Those in powerless positions aren’t about to complain about bullying bosses, abusive supervisors or corrupt co-workers. There is no safe way to do so and no process that promises redress. Margaret Heffernan
Last evening, the NYT posted another update on the Hybels’ situation Willow Creek Church Says It Will Investigate Its Powerful Pastor, Bill Hybels
It seems to imply that Baranowsk experienced multiple episodes of molestation.
Ms. Baranowski said that Mr. Hybels gradually groomed her for a sexual relationship, then molested her at his home, at his lake house and at a pastors’ conference.
Before I begin, I want to thank Laurie Goldstein of the New York Times who wrote an excellent article with historical data of the victim’s claims that helped me to understand how predatory grooming can occur.
A dam has broken in the evangelical world. You’ve seen it before in the Catholic Church when the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team exposed the sex abuse scandal involving the Archdiocese of Boston. First, it was Boston. It hit my hometown of Salem, Massachusetts. Over the course of the last two decades, it exposed an international pedophile scandal that has rocked the stability of the RCC.
We evangelicals were naive. Some of you may remember people saying “Well, that’s what you get when you don’t let priests marry.” Few people stopped to ask a simple question. If a normal priest wanted to have sex, why didn’t he have it with an age appropriate woman? A normal priest does not wake up one morning and say “Gee, I want to have sex and I think I will do it with a 6 year old choir boy.”
Because many evangelicals didn’t ask that logical question, they believed that this wouldn’t happen to their pastors and leaders. People have sex with children because they are pedophiles. Getting married does not prevent pedophilia. It merely prevents most people from recognizing the problem.
Getting married does not prevent a predator from being a predator. It only helps the predator to hide his/her problem from trusting individuals. Predators of all kinds target churches because they are filled with people who are under the mistaken assumption that a pastor couldn’t molest anybody.
Folks, celibacy does not lead to pedophilia or other forms of predatory behavior. Individuals who have a serious psychiatric disorder molest other people. Some molesters cover their tracks by pretending to have a *lovely family.* That family is usually another victim of that predator. Sometimes, in truly perverse situations, the spouse encourages or participates in the behavior.
When the initial women came forward to accuse Hybels, I began to suspect he might be a predator who used his church to encourage women in leadership in order to gain access to them. There were some disturbing signs.
- The *Ambien made me do it” excuse.
- The similarities in the stories.
- His counseling of a woman who had accused him of having an affair with him then recanted.
- Allowing said woman to spend the night when his wife wasn’t home.
It appeared to me that the folks assigned to oversee his ministry were merely *yes* men and women who didn’t know how to employ good sense when it comes to judging Hybels’ behavior. It also appeared to me that his wife was distant and seemingly removed from the situation. Did any of the leaders attempt to help them?
Did anyone on the staff or on the leadership team ever truly understand the Gospel. I know they got grace part. Did they get the reason for the need for grace? The sin reason? That men and women are sinners and that doesn’t stop when they become Christians?
The New York Times introduces another Hybels’victim and documents the grooming process.
On 8/5/18, the NYT posted He’s a Superstar Pastor. She Worked for Him and Says He Groped Her Repeatedly by Laurie Goodstein. It really upsets me that the secular press gets sex abuse in the church far better than many in the evangelical church. This is an excellent article that outlines Pat Baranowski’s relationship with Hybels. He set up this relationship from the moment picked her up in his car. She, trusting Hybels, thought it was a *miracle from God.”
Baranowski was attending WCC and had been thinking about applying for a job in the church when she received what she believed to be a sign from God.
In 1984, Ms. Baranowski was walking to her car in the vast parking lot of Willow Creek one night after services. She had just been praying about whether to apply for a job at the church she saw posted.
Suddenly a car screeched to a stop beside her, and the driver rolled down his window. It was the church’s pastor.
“Could I drive you to your car or something?” offered Mr. Hybels, who was then 33. Her car was nearby, but she accepted the ride.
It seemed like a sign from God.
Sadly, Hybels was good, really good and decided to build on this *miraculous meeting* which I believe sounds like baloney. He set up an excuse for this relationship. Plausible deniability seems to be at play in many of his interactions.
Mr. Hybels later also described the meeting as a miracle: He had been driving out of the parking lot when God urged him to go back and find the woman he drove by.
That night I had no idea how offering help to a person who probably didn’t need it would affect my life and ministry,” he wrote in one of his first books.
Lessons in how to groom a potential target:
Find someone with a poor self image, do something over the top for them and engender a feeling of indebtedness.
Hybels hired her to work so closely with him that she was called his *gatekeeper.* However, she would continue to wonder why he had *chosen* her for this incredible opportunity since she had poor self esteem. Stop and think about that for a minute.
“It was a wonderful time,” she said. “I thought maybe God was just being good to me, and I think he was. But I couldn’t understand: Why did he select me? Because I didn’t think that highly of myself.”
Move the target into your home.
In 1985, one year after the *miracle in the parking lot* incident, Baranowski was invited to move in with the Hybels family.
Mr. Hybels and his wife invited her to move into their home, where she shared family dinners and vacations.
I know some folks will disagree with me but I believe it is unusual to have a single woman living with a family, taking part in dinners and even family vacations, unless that person is a nanny or a full time housekeeper or in the middle of rehab or in the throes of financial despair. Why in the world would they even invite her on family vacations? Didn’t this family ever enjoy being alone? Or was there something wrong at home? This is a huge red flag for me.
Make sure the potential victims thinks you are wonderful and ratchet up the compliments
Baranowski admired Bill Hybels and felt indebted to him. She naturally thought he was a wonderful pastor and employer, putting her into a job in which she worked with him daily. Now it was time for him to begin to reel her in. Notice how he began commenting on her appearance.
