Updated 8/7/18: The New York Times Appears to Outline How Bill Hybels Groomed a New Victim and Steve Carter, the New WCC Lead Pastor, Resigns

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


Hoover Dam

Update 8/7/2018

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.


Comments

Updated 8/7/18: The New York Times Appears to Outline How Bill Hybels Groomed a New Victim and Steve Carter, the New WCC Lead Pastor, Resigns — 217 Comments

  1. When Bill Hybels began Willow Creek, he decided to not display a Cross thinking it would hinder seekers from attending. Perhaps he didn’t want to look at it.

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  2. Though I imagined Steve Carter would not last for long in his role – he was a relative outsider and newcomer to the church – his exit yesterday was the first ray of integrity from a Willow leader I’ve seen since this whole horrible mess (finally) began to be revealed to the public.

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  3. So, 1)long time predator and abuser of power Bill has vanished with no repentance, 2)the Willow Creek Association is hosting a secular ‘leadership’ conference, 3)Willow Creek Church leader actions have been non-stop inept destroying attender trust, 4)the lead teaching pastor quits, and 5)another ‘investigative’ committee is being formed. My humble 2 cents is if Willow Creek continues down its current path, the church campus may eventually be sold and become a college campus. Amazing that people still worship – volunteer – give money – bring children to Willow Creek Church.

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  4. This is the second time in weeks an Evangelical/Conservative Republican headline mentioned a long forgotten event.
    (John and Lorena Bobbett, and Love Hurts Tour. James Dobson and the Meese Report. And report they did.)

    Could I imagine Hybels receiving a recommendation to start watching…oops…researching porn? Of course.

    That’s what the Meese Commision was. Nine people sat around watching porn, circa 1986, and Dobson told us on the radio how hard it was to watch.

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  5. This whole sordid Willow Creek saga is as byzantine as a daytime soap opera.
    And like they say, it’s impossible to make this stuff up.

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  6. I do not know what to think of Carter.
    A man of integrity or more sensitive than the other rats to the rising water in the bilge?

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  7. I truly have a hard time with the new investigation. So Heather Larson, senior Pastor, the Elders, and Leaders from the Willow Creek Association are choosing the Spirtual Leaders from across the Country to do the Ouside investigation???? The Women Victims have not been contacted as of this afternoon. When many on Social media asking for all of these Leaders to step down and remove themselves. No one I know trusts them anymore. Even Boz Tchividjian said today, the only way a credible independent investigation could possibly occur is if the current leadership all steps down. They have overseen the last year and it’s been a disaster!

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  8. Loren Haas: I do not know what to think of Carter.
    A man of integrity or more sensitive than the other rats to the rising water in the bilge?

    A guy I know who has been keeping an eye on this very closely (and has written to every GLS host site in the USA and some overseas urging them to drop the conference) says that Carter had been wanting to resign for a while, but Heather and the elders implored him to stay on. Yesterday was just the last straw, apparently.

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  9. I read the things that happened to this woman and I am just sick! Imagine the struggles she has endured. I pray she finds a good attorney and eventually buys a nice condo.

    There are most likely other victims too.

    I believe LH is a victim too.

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  10. WT – Serious – F? This sounds like the plot of a movie designed to mock Christians but it is real life instead. This is so so sad and infuriating.

    Once when I was a bit younger I heard of a guy in my congregation at the time who felt called to be super successful in business so he could give to missions. (Yes, I know, cringe inducing). I hope some people who were like humans were successful feel called to help support these pastor victims in some way.

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  11. To see what *could be* Bill Hybels’ real feelings toward all the folks of Willow Creek… hidden in plain sight… check out the NYT article’s photograph of Bill Hybels walking to the podium to announce his resignation.

    Look at Bill’s right hand. Not exactly a normal hand position for holding notes.

    Just sayin’.

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  12. Sadly, I suspect that other churches might be less inclined to hire Carter, because he took a stand. Even though we need more pastors willing to take a stand for what is right, not what is expedient.

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  13. Song of Joy: To see what *could be* Bill Hybels’ real feelings toward all the folks of Willow Creek… hidden in plain sight… check out the NYT article’s photograph of Bill Hybels walking to the podium to announce his resignation.

    Look at Bill’s right hand. Not exactly a normal hand position for holding notes.

    Just sayin’

    Song of Joy:
    To see what *could be* Bill Hybels’ real feelings toward all the folks of Willow Creek… hidden in plain sight… check out the NYT article’s photograph of Bill Hybels walking to the podium to announce his resignation.

    Look at Bill’s right hand. Not exactly a normal hand position for holding notes.

    Just sayin’.

    Yikes!! Could that really be deliberate? He is amazingly arrogant but …..wow….

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  14. Dear Dee

    My mother, in her early teens, was a survivor of sexual abuse by her pastor in the 1940’s. She got a severe beating from her parents when she told them what had happened to her, laying the blame on her. My mother on various occasions was abused by other men, her parents never believed her, and she was again punished. The same pastor that abused my mother tried it with me too when I was around the same age, I didn’t fully understand what had happened. I told her and she made light of it, because that’s what you did in those days, “that’s just Pastor …… haha”. In my 20’s I was raped on two occasions. My mother and I both came from harsh, dysfunctional backgrounds, which made us vulnerable, some would say gullible.

    The other side of my family attended an abusive, cult-like church for decades. The pastor and others in leadership had committed sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual abuse and control on members of their congregation. A new Christian, thank God I saw through it and got out. Others didn’t and have been deeply scarred.

    I think we need to be careful not to get on our high horses, I don’t know your life experience Dee, but while you may not fall prey to the inexcusable, sickening behaviour of Hybels, all of us are vulnerable and gullible to something or someone. That’s because we, women AND men, foolishly put people on pedestals, giving them power over us, be it clergy, rock stars, actors, billionaires, sports stars, doctors, leaders etc. We can easily become putty in their hands if we are not careful. We feel good about ourselves when we are validated, acknowledged and paid attention to by such powerful, influential, gifted, charismatic people.

    My point is, your quote in this tweet “let’s watch porn together to help James Dobson” is making fun of the victim, at least that’s how I felt when I read that comment. I felt this made fun of Pat’s vulnerability and brokenness, it’s like saying “how stupid can you be!”, although I’m sure this wasn’t your intention. If I were Pat I might feel embarrassed and ashamed at how gullible I was. And that’s the last thing I’d want her to feel, because she is the exact opposite – a courageous, powerful daughter of the living God.

    We are all broken and capable of being deceived. There go all of us but for the grace of God. We ALL desperately need God’s Holy Spirit to keep us from being deceived.

    Finally, I think we need to be watchful we don’t develop a prideful, bitter, lynch mob mentality against Hybels and Willow Creek. We are not God. We need to guard our hearts. Vengeance is His, not ours.

    Thank you Dee and Wartburg Watch, you do a great job.

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  15. Molly245: Look at Bill’s right hand. Not exactly a normal hand position for holding notes. Just sayin’.

    Yikes!! Could that really be deliberate? He is amazingly arrogant but …..wow….

    Very crass. The saying goes, “Stay classy.” Well, this hand gesture indicates a 180 in the opposite direction of classy.

    It went out on Twitter that though Hybels resigned, he was actually forced out, IOW, fired. Apparently so, and he was angry – with his constituency. Not so much a man-of-God moment in that photo.

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  16. dee,

    Dee, as drstevej wrote, you do excellent posts. The analysis of Hybels’ grooming process evident in victims’ stories is a very helpful breakdown of the deception and how a predator targeted those he preyed upon.

    As you point out, “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.”

    The truth about the process of predation in the church can only help. Evangelicals need to come clean about their own institutions.

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  17. 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.

    I think there is a way; namely, they can simply brush it under the carpet and continue with business as usual. Obviously, they’d have to do this against a backdrop of criticism, and hope that the conference attenders ignore it (or even give them standing ovations for it).

    I’ve given up attending conferences – especially christian ones, though others as well – but I used to like them, and I still like reading books, articles and blog posts with thought-provoking ideas. People do like attending conferences; hence the conference industry. Many people will undoubtedly be looking forward to this one, and broadly speaking, I know why and I don’t blame them.

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  18. I like how Baranowski kept a massive paper trail, as well as told two people at the time what was going on, who can now vouch for her. She deserves major kudos for that in addition to her courage coming forward.

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  19. In the mega circles of the 90’s I was around, Hybels was always referred to as “such a nice guy”. I only knew one male leader who thought he was a fake and was uncomfortable doing business with him or WCA.

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  20. Lydia:
    In the mega circles of the 90’s I was around, Hybels was always referred to as “such a nice guy”. I only knew one male leader who thought he was a fake and was uncomfortable doing business with him or WCA.

    Funny, staff who worked with him (I’ve known a few) said the opposite.

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  21. ‘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.’

    That red flag could be seen from space.

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  22. A New Problem,

    I don’t doubt it! The staff always knows more but usually keeps their mouth shut tight and those who leave and say something are often not believed. I am glad you believed them.

    Hybels was a rock star in other mega circles in the mid west back then. All the mega church staffs wanted to emulate his success.

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  23. Grammar check, is this correct?
    “Predators of all kinds target churches because they is filled with people …”
    Should that be ‘are’ not ‘is’?

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  24. Beakerj,

    The late Jerry Falwell once remarked that, when it came to his never viewing that genre, “You don’t have to take the cap off a sewer to know that it stinks.”

    A lot of us here north of WCC have always had serious reservations about Hybels & his ministry. Now It is all tumbling down like the house of cards it has always been. Thanks to brave women who have more courage in their little finger than the male leadership has had for decades.

    I support the victims, and believe them. They should never have had to go thru any of this. I pray that they find comfort & peace thru Christ someday and that faithful friends care for them.

    The whole thing stinks. I hope Hybels is prosecuted.

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  25. Susan,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

    Let me tell you why this incident, among others, needed to be mentioned. This post is about the grooming process. Baranowski was quite brave in being willing to open her life to the world via the NYT. She impresses me as the sort of woman who is trying to help others to prevent the path she took.

    She was willing to overlook things because she trusted Hybels. She was even willing to overlook things that she intrinsically knew were wrong because she admired him and was grateful to him for her lodging, her employment and the sense of participating in something that was bigger than herself.

    Hybels knew that and used that. The whole point of this post is to show what happens in the grooming process and how people, who have been targeted, are willing to overlook bizarre behavior. Not only she did that but the leaders of WCC and WCA did exactly the same thing.

    One of the reasons that we started this blog was to help people to be able to identify abusive situations and, using their God given good sense, get the heck out of there BEFORE they are wounded., Baranowski provided us with an insightful look at what happened to her. Our job is to prevent this from happening to others.

    By posting Baranowski’s missteps in this process, we are saying “See, look at what happened. Is this happening to you?”

    Hybels had all sorts of excuses for his behavior. Ambien, “my wife is distant,” James Dobson and the porno commission, etc. Because he had an almost god like following at WCC, everybody let him get away with it until it became too much.

    As for me, the mistakes I have made in my life are numerous. I have discussed some of them here. My job is to help others to spot this stuff before they get sucked in to a predator’s schemes.

    My good friend, Todd Wilhelm (the official TWW hero) often makes me laugh when it comes to his insight. he is able to laugh at some of own missteps. My favorite statement of his is “I first went to a Sovereign Grace Church. Then I went to a 9 Marks church. That should tell yo something about my judgement I these matters!” I get it. We’ve all been there.

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  26. DD,
    Thank you. I read over the post two times before I post it. By the time 9PM rolls around, I am weary. I often change tenses and singulars to plurals while I correct. That often leads to stupid mistakes like this.

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  27. This post concludes with some good questions. I have a few more.
    1. Is there a clue in Steve Carter’s resignation blog when he refers to standing “on that stage”? What happens on a stage? A performance, a production, a show, an act? Was WCC and WCA shaped more by American entertainment culture than by Jesus? Does the fact that it all began in a theater have any significance?
    2. Why would a “lead teaching pastor” just resign and walk away? Was he just a hired hand like the one Jesus exposes in John 10:12-13–the one who “abandons the sheep and runs away . . . Because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (NIV)? Why would a pastor/shepherd leave when the sheep need him the most? Is WCC and WCA shaped more by American business culture than by Jesus? Are pastors (whether Bill Hybels or Steve Carter) just hired hands?
    3. Where is Bill Hybels? Is he a member of WCC? Is there any church discipline forthcoming (discipline that is redemptive and restorative and not just punitive)? Is WCC (both the elders and the people) willing to do everything possible to bring Bill Hybels to repentance? See James 5:19-20. Would it not be a great display of grace and truth if Bill Hybels was rebuked publicly so that others are warned (1Timothy 5:19-20)? Is WCC going to act like a Christian church or was this merely an ambitious human venture after all?

    Jesus’ story of The Wise and Foolish Builders (Luke 6:46-49; Matthew 7:24-27) has an important message for us all. It’s not just learning or talking about Jesus that will matter in the end, but putting his words into practice.

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  28. Susan: I think we need to be watchful we don’t develop a prideful, bitter, lynch mob mentality against Hybels and Willow Creek. We are not God. We need to guard our hearts. Vengeance is His, not ours.

    “Those outside the church it is not my business to judge. But surely it is your business to judge those who are inside the church — God alone can judge those who are outside. It is your plain duty to ‘put away from yourselves that wicked person’.” (1 Cor 5:12-13)

    The American church is in a “mega” mess because the Church of the Living God (the Church within the church) has been far too slow to judge the behavior of its leaders … to test and try the spirits in its midst … to pray for and exercise spiritual discernment … to protect the pew from the sins of the pulpit.

    As a long-time TWW participant, I have found the Wartburgers not prideful, bitter or ready to lynch charlatans and assorted other bad actor pulpiteers. Many have suffered abuse of one sort or another in the organized church. Out of their own painful experiences, they are here to inform and warn.

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  29. Loren Haas: I do not know what to think of Carter.
    A man of integrity or more sensitive than the other rats to the rising water in the bilge?

    I have to admit, that was my first thought. My brother, who knows him, insists that his integrity is genuine, and that he has wanted out of the whole mess for some time. But it is hard to trust anyone who was, presumably, handpicked by Hybels to replace him.

    The hard truth, which has been suggested by passing references, such as ‘Bill’s flavor of the month’ jests, is that this ongoing scenario could not have gone on for so many decades unnoticed by staff and well-placed participants. True resolution cannot occur until the whole ugly underbelly of tacit approval or, at very least, turning a blind eye by many is exposed and repented of.

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  30. Beakerj: ‘Calling it research, Mr. Hybels once instructed Ms. Baranowski to go out and rent several pornographic videos, she said, to her great embarrassment.

    Notice he had HER rent the porn flicks.
    Must Stay Respectable and Godly…

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  31. Hybels = Hyles 2.0
    In the OP Dee wrote “Shouldn’t WCC buy Pat Baranowski a condo? (I’m sure the lawyers love that one!)”.
    This is exactly what the lawyers arranged for the sexytary of Hyles.
    While her husband, Paltiel Son of Laish (look him up in the Bible) slept in the basement or a little room over the garage and paid her rent. At least he didn’t get the Uriah the Hittite treatment. These guys had the misfortune of being type B (or maybe C+) leaders, like Mr Dyer. Wives of C+ leaders will always be the “type” of A leaders. Leadership schmeadership. Headship. Ship ahoy. Chips ahoy.
    Back in ’83 when Piper substituted “lead” for “love” in a Bible verse, kind folks should have asked “where’s all this leadership in the Bible?” But no one batted an eye.
    “Husbands, lead your wives as Christ led the church” Eph 5:25 PSV (Piper Slandered Version)

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  32. We evangelicals were naive. Some of you may remember people saying “Well, that’s what you get when you don’t let priests marry.”

    Translation:
    “WE THANK THEE, LOOOOOOOOOOORD, THAT WE ARE NOTHING LIKE THOSE FILTHY ROMISH PAPISTS OVER THERE…”

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  33. Song of Joy: To see what *could be* Bill Hybels’ real feelings toward all the folks of Willow Creek… hidden in plain sight… check out the NYT article’s photograph of Bill Hybels walking to the podium to announce his resignation.

    Look at Bill’s right hand. Not exactly a normal hand position for holding notes.

    Just sayin’.

    OMG, great catch; no way that is a coincidence. I wonder if he waved those notes lovingly at the masses? This guy appears to be phony through and through, and I can’t say it surprises me. I always thought he was a talented speaker, but never convincingly sincere.

    May God expose the false teachers and wickedness rampant in all that poses as Religion and let his voice be heard throughout the earth!

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  34. Truthseeker00: this ongoing scenario could not have gone on for so many decades unnoticed by staff and well-placed participants

    Yes, that will be in the next chapter of the book. Church elders and associate pastors will begin to come forth with confessions and repentance, after they all finish throwing up behind the curtain.

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  35. From the story, the bit about picking her up in the car and offering her a job definitely creeped me out too! He was using the church to pick her up, basically.

    And then she took less money because she thought (iirc) that the church was doing something important. (I feel like this financial issue doesn’t always get enough attention and many churches pull it on their employees). Is that why she lived with them for two years, because she couldn’t afford to move out? I would NOT want to live with a family as a single person unless I were in dire straits and in that case I would get roommates instead.

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  36. dee,

    Certainly, and happy to extend grace to you for the work you’re doing. It’s my way of reaching out to do something while the shoes continue to drop. I’m a long time attender / member / volunteer at WCCC and … still sorting through my feelings about it.

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  37. Loren Haas: A man of integrity or more sensitive than the other rats to the rising water in the bilge?

    Sometimes it works out well that one can act both with integrity and in ones own self interest at the same time.

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  38. Hopefully these new, more serious allegations will serve to open the eyes of the blindly loyal folks at Willow Creek. Not sayin’ that is all, but that there are many, and it is certainly understandable. They want to believe the best. They want to give Hybels all the benefit of doubt that they possibly can. They want to believe that this instituion which has been significant in their own lives is built upon something real, and not on unworthy, self-seeking motives of a false celebrity idol.

    And what about the entire mega-church industry that Hybels and Willow Creek spawned? Are we going to finally at least consider the doubts and reservations voiced by many all along that this was not a healthy or reasonable way to be the body of Christ on earth? Or will we return to our regularly scheduled programming and enjoy the show?

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  39. Nick Bulbeck: People do like attending conferences; hence the conference industry.

    I don’t get that at all…pretty sure I’ve only ever attended one for work. Don’t they cost money? Just go on vacation!

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  40. Susan I felt this made fun of Pat’s vulnerability and brokenness, it’s like saying “how stupid can you be!”, although I’m sure this wasn’t your intention. If I were Pat I might feel embarrassed and ashamed at how gullible I was.

    I completely get where you’re coming from. I’ve been fooled by people and in hindsight felt like an idiot because it seems so obvious when you know what happened and that’s kind of what this looks like too. Regarding the Dobson thing, (and I know dee answered as well) but I think she pointed out that this commission thing was ‘plausible deniability’, ie we’re doing this for work. And that is used by predators everywhere to take advantage, because it makes *you* feel like a heel if you call them out on something. They’ll just say ‘what? You’re the one who is making this dirty’. Ms. Baranowski was hamstrung by this, and the general position she was in at the time.

    But I do think it’s important to point out the stratagems used by liars and abusers so when you see it, even if you haven’t had the same experience, you know this is giant red flag and you can trust that feeling.

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  41. Susan,

    There is nothing wrong with being angry about this situation and also to seek justice. We are not the problem. WCC is the problem. I wonder if you have anything to say about the “ lynch the victims” mentality at WCC.

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  42. Sandy Williams: 2. Why would a “lead teaching pastor” just resign and walk away? Was he just a hired hand like the one Jesus exposes in John 10:12-13–the one who “abandons the sheep and runs away . . . Because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (NIV)? Why would a pastor/shepherd leave when the sheep need him the most? Is WCC and WCA shaped more by American business culture than by Jesus? Are pastors (whether Bill Hybels or Steve Carter) just hired hands?

    I don’t think this is entirely fair to Steve Carter. I don’t know him so there may be something else to it, but according to his statement the elders refused to treat this seriously and he didn’t have power to fix that. It seems that the elders have been a problem for years, and I’m not sure how the church is setup but sometimes leaving is the only option.

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  43. Lea,

    Just like Hybels giving everyone the figure in the photo discussed above ( from the NYT article). If confronted about the use of the figure, Hybels would just say you “have an evil mind”…. BS….. i went to a church that tried to model WCC back in the late 80’s, early 90’s… EVERYTHING is scripted/planed…. Hybels is a master marketer, and there is no way he did not realize he was giving everone the figure……

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  44. Susan,I always get concerned when I see commenters turn the table and blame the messenger for their tone when this situation at WCC is horrendous. Nope. WCC is 100% to blame here. Be careful here

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  45. jyjames: leaders that follow his model?

    The Willow Creek Association has 13,000 member churches, which come from 90 denominations, and 45 different countries (according to Wikipedia). Hopefully, their leaders are not following the complete Hybels’ model. Look for great numbers of these to start bailing out of WC affiliation.

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  46. Lea,

    Couldn’t agree more. Not that denominations are perfect. Lord knows they aren’t. But the lack of accountability in any way in the mega model is troubling

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  47. Truthseeker00: And what about the entire mega-church industry that Hybels and Willow Creek spawned? Are we going to finally at least consider the doubts and reservations voiced by many all along that this was not a healthy or reasonable way to be the body of Christ on earth? Or will we return to our regularly scheduled programming and enjoy the show?

    Well, this ‘should’ precipitate an outbreak of sackcloth and ashes across Christendom. But, I suspect most of the organized church will just wink and go back to business as usual. It will be a good sign that at least some of the church is back on track if we see it agonizing over the WC mess. When things like this happen, the church gives the world another reason to say “See, there is nothing to it” … another reason for the unregenerate to trample the precious blood of Jesus in the street … another obstacle to evangelistic outreach by faithful churches.

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  48. Dee Parsons,

    Couldn’t agree more. What is wrong with holding the Willow Creek Community Church leadership responsible both financially and criminally? The men and women in leadership are responsible for defrauding their congregation , IMO. They set themselves up as holy and lead their followers to emulate what now appears to be a false behavioral model.

    What is wrong with the church dissolved? What is wrong with Hybels being prosecuted? Absolutely nothing. You reap what you sow. The whole thing was built on a fake man saying fake things and doing evil behind the scenes. It should collapse. There should be anger & a desire to see real punishment. God indeed will judge him and them. And so too should the church. Nothing at all wrong with that.

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  49. Sandy Williams: Are pastors (whether Bill Hybels or Steve Carter) just hired hands?

    Actually, I think that’s a great way to think of them. They sure aren’t there to lord their authority over each other like the gentiles do, as Jesus warned his disciples in Matthew.

    Walter Brueggemann talks about the role of prophets not being so much to predict the future as it was to speak against the corruption of the monarchy. God never wanted it instituted, and he gave prophets to speak for the people against the corruption and oppression of their rulers. In much of the evangelical church in America, that idea is completely gone. Now, if you speak against the leadership, rather than being a prophet, you are a gossip or a slanderer.

    In Roman times, when a general or emperator had a triumphal parade through the city, his fool or jester would ride with him in his chariot. This person would continually insult him to cut his ego down so that he would not become drunk on the cheers of the crowd and his own power. These mega church leaders could really use something like this. Instead, the appropriate God to prop up their own power and silence dissent. Since honest, conscientious people want to do the right thing and please God, the are silenced. Leaders need to open the door for criticism of themselves. And prophets like the Deebs need to continue to speak against the abusive “leadership” within Christianity.

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  50. Loren Haas: I do not know what to think of Carter.
    A man of integrity or more sensitive than the other rats to the rising water in the bilge?

    Perhaps a glimmer of someone doing the right thing at WC. I also recall that some of the leaders of the Willow Creek Association board resigned early on when the WC elders, in their internal review, essentially dismissed reports of Hybels’ misconduct – those board members believed the elders’ inquiry into the matter to be insufficient. So, there has been a thread of leadership integrity during this mess. I suspect that there is a whole lot more to be revealed when WCA board members and WC elders start talking.

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  51. Ricco: Walter Brueggemann talks about the role of prophets not being so much to predict the future as it was to speak against the corruption of the monarchy.

    Prophets of today are reduced to Four Blood Moons and setting date after date for The End of the World. Fortunetellers with a lotta God-Talk.

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  52. Ricco: But is vacation even biblical ™?

    (major sarcasm)

    Only if you’re a CELEBRITY Christian Leader hitting the Riviera on the church’s dime.

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  53. Dee Parsons:
    Susan,

    There is nothing wrong with being angry about this situation and also to seek justice. We are not the problem. WCC is the problem. I wonder if you have anything to say about the “ lynch the victims” mentality at WCC.

    “Ignorance Is Bliss and I WANT EUPHORIA!”

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  54. Lea: Regarding the Dobson thing, (and I know dee answered as well) but I think she pointed out that this commission thing was ‘plausible deniability’, ie we’re doing this for work. And that is used by predators everywhere to take advantage, because it makes *you* feel like a heel if you call them out on something. They’ll just say ‘what? You’re the one who is making this dirty’.

    And a successful Predator will have set up Total Plausible Deniability well in advance.

    It’s part of GROOMING. Setting up for the Kill while maintaining a safe Escape Route.

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  55. Truthseeker00,

    Note that in Carter’s “A Divergent Path” post, in which he outlines his decision to resign, he says: “After many frank conversations with our elders, it became clear that there is a fundamental difference in judgment between what I believe is necessary for Willow Creek to move in a positive direction, and what they think is best. That is not to say that I am right and they are wrong. But I must follow the path that I believe God has laid out for me to live with integrity, and that path now diverges from Willow Creek.” Herein lies the problem at the heart of everyone who had a voice to speak out in that “church” and did not: “That is not to say that I am right and they are wrong.” Yes, they ARE wrong. WC leadership started out with wrong intentions, kept getting wrong-er and are still wrong-er than ever. It is your DUTY as a pastor to come right out and say that. It may take him a while to deprogram from the “leadership” training he received in that environment. His itchy conscience is the first step, though.

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  56. Nick Bulbeck: People do like attending conferences; hence the conference industry.

    “Just like SF/Comics/Furry/Brony Conventions, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

    Personally, I think I’ve got the better deal with FurCon, AnthroCon, and the various Brony cons.
    (WesterCon, LosCon, and other old-school SF litcons appear to be on a downhill slide for various reasons.)

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  57. Ricco: if you speak against the leadership, rather than being a prophet, you are a gossip or a slanderer

    The American church is largely a non-prophet institution. We have enough preacher-boys and teachers in the mix … we need prophets of the Lord to right this sinking ship! I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet, but I’ve been accused of having a critical spirit for speaking into these issues along the way. Most of my “prophecies” have come to pass. Much of ‘discernment’ is simply sheer observation, keeping your eyes and ears open. Hybels eventual failure was predictable – the red flags have been there from the very beginning. A church model in which a leader asks seekers which way they want to go and you’ll get out in front to lead is an accident waiting to happen.

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  58. Sandy Williams,

    In reply to point 2, it’d be incredibly difficult for any pastor there to change anything substantial so long as the board remains in place and the overall structure is the same as it was under Hybels. A complete rebuild is needed there. Considering the board is still, in my opinion, trying to manage appearances, I imagine it is extremely difficult to get them to realize the massive dumpster-fire that has become their church. I don’t think there’s much he can do at the moment.

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  59. Susan,

    Sorry to hear about the things that have happened to you. Church is a bit rough, and I think that is one reason why
    some regulars hang out at TWW. Unfortunately, our church experiences range from happy, to sometimes criminal.

    Regarding religious parents, I eventually concluded parents are probably doing the best they know, at the time. And it may be, they knew nothing of how to raise children, absolutely nothing. And in the end, they succeeded. After all, we survived, even if it was a close call.

    I can’t speak for others, but the porn “research” brought back 80’s-90’s religious flashbacks. Yes, James Dobson, took to the airwaves to inform us of his personal sacrifice watching that porn. Decades later, personal religious memories still are confusing, and surreal.

    I guess TWW offers a place to think out loud.

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  60. Lea,

    Yes, I’d like to give Steve Carter the benefit of the doubt. That’s why I posed questions, because I do not know the answer. And there are definitely complex issues involved.

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  61. A not so-big and not-so influential church in my area had a pastor go astray, other problems surfaced, and it finally fell apart. The denomination treated it as a new church plant, brought in new staff, and a few of the old members came back. However, ti was made very clear that it was a new church in an old building, and that things would not be as before. Ten years later, the church is thriving. I think it would be a kindness to do the same thing for WC.

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  62. I am beginning to note that there is a small group of folks who are making the rounds at our blog and others, attempting to vindicate WCC, WCA and even, to some extent Hybels. Go over to Scot McK night’s blog post

    https://www.christianpost.com/news/willow-creeks-heather-larson-heartbroken-over-reprehensible-behavior-bill-hybels-accused-of-226642/

    and read the comment section. I wonder if the Susan over there is the same Susan commenting here.

    I will be watching comments carefully. I will not let this blog turn into a bash the victims and bash those who believe the stories.

    For the Hybels apologists: I agree with McKnight. This story is over. Hybels, for all intents and purposes appears to me to be a flat out predator who played games with his church and women for years. The more you deny what has happened, the more it appears that you are either confused or complicit.

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  63. Song of Joy: photograph of Bill Hybels walking to the podium to announce his resignation.

    Look at Bill’s right hand. Not exactly a normal hand position for holding notes

    Oh my, what an ugly thing to do … and while he was getting a standing ovation at that!

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave … when first we practice to deceive.”

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  64. Sandy Williams,

    “Why would a pastor/shepherd leave when the sheep need him the most? Is WCC and WCA shaped more by American business culture than by Jesus? Are pastors (whether Bill Hybels or Steve Carter) just hired hands?”

    The shepherd/sheep metaphor is often taken way too far. The guy with the title is a sheep, too. Dare I say what WCC members need most is to get out. Debrief and rethink Who is Jesus Christ. It’s refreshing.

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  65. Susan,

    Justice is not vengeance. And Hybels isn’t really getting justice. He retires a very wealthy man without the legacy he planned. For a long time God con man, that’s pretty good. For this world.

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  66. Lydia: Dare I say what WCC members need most is to get out. Debrief and rethink Who is Jesus Christ. It’s refreshing.

    Exactly. Go from mega-world to aloneness – get alone with your Bible for an extended period, read the red, and pray.

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  67. Max: Yes, that will be in the next chapter of the book. Church elders and associate pastors will begin to come forth with confessions and repentance

    Who’s standing next to who atop Lenin’s Tomb?

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  68. Lydia: Justice is not vengeance. And Hybels isn’t really getting justice. He retires a very wealthy man without the legacy he planned.

    Like Tony Jones: “I. WIN.”

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  69. Nathan Priddis: I can’t speak for others, but the porn “research” brought back 80’s-90’s religious flashbacks. Yes, James Dobson, took to the airwaves to inform us of his personal sacrifice watching that porn.

    Thing is, I had a copy of the Meese Report, and it was actually pretty decent.
    That never got into the report itself, just into Focus on the Family.

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  70. Song of Joy: To see what *could be* Bill Hybels’ real feelings toward all the folks of Willow Creek… hidden in plain sight… check out the NYT article’s photograph of Bill Hybels walking to the podium to announce his resignation.

    Can you provide a URL link to the article/photo? I can’t bring it up on my search engine, only a “Subscribe to the NYT” page.

    Look at Bill’s right hand. Not exactly a normal hand position for holding notes.

    Is he flipping everyone The Finger?

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  71. Truthseeker00: I have to admit, that was my first thought. My brother, who knows him, insists that his integrity is genuine, and that he has wanted out of the whole mess for some time. But it is hard to trust anyone who was, presumably, handpicked by Hybels to replace him.

    He’s been stained by association.

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  72. Max:
    When Bill Hybels began Willow Creek, he decided to not display a Cross thinking it would hinder seekers from attending.Perhaps he didn’t want to look at it.

    Or couldn’t stand the competition.

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  73. Headless Unicorn Guy: Look at Bill’s right hand. Not exactly a normal hand position for holding notes.
    Is he flipping everyone The Finger?

    Got to the article and saw the pic.
    BINGO!
    (Little Freudian Slip there?)

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  74. Readers
    Please refer to the top of this post for an update. The NYT wrote another article last evening and wrote something that was not found in the initial story. I found it added something to Baranowski’s narrative.

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  75. Ricco: But is vacation even biblical ™?
    (major sarcasm)

    Apparently, John Piper doesn’t think so. I vaguely remember that the Deebs did a post on the Pied Piper a few years ago, after he opined that relaxing on vacation and collecting shells on the seashore is a waste of the precious time God has given us. Or something ridiculous like that. (I tried searching for it on TWW, but came up with goose eggs.)

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  76. Getting married does not prevent a predator from being a predator. It only helps the predator to hide his/her problem from trusting individuals.
    …Folks, celibacy does not lead to pedophilia or other forms of predatory behavior.

    The media should stop ignoring when sexual misconduct perpetrators are married by Timothy P. Carney
    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/the-media-should-stop-ignoring-when-sexual-misconduct-perpetrators-are-married

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  77. When I read the story by Goodstein published Sunday, I felt profoundly sad for Pat Baranowski over how church leadership had not only failed her but (allegedly–but I believe her) abused her. This is such an awful tragedy, and I hope this round of investigation is truly independent as advertised, but I am not holding my breath. God has a way of exposing dark deeds to the light, though.

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  78. From the recent update:

    “Ms. Larson told church members on Monday that the new investigation will be overseen by an advisory council made up of “external Christian leaders from across the United States.” She did not name any members of the council but said they will have “full autonomy.”

    She also said the investigation would be funded entirely by an anonymous donor “to ensure there is no undue influence on the process and the conclusions.”

    Oh dear. Same old. The Anonymous donor could be Hybels. (Wink)

    What is the purpose of such “investigations”? Sadly I think they end up being for the purpose of saving the institution. I have yet to see the benefit of such to victims. Has anyone else? Payments to victims, perhaps?

    They can announce from the results investigation they got rid of the bad guy –but 40 years of that foundational DNA remains. Like taking out Patterson makes the SBC pure, now.

    I would be more impressed if WC said, we shouldn’t exist as a church anymore. Now we all know It was all a big fraud.

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  79. It is time that the entire leadership of Willow Creek step down. Whether it is worth preserving the circus after the head clown is gone or not is questionable. If there is any such thing as a healthy church, with trustworthy shepherds, maybe the flocks could be put into healing hands. What intelligent person would want to keep their funds with Madoff after his scams were revealed?

    This is not some sad incident in which a genuine, God-fearing man fell inadvertently into sin – this is a false wolf, who built his wealthy empire upon the backs of the victims he as manipulated, preyed upon and used for his own purposes from day one. Hard as it is to admit, Creekers need to look the ugly truth in the face. And maybe see what lessons can be learned from the whole ugly escapade.

    The innocent people are the baby that needs to be kept – the rest of the mirage can be allowed to go down the drain where filthy water belongs.

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  80. Lea,

    There is no recommended model. Layers and layers of denominational hierarchy are just as good at hiding cons and evil. Some people view it as a protection. I could never wrap my head around that.

    people take cherry-picked versus out of different books of the Bible and build a model and defend it. I read that Crete needs elders but in the much older Corinthian Church with tons of big problems they are never mentioned. All we know is that Chloe had “people”. And we tend to forget the bad example of Diotrephes. About all that could be done was to tell him to his face he was wrong. Lol. Just a few examples when Christianity was new…not a few thousand years old.

    I think our take away is that church is purely voluntary. And people get what they don’t verify with financials, hierarchies to follow, denominational bureaucrats, etc. The church institution is always a risk. People decide what they are okay with not knowing in those situations. In my experience most people don’t want to know when it comes to their own Church.

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  81. Truthseeker00,

    I am not suggesting that people reject God, by the way. The organization called ‘The Church’ is not God, nor is it one and the same as the true body of Christ. It is my hope that all escape from the false institutions of men, and seek hard after the true maker and lover of their souls. And it just might not include any building with a cross on top, as if that is some kind of prerequisite to being a part of the kingdom of God.

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  82. From the main article up-top:

    “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.”

    Dobson huh? … And I’ll leave it at that.

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  83. It is time that the church refer this matter to law enforcement. As an adult I know that the complained of hugs and kisses were actually sexual acts. If there was consent then so be it. However, it does not sound like many of these were consensual. The women may be willing to speak to the police. In any event, another whitewash investigation is useless.

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  84. Max: “Those outside the church it is not my business to judge. But surely it is your business to judge those who are inside the church — God alone can judge those who are outside. It is your plain duty to ‘put away from yourselves that wicked person’.” (1 Cor 5:12-13)

    This is absolutely true. We may not know for sure the immermost hearts of anyone, but we are absolutely called to judge the effects of the actions and call; each pother to account. I received a rebuke from my teenage son for being a bad sport in a basketball game not two hours ago. I had it coming. I think the majority of pride and lynch mob attitudes came from Hybels and his enablers, not on this blog.

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  85. A study in Clergy Sexual Misconduct by the late Dr. Diana Garland, who was at Baylor:

    https://www.baylor.edu/clergysexualmisconduct/

    Dr. Garland was on the faculty of the Carver School of Church Social Work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., until 1995, when President Al Mohler declared, “The culture of social work and the culture of theological education are not congruent.”

    Mohler blocked tenure to social work faculty and vetoed Garland’s nomination to fill a professorship. When Garland contended the president’s actions made hiring faculty impossible and imperiled the Carver School’s accreditation, he fired her for insubordination. (9.22.2015: “Baptist Standard”)

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  86. I have not been following all the news, but for all this talk concerning independent council, I hear very little concerning offering compensation and help to the woman who have been defrauded? Is there a task force to make sure that the victims are properly taken care of? It is obvious to outsiders that current leadership must step aside and the victims taken care of immediately.

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  87. Serving Kids In Japan: Pied Piper . . . . opined that relaxing on vacation and collecting shells on the seashore is a waste of the precious time God has given us.

    Piper wrote a book called “Don’t Waste Your Life” or something to that effect. That comment was about a couple who, in their retirement, were just collecting seashells and “wasting their life”. I guess Piper didn’t believe they were pre-ordained to that use of their time.

    I tried reading the book some time ago. There were a couple of good nuggets in it, but I couldn’t finish it. It was like beating your head on a pile of gold ore trying to get the littlest bit of value out of it. It was a “waste” of my time reading the amount that I did. Too bad I couldn’t have heeded the message of the book before spending the time I did.

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  88. Song of Joy: To see what *could be* Bill Hybels’ real feelings toward all the folks of Willow Creek… hidden in plain sight… check out the NYT article’s photograph of Bill Hybels walking to the podium to announce his resignation.

    Look at Bill’s right hand. Not exactly a normal hand position for holding notes.

    Just sayin’.

    Oh for goodness sakes.

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  89. Nathan Priddis: I can’t speak for others, but the porn “research” brought back 80’s-90’s religious flashbacks. Yes, James Dobson, took to the airwaves to inform us of his personal sacrifice watching that porn. Decades later, personal religious memories still are confusing, and surreal.

    Oh, yes. And then, don’t forget, he followed it up by hobnobbing with Ted Bundy.

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  90. Lance,

    Exactly! Where is the concern for the victims?!? Until these guys face criminal prosecution & the institution faces monetary damage not much will change, other than rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. Jail and financial ruin is needed here.

    And the $$$ spigot should be shutoff. No more giving to a wicked organization.

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  91. Lance,

    Can you imagine the bruhaha if the “outside” panel announced they were going to include compensation for Hybels victims?

    Again I have to ask what is the outside panel investigating? What is their endgame? What is the point of it for victims or WC? We have seen this sort of thing with Bob Jones and ABWE and it was a big nothing except it helped those organizations stay alive. It provided cover for them.

    If compensation was included, that might be something worth considering. people tend to get a bit more serious when the pocketbook is involved. Especially Megas.

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  92. Somebody remind me why exactly some folks want to see WCC fold, collapse and disappear, as opposed to fall back, re-evaluate, change what needs changed, and do better in the future?

    What did God say to Jonah about Ninevah? Was it something about the innocent, the children who did not know their right hand from their left? I am talking only from memory here, but it was something like that. And did that save Ninevah? For a while.

    I can’t see that it is necessary to want the destruction of a system merely because it is a system, and I can’t see that it is necessary to destroy something as the first step in cleaning up a mess. Are there not people who would be needlessly hurt, even more than they have been already, right along with the perps and the negligent among them?

    Or perhaps I misunderstand what is being said. Perhaps I am reading too much into the anti-system comments. If so, I apologize.

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  93. okrapod,

    I fully admit to being Anti system when it comes to churches. Is it unrealistic? Probably. But how WC was built is ingrained. All systems tend toward bureaucracy and protection of system. It is unbelievable what it take to change the culture of a system. That’s a big part of my background.

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  94. Lydia: It is unbelievable what it take to change the culture of a system. That’s a big part of my background.

    I have lived though a massive change in the health care system primarily orchestrated by the gov and the insurance companies. That is a big part of my background. In this case both ‘systems’ were big dogs in the combat. Some of the change has been for the better, some not so much. Nevertheless there needs to be a system in health care, and for the life of me it looks to me like there needs to be a system in religion.

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  95. Lydia,

    According to the Baptist Standard article, President Mohler fired Dr. Diana Garland in 1995 and by 1997 she had moved on to Baylor.

    The trajectory of church suppression of highly regarded academic women with important work (like her research on Clergy Sexual Misconduct) has been in place for a long time. Mohler fired Garland 23 years ago.

    https://www.baptiststandard.com/news/texas/diana-garland-social-work-educator-bridge-builder-dies/

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  96. DD,

    The article masthead reads: “Willow Creek leadership event struggles without founder Hybels, its star”. Maybe Hybels and his supporters are pleased.

    Within the article, they note that executive Hybels had an executive assistant with benefits. Maybe that is considered standard practice for business executives, in any case.

    Maybe the news is not really new.

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  97. okrapod,

    From my perspective, living fairly close by and seeing the effects of WCC influence first hand, I and many others I have spoken to do not consider WCC a “church” anyway. It’s more of a quasi-Christian club. And considering that it is fairly obvious now that the whole thing was started by a reprobate who has been lying to everyone for decades, why shouldn’t he and those who helped him build his corporation suffer the consequences?

    As to the innocent people who will be hurt, well, that’s what happens when you put your faith and trust in a celebrity. Isn’t that what makes these crimes so heinous? It’s not just that he lied to his wife and had an affair with another consenting adult. As I read the coverage he is a predator and has been for many years. He built a multi-million dollar organization based on a fraud. He obviously is not who he says he is.

    People should feel and experience pain from this evangelical dumpster fire. That pain pales in comparison to the pain felt and experienced by the victims, who are changed for the rest of their lives. YMMV.

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  98. David Pooler, associate dean for academic affairs at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University in Texas has studied the impact of clergy sexual abuse:

    https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/2018/02/18/what-clergy-sexual-abuse-and-how-does-happen/343478002/

    Facts about Clergy Sexual Misconduct – CSM – among adults:

    Most perpetrators: Men
    Most victims: Women
    Average age of victim when it starts: 30
    Average age of perpetrator when it starts: 45
    90% of the perpetrators are married
    3 types of perpetrators: Predators, Wanderers, Lovers
    What is a healthy congregation? Where there’s power sharing, and a plan to address CSM in place.
    Etc.: see the article about Dr. Pooler’s research.

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  99. As fas as the “Hybe;s Finger” goes…I’m not a Hybels fan, and think he’s guilty as heck from what has come out, but I honestly think this is a “cigar is just a cigar” situation. He’s holding something else in his hand (you can see the fingers are curled around something – a Mic? