“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”– Unknown
Well, the summer is hot here in Raleigh and things are also heating up in the area of abuse and churches. In the next week, we will be dropping a bombshell that will include proof of our claims. Some of you have been following things on Twitter and have an idea of what might be coming. However, the proof of what we will claim is what is important. I would ask that you pray for us and also pray for the victim in this story. I can’t comment on anything until we post the story.
In the meantime, there are some stories were need to catch up on. There are all kinds of things happening in the Willow Creek world.
The apologies from Willow Creek
Scot McKnight posted Elders Acknowledge Bill Hybels’ Sin; Heather Larson Apologizes. You can read the apology from the elders and Heather Larson. It appears that they are beginning to use the *S* word…sin on the part of Hybels. Here is part of that apology.
The women showed courage in coming forward. In full transparency of what was going on in me, one of the hardest parts for me was that I did not agree with how the information came out in the media, and I allowed that to get in the way of focusing on the pain of these women. I am sorry. I should have listened more to why the women felt like they were forced to take that path.
It was wrong to host those first family meetings and to release those initial posted statements in the way we did. We should have started by listening. As I walked out on stage that first night, I realized that the humility and tone were not right, and I have deep regrets about even holding those meetings. I said things that hurt people, and I am deeply sorry.
Steve Carter, lead teaching pastor, released his own apology on his website: An Apology. Here is part of the apology.
I recognize that I am not blameless in this. I take full responsibility for my actions that contributed to the injustice that was done to these women. I should not have been on stage for any of the family meetings, to pray or lead any part of those nights. I believe now that what our church needed initially was to practice transparency and repentance, to grieve, and to reflect on what Jesus was inviting us into and to listen to the Holy Spirit. I wish I had done more to prevent the hurtful statements that were made, and to advocate more forcefully for what I believe would have been a more humble and Biblical approach.
For this, I am deeply sorry and ask your forgiveness.
Scot McKnight then wrote Willow: Why The Women Went Public? and referred to the apologies when he said:
By any account, these apologies and admissions at least call into question the counter-accusations by Bill Hybels (of women lying, of collusion) and these apologies get close to admitting complicity of Willow (Elders and WCA Board) as an institution in the public statements about the women.
Top-down management and autonomous leadership
McKnight hit the nail on the head when he targeted top-down management and autonomous leadership as contributing WCCC’s problems.
…top-down management promotes a lack of responsibility on the part of the people, often a lack of accountability for both leader and people, a clear absence of ownership by the people, a lethargic passivity by the people, and it creates spectators of the people and performers of the leaders. The leaders develop a persona made visible by public appearances. One does not know the genuine article; one knows the personapresented on stage. For most people there is no way to find the truth of the leader’s character. Many people are marked by allegiance to the leader rather than free-flowing giftedness set free to do the work God has called them to.
…The problem of autonomous churches is autonomy at the top: too much authority in the inner circle at the top and voicelessness for too many.
Autonomy at the top breeds powermongering, and that always leads to sharing authority with like-minded who think alike and behave alike and reinforce what is alike. Many of the “not likes” then are excluded, silenced, and even afraid to speak up.
The evidence of powermongering is silencing and bullying
He believes that this sort of power structure forced the women to go outside to the Chicago Tribune and various blogs in order to be heard. McKnight uses a term I haven’t heard before. He claims what the women did was *public prophetic speech.* I agree. He believes that the initial responses by WCCC made this response inevitable and necessary.
We would not know any of the truth of this problem at Willow (Association and Elders) had they not gone public. Four years of silence, four years of nothing being known, four years when others may have spoken up. We know what we know only because the women had the courage to go public.
Notice that they did not go public right away. Rather, following the guidelines of Matthew 18, Bill was first approached by at least two women (Julia Williams, Vonda Dyer); then a few went to both Bill and the Elders – for four long years of patient attempts to get Willow to admit what had happened, what the Elders have now described as Bill “entering into areas of sin.”
A new blog
I hope this post helps to get our readers up to speed on all things Willow Creek. I know there will be more stories to come.
Trouble At The Global Leadership Summit
An Open Letter to Tom DeVries
Before you read my first ever Blog post, I need to introduce myself. After graduating from seminary I was a college chaplain and then a senior pastor — both on the east coast. I have been a member of Willow Creek for more than 25 years. During my tenure at Willow, I served as an intern. I assisted teaching the spiritual gifts assessment classes. I have served as a marrying pastor, funeral pastor, small group leader, section leader and response pastor. I have attended the GLS numerous times. Over the years, my wife and I have hosted GLS attendees from the U.S., the Netherlands (2x), and Namibia (2x). I have invited co-workers and family members to attend the GLS and attended with them.
I am jealous for Willow Creek Church!
I do not personally have a dog in this race.
I have written emails to the elders, the WCA, and the Elder Response Team throughout this crisis beseeching them to be forthcoming. I have had 2 phone conversations with elders. I spoke to one elder face to face after the last elder update. And I have had a face to face meeting with members from the Elder Response Team.
But as the days march on with no apparent resolution in sight, and considering the events of this past weekend at church and now the article in the Daily Herald about the GLS, I am compelled to share more publicly. Let me encourage you to click on the link here which contains my emails in chronological order throughout April, May, and June 2018 so that you may understand my efforts to goad the leadership of Willow Creek toward resolving this crisis. I have tried privately, and now I am trying more publicly.
Tom DeVries, President and CEO of the Willow Creek Association, was interviewed by The Daily Herald newspaper July 2, 2018. After giving accolades to Bill Hybels and expressing how he will be missed at the GLS this year, he states that they’re going to address the “elephant in the room,” at the GLS.
What is the elephant in the room, Mr. DeVries, President and CEO of the Willow Creek Association?
Mr. DeVries identifies the “elephant in the room” to be: how men and women work together in professional environments.
So that is the monster issue everyone from around the country and world is dying for the GLS to address? That’s the elephant?
That is the elephant that is causing
a cloud of malaise
at Willow Creek Church?
That is the big issue that leaders from all over the world are eagerly anticipating the GLS to tackle? Mr. DeVries, it pains me to say that you calling that topic “the elephant in the room” lacks wisdom and discernment and is not an example of exemplary leadership.
That statement is a deflection. It unfortunately accurately reflects how the elders have handled the last 100 days since the Willow tragedy has gone public.
Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association have not earned the right to address hundreds of thousands of leaders from around the world on this topic.
Mr. DeVries, we are willing to listen to you address your elephant because it actually does have value. But there are dozens of elephants in the room bigger and more formidable that need to be addressed FIRST.
There are BILL HYBELS elephants.
There are ELDERS elephants.
There are WCA elephants.
Below I will list four elephants in each of the above categories. There are many more, but I will limit it to four. First address these, and then you will have the credibility to address your elephant.
- The elephant of Bill lying when he declared that all the women lied? And that they were all lies that they spoke.
- The elephant of Bill lying when he declared that Nancy Beach, John Ortberg, Nancy Ortberg, Vonda Dyer, Jimmy and Leanne Mellado, and Betty Schmidt all colluded against him? He was the victim? (This is the example of leadership that you want to extol?)
- How about the elephant of Bill refusing to confess his sin and ask for forgiveness from:
Each of the women?
Each of the beloved former Willow leaders?
The congregation of Willow Creek Community Church?
The global partners of the WCA?
- And what about the elephants of the missing emails and texts and his abuse of power and … ?
THE ELDERS OF WILLOW CREEK
- The elephant of the first family meeting when they explained away all allegations against Bill and declared him innocent of all charges. The elders deceived and fractured the entire Willow family that night.
- The elephant of refusing to hire a totally independent third-party clergy abuse investigator to listen to the women’s stories. Mr. DeVries, what are the elders afraid of? What might that investigation uncover that the elders want to remain hidden?
- The elephant of refusing to say Bill had sinned until they were forced to by the courageous voice of Steve Carter, Lead Teaching Pastor of Willow, when he came forward on behalf of the women utilizing his own blog this past Friday evening 6/29/18.
- The elephant of how poorly the elders have led and cared for the congregation through this crisis. They have disqualified themselves. They are no longer trusted to lead. Yet they have not been humble enough to resign and thus retain at least a shred of dignity and honor.
- The elephant of being a global megaphone for the elders’ narrative of this crisis despite boasting of the WCA’s independence from Willow Creek Community Church.
- The elephant of obfuscation in the WCA’s communications with its global family and partners (I address this issue directly in my email number 6 to the WCA)
- The elephant of deflection in the Daily Herald article which has spurred the writing of this blog post
- The elephant of a WCA staff member slandering Vonda Dyer to a church in Texas to keep them from pulling out as a GLS host site and the WCA refusing to correct that staff member’s slander and offer a public apology to Vonda.
Tom, addressing “how men and women can work together in professional environments” does indeed have value. But it is not addressing the real elephants in the room.
I am sorry, Tom. This is not good leadership. It continues the obfuscation that has defined the way the people involved have been treated for the last 100 days … and before, by the leaders of Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association.
Tackle some of the elephants I named above, Tom, and then it will be worthy of being called The Global Leadership Summit.