Ms. Baranowski kept handwritten notes she received from Mr. Hybels. In one, Mr. Hybels praised her work and said, “I am praying that your new small group” at church “will be a source of much happiness and strength in your life.” Then he added, “P.S. Plus, you are a knockout!”
Get your intended victim to watch porno films with you to *help*James Dobson.
James Dobson was part of the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography in the latter half of the 1980s. Note how Hybels cleverly used something that was true to give him plausible deniability.
Mr. Hybels told Ms. Baranowski that he had been told to educate himself on the issue by James Dobson, founder of the ministry Focus on the Family, who had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan to an anti-pornography commission.
Calling it research, Mr. Hybels once instructed Ms. Baranowski to go out and rent several pornographic videos, she said, to her great embarrassment. He insisted on watching them with her, she said, while he was dressed in a bathrobe.
Once you have tested her willingness not to talk about these things, gradually increase your intimate activity.
Over the period of two years, the intimate activity increased.
Once, while Mr. Hybels’s wife, Lynne, and their children were away, the pastor took Ms. Baranowski out for dinner. When they got home, Mr. Hybels offered her a back rub in front of the fireplace and told her to lie face down.
Stunned, she remembered feeling unable to say no to her boss and pastor as he straddled her, unhooked her bra and touched her near her breasts. She remembered feeling his hands shake.
That first back rub in 1986 led to multiple occasions over nearly two years in which he fondled her breasts and rubbed against her. The incidents later escalated to one occasion of oral sex.
By this point, the victim has been coerced into thinking she should keep secrets for the sake of the church.
“I really did not want to hurt the church,” said Ms. Baranowski, who is now 65, speaking publicly for the first time. “I felt like if this was exposed, this fantastic place would blow up, and I loved the church. I loved the people there. I loved the family. I didn’t want to hurt anybody.”
Also, she will began to blame herself for allowing this to go on.
And I was ashamed.
Once the victim begins to feel guilty, ditch her.
Baranowski lived in the Hybels’ house for 2 years when she finally decided to move out.
She grew increasingly wracked by guilt and tried to talk with him. One day in his office, she told him that it was unfair to his wife, that it was sin, and that she felt humiliated.
That night she recorded in her journal what he had said in response: “It’s not a big deal. Why can’t you just get over it? You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”
…In the office, he began to suggest she was incompetent and unstable. He berated her work in front of others.
Eventually, she was forced to resign. However, she kept journals, 20 of the!. She went to a counselor who confirmed that she was consulted by Baranowshki regarding her time with Hybels. Baranowski also confided in her friend, Pastor Dan Cousins, about what happened. Both the counselor and Cousins confirmed this with the NYT,
Barnanowski was successfully groomed by Hybels and then was thrown to the wolves while he moved on to other people and became a mega star in evangelical circles.
Since leaving the church, Ms. Baranowski said she has struggled to keep a job, lost her condominium, moved from state to state, and had migraines and panic attacks.
Laurie Goldstein did an excellent job in detailing Baranowski’s experience with Bill Hybels. The article seems to demonstrate Hybels’ process of grooming a victim. Baranowski didn’t have a chance when he pulled the *miracle in the parking lot* card. Hybels had *reasons* for his questionable activity, be it Ambien or research on porn for James Dobson. This guy had an answer for everything.
However, there are far too many women and far too many bad excuses to make this go away which leads us to:
The resignation of Steve Carter
For those of you who have forgotten, Steve Carter was supposed to be the new *lead pastor* at WCC. The Chicago Tribune published Teaching pastor resigns over Willow Creek’s handling of allegations against Bill Hybels.
The lead teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church announced his resignation from the South Barrington megachurch Sunday, saying he could no longer serve there with integrity.
…said he was “horrified” by allegations reported Sunday by The New York Times that Hybels had sexually harassed his former executive assistant for two years.
Carter also said he did not agree with the way elders had handled the first reports by the Chicago Tribune in March that revealed allegations of misconduct by Hybels with women — including church employees — spanning decades
…Carter led the charge in a series of public apologies issued by church leaders in July. He wrote on his personal blog that he told church elders he believed the church had mishandled allegations against Hybels and the subsequent investigation of those claims. He said he had personally apologized to “several of the victims” for the way they and their families have been treated.
…Carter said he tendered his resignation weeks ago but obliged when church leaders asked him to continue leading until they figured out how to make the decision public.
Carter was due to appear on stage this past Sunday but reportedly could not do so because he *was throwing up backstage.* His resignation followed almost immediately.
“At this point, however, I cannot, in good conscience, appear before you as your Lead Teaching Pastor,” Carter wrote, “when my soul is so at odds with the institution.”
Observers are left with a number of questions.
- What will happen with the WCA Global Summit that starts this week? There is absolutely no way to brush this under the carpet and continue with business as usual. Maybe it is time to take a break from the hoopla and do some introspection?
- We have now been told a number of stories about Hybels’ current position: fired, resigned, leave of absence, will come back to lead WCA, etc. What is true?
- Why did WCC leadership keep quiet about Carter’s decision to resign weeks ago? There seem to be a fair number of *secrets* in this organization. Maybe it’s time to stop with the secrets and start with the unvarnished truth.
- Will WCC provide all of the victims with continued counseling by competent counselors and will they reimburse them for all related expenses incurred to this point? They should.
- Shouldn’t WCC buy Pat Baranowski a condo? (I’m sure the lawyers love that one!)
Finally, I guess I’m obliged to say that Hybels denies everything.
Whoops I almost forgot…. For the lawyers: All of these claims are alleged. However, I absolutely and totally believe the victims and will do everything in my power to be of support to them.