits and government have to lay it all out there for the public to view. @ Muff Potter:
This is a mega church thing. It’s all mapped out FOR you. “Succession” Is a huge deal because it’s all built on cult of personality and they know it will mostly die off if they don’t have a long term torch passing plan in place with as little upset as possible. (Megas have been around long enough we now know this isn’t as smooth as they hope for)
It’s a far cry from my early experience that the church members decided who would be the pastor. I learned that the concept of church in the mega world is totally different.
In mega churches there is so much distance from the leader and top from the pew sitter it makes it easier to craft narratives to explain things away. People who attend are used to being told how to think about things and accept it because the top people all so “nice”. My mouth fell open watching the family meeting and hearing the male co pastor remind the audience they had been taught “dual” approach thinking. I would love to hear that original sermon to see how such a concept was crafted for that audience. I can’t imagine a scenario in which such a concept is good. It’s like saying cognitive dissonance is good or something.
The bottom line in this situation is their great leader, the big personality it was all built upon— is really just a sleazy narcissistic operator who played thousands with a Jesus shtick for 40 years. There is a big lesson there if people will peel back the totalitarian niceness layers to the real core.
This should never be forgotten. Bill created his own situations, not the board. The board had other deficiencies, certainly.
There are no Christian institutions. There are Christians. There are institutions. No institution can be Christian.
Institutions are not created in the image of God. Institutions do not have spirits, souls, or bodies. Institutions cannot exercise faith. Jesus did not come to save institutions.
I see comments on here that the WC elders don’t get it. Oh they get it all right. They get it LOUD and CLEAR. They just cannot project that outward because it would do damage to the institution. For decades, these elders and their predecessors have propped up WC the institution as the be all and end all of what it means to be the church – the body of Christ, the people of God. Now their failures have come to light. If the light shines brightly enough, it will do irreparable damage to the institution, and they can’t have that. So they must dim the light to salvage the institution and regroup.
The elders are putting the institution before the people. There is a word for that. Idolatry. It won’t change. The people have always been the pawns that prop up the institution (or “ministry”). It can now be clearly seen by all with eyes. Thank God for the light.
The light shining on WC right now is illuminating the doorway out. Hopefully many will follow the light.
Jim G. wrote:
We haven’t seen that happen with SGM/SGC, Driscoll, a slew of Southern Baptist churches etc. etc. Wish we had. Doubt WC will be any different.
Jim G. wrote:
And this version of idolatry comes with compelling self-interest, from nest-feathering to rep-protecting.
The reference to light bring to mind John 3:19: “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men did love the darkness rather than the light, because their works were evil.” Sadly, itmusually has to come to this level of light and judgment for there to be significant change, and even then, many rationalize things away or buy enough of the lines coming from the powers that be that people stay with insititutions even when the unaccountable and even abusive environments stays in place. And people wonder why their church-related experience seems less and less fruitful (as well as their own spiritual walk), and chalk it up to a list of things other than being in a problematic environment as far as Kingdom-focused priorities.
Those who have controlled every jot and tittle in the ministry during their tenure. They hand-pick successors who will protect their legacy. All of this, of course, has nothing to do with being led by God.
It rears its head in other church settings as well. SBC church of over 1000 has allowed the head pastor and a smal group that brought him in ten years ago to reshape the oversight board so that he/they maintain control on all things, including the makeup of the pastorate and will likely include the main successor.
Many efforts were made to show him and all involved that the oversight body needs to function according to the bylaws for the good of all — this following multiple incidents of troubling eventualities showing the need for said oversight. Instead of taking to it, what followed was doubling down on the power grab and what I and others saw as manipulation which pushed the church to cover the massive bill for the small group’s failiures in a most disturbing manner.
This included having an interim pastor not approved by the oversight body put well-meaning water carriers in place to use Hebrews 13:17 as justification to have his essentially hand-picked pastorate make enforceable discussions outside of oversight board approval, The level at which the manipulation priorities prevailed over just about everything else was stunning. And many — including the guy who,pushed the Hebrews 13:17 proof texting — freely admitted that they did so in order to follow their spiritual leader, even though the church is not set up to let the head pastor run things unchecked, though he let that happen and encouraged it. Sickening.
@ Jim G.:
One can only hope!
Jim G. wrote:
I’m afraid I learned that the hard way. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long. Thank you for sharing that truth!
This was a feature of the church I left behind and it was not a mega but many many looked to the megas for their roadmap, especially those that have numbers as their ultimate goal.
This was one of the final straws at my former church when the pastor blamed a bad decision on the trustees when they had not driven the bad decision. He took credit when all was well but hid behind his council or trustee when a bad decision was made. I say “his” because they were hand picked by the pastor.
The board only had room for yes men and all they got in return for the mirage of influence was the opportunity to get the blame when thing went wrong. The amazing part was there were always those willing to be part of the charade.
I am new to posting but have been reading here awhile. I have learned so much and appreciate the decent and thoughtful conversations here.
I was a Willow attender for many years but gratefully the Holy Spirit pulled my family and I out out several years back.
Question: Can a sociopath really repent? How do we handle these situations where repentance may not even be possible?
@ Jim G.:
Another investigation won’t matter and yes the elders think that saving the institution is priority. It is a crisis to be “managed” and They will very “nicely” string people along for as long as it takes for the subject to go away. That is hard for people to believe. It was hard for me to admit they aren’t who I thought they were.
What is hard is cutting the cord. Institutions are addicting. I have heard people describe it as like a divorce.
And your point?@ Nathan Priddis:
I’m sure many controlling types would like that. But a properly organized church with any semblance of a church government would not allow it.@ Max:
“I’M COURT FAVORITE THIS WEEK! HOW DO I KNOW? I GET TO BRING THE BOWSTRING FOR LAST WEEK’S FAVORITE! (giggle giggle)”
Just wondering if Pastor Hybles negotiated a severence package along with his pension?
“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word—doublethink—involved the use of doublethink.
“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them… To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.”
— George Orwell
In an elder-ruled church, leadership can pretty much do what they want to. I believe that congregational governance was the church polity in the early church. The congregation should have some say in who their leaders are, rather than the elders simply tapping someone to succeed a pastor. When churches reach mega status, like Willow Creek, it becomes more business than church … so appointment of a new CEO by the board would be appropriate to keep the Christian industrial complex moving.
No, they lack a conscience.
Muff Potter wrote:
“Always use proper Code Words: ‘Relocation’. ‘Resettlement’. ‘Delousing’.”
— Holocaust (Seventies TV Miniseries), outside Babi Yar
Which also allows the use of the “I Did Not Know Her in the Biblical Sense” loophole.
Maybe he was trying to be the next Bill Got Hard?
the group photo at Willow Creek showed Rev Hybles, the Elders, and the new co-pastors but I’m wondering if Mrs Hybles was there, anyone?
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
How did the WC pastor guy put a spiritual truth twist on that? I would be interested to hear it. Wish I had a link.
I doubt he even needs to do so because there is usually a contractural provision in place. He probably has total access to slush funds set up years ago for all sorts of things like books, travel, etc. My guess is the contractural tentacles with all the WC spin off groups is quite complicated. My guess is he will be paid by leadership summit with no role. For example, who owns the copyright to this or that? Over the years the layers and layers added become very complicated financially. And really smart people are involved in setting them up.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
That is what I was thinking.
@ Better Late Than Never Lance:
Good for you!
I haven’t done a whole lotta’ looking into the why aspect, but I suspect that it was intended for good reason(s) at one time and that it may have served that interest well.
But like all things over time, unintended bad consequences tend to crop up.
Don’t I know it. And over the years they become totally inept at any clear, direct and honest communication. All communication has an image agenda attached. And the entire staff takes on the style. It’s maddening. No one ever really says anything of substance. It’s a sort of bureaucrat disease with a plastic Jesus.
Muff Potter wrote:
Indeed; the notion of the separation of church and state (though I don’t think it’s phrased in exactly so many words in the US Constitution) was drawn up against a backdrop of theocracy, and brutal state-sponsored religious persecution by monarchs in bed with one denominational faction or another. Banning the state from telling people what they could, and could not, worship must have made eminent sense to people determined to improve on what they, or their recent ancestors, had experienced in Europe. My knowledge of US history is a little sketchy, but I know about British history; in Tudor times it was one Dirty War after another, all emboldened by “divine sanction”. And I say that in the full knowledge of the appalling horror behind the phrase “Dirty War”.
Reflecting on your comment, Muff, I’m inclined to wonder whether a true 21st-Century reformation in the US might involve God moving a revision of the Constitution to address the unintended consequences to which you alluded…
Gov lays it all out there? They vote on 1000 page bills without reading them first or even making them public. There is no transparency.
And few bat an eye, much less ouraged, when “charitable”, non profits or foundations have staff making half mill year salaries.
The problem is us.
@ Nick Bulbeck:
Yikes. We wouldn’t need ratifying the Constitution to reverse the church status tax exemption.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Muff Potter wrote:
From my limited research a few years ago it appears the exemption for religious organization from filing a form 990 was put in place back in the forties when the form 990 was introduced. The exemption was put in place because the IRS did not want tangle with the 1st Amendment.
More recently an organization “Freedom From Religion Foundation”, from what I can tell is an anti-religion religious organization, brought suit some years ago to remote the preferential treatment. Some years ago they gained standing for the suit to be heard but I don’t know what happened since and it may still be winding it way through the courts. They could get more public support if their name was not so obnoxious.
In theory, no, but the problem’s bigger than tax exemption.
@ Nick Bulbeck:
I’m not sure the “problem” has been defined beyond tax exemption for churches. N T Wright hints around at something like you do about the problems with our no “church state”. It’s interesting considering the religious situation in the UK. 🙂
Thanks for that info. It’s not just tax on org income, either. But property tax, etc. OTOH, I think we have a enough bureaucrats who want to micromanage our lives so I would not want to feed the controlling beast anymore than we have to. And we could start with the religion of “Statism”at funded public universities. People forget that’s a religion.
Yes, it is an obnoxious name!
“We will walk alongside Bill in stewarding his season of reflection well and are committed to working together on appropriate next steps with him.”
My guess is that Hybel’s retirement plans always included headlining leadership conferences under the sponsorship of Willow Creek at 5 – 6 figures per conference (personal yachts don’t come cheap). Sounds to me like they are trying to rehabilitate his reputation enough that this might still work.
Hmmmm. As a former fed gov employee I want to ask this question: If the tax advantages were removed from all tax advantaged organizations both secular and religious, and if all this stuff got taxed, what evidence is there that the gov(s) would handle the money any better than the non-gov(s)?
More than that, if all the religious organizations were dismantled on the theory that an organization cannot be christian (that would be the adjective christian not the noun christian) then who is going to pick up the slack? Who, for example, is going to do for our family what the people at Catholic Social Services did for us to get a couple of kids adopted internationally as opposed to necessarily pushing the political issue of domestic adoption only and regardless. Or do we want our options narrowed to the gov and nothing but the gov?
And who and what will there be for balance once all we have eliminated everything non-gov which might be identifiable, functioning at some level at least, and having deep enough pockets to have enough influence with enough people to hold down the other side of the see saw against the weight of the gov on it’s end of the board.
I am not anti-gov, I am not anti-church, only anti corruption wherever found. IMO we need the balance.
@ Law Prof:
The turning away.
Richard. You should anticipate an enormous influence by a pastor on his successor’s selection
He may even be the sole selector. Beyond this, he may always decide just not to retire at all, and just keep going.
How many congregations understand that if a pastor sits on an elder board, it does not possess independence? Do you think Mars Hill Elders has an independent voice? The Board had a symbiotic relationship with Driscoll. Each needed the other to survive. He wasn’t going anywhere. He succeeded himself week after week.
Gov is in ngo business big time with taxpayer funded grants. What makes you think Catholic Social Services doesn’t get government grants? My motto is the bigger the government the smaller the citizen. That might work for mega churches too?
We have to have government the question is always how much and how involved should it be in micromanaging our lives and choices? We all have different opinions about that.
@ FW Rez:
I wonder if he doesn’t have a personal financial stake in it. He founded it.
Again Lyds, you and I have divergent views on government, and through it all we still have common ground. As they say, go figure.
Of course they do, but they also have at places dropped out of some services because of different philosophies from the gov. My point is that the balance of competing ideologies is necessary for the people to have any degree of freedom. And that takes size and money and influence, at least in our form of governance it does.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
It all sounds “Cristian”, but nothing like Christ.
I thought the question was whether religious organizations should be exempt from reporting how their charitable contributions are used, not whether all such contributions should be disallowed. There are some who want to do away with charitable tax exemptions but I think that would represent the final nail in the coffin for non-government organizations within our communities. Financial openness should be required as veiled corruption within religious organizations can put the whole system of tax exemption at risk.
To answer your question from the evidence I’ve seen, should the tax exemption go away I could guarantee the government would be less efficient in the use of funds.
Yes. Churches fall under a special status that do not have to report as other non profits.
I wasn’t necessarily talking about competing ideologies. Here, Catholic Charities receive most of their money from government and many Catholics are appalled by what they are involved in with the UN and Feds. It’s a real racket. I learned a lot while I volunteered there.
Anywho, I try to be one of those buy local people when I can. 🙂
@ Muff Potter:
Because you value free speech, buddy. 🙂
People keep talking about a Co-Pastor situation. I heard them announce it that way along with Christianity Today…
Is it really a co-pastor situation when Heather Larson reports to the Elders and all other Pastors including Steve Carter report to Heather Larson?
It seems disingenuous to present it as a co-pastor situation. It’s a very sad situation.
After reading this, I’m glad Billy won’t be going back.
They (the board) are aparently way late in bring relief to broken confidences and I suspect their WC offerings are showing it. Did the WC board understand the extent of the inappropriate liberties that BH was evidently taking with these WC church women?
Wade Burleson just did an excellent article at his site on the Orwellian atmosphere of radical-progressive-political-correctness-run-amok on the university campus.
Indeed. I am BEYOND tired of hearing this nonsense.
hire an independent investigator and provide an 800 number and email for women to talk confidentially so they can submit evidence of emails, texts and pics. what woman would want to come forward to the Elders now and let her name be dragged through the press after Willow let Bill refer to one as suicidal with a “drinking problem?” There’s probably other women out there – some married – that don’t want their reputations trashed or suffer the humiliation.
Heather Larson does not report to the Elder Board. She, like Hybles, is an Elder herself and therefore reports to herself. She learned from the master.@ scott:
@ Muff Potter:
I have been listening to Jonathan Haidt who actually has Solutions.
Muff Potter wrote:
From the article: “Numerous professors, including those at Yale’s top-rated law school, contacted them personally to offer personal support, but they all said it was too risky to speak their minds publicly.”
Some have questioned the credibility of the women that have only now come forward with their testimony concerning Hybels. The statement above is all the evidence needed to debunk the critique. Any woman speaking the truth back then would have been fired and have her morality questioned. Anyone who doubts can refer to the case above about Yale where tenured professors don’t dare speak up.
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I don’t know how their stuff is set up.
In my church the pastors are technically elders, but non-voting iirc. And they leave the room if anything relates to them.
When I hear “Co-Pastor”, I keep thinking of all the Nineties buzz about Bill & Hillary as “Co-Presidents”.
like they’ve got the same PR spinmeisters or something.
“Willow Creek Elders Send Letter to Church Members: Are They Starting to Realize They Have a Problem?”
As an attender and volunteer at WC for 17 years, I believe the Elders have realized ‘the problem’ for many years. For sure the last 3-4 since the Ortberg’s and Melados left. The inaction and the withholding of information by the Elders is almost as bad the allegations.
BH leaving sooner than planned is a significant indicator of his guilt. However, the multiple victims words are the most powerful in ‘convicting’ him. Currently, it seems the victims are the ones the least protected and cared for, as are any future victims.
With the new lead pastor also on the Elder board, doesn’t that make it business as usual? Also, that person was the lead of Compassion and Justice at WC prior to her new role. In this previous title, she championed a gift for every prisoner in Illinois caring event. In that event, there has been no/little mention of the prisoners’ victims.
With all this, many people would conclude that WC, as a church, does not actually care enough for certain victims of crimes to act in ways that protects and cares for those victims. Many people who continue to worship at WC ignore these truths.
Hopefully, with this latest Elder letter, they will act in real ways that affirms the victims, and not the perpetrators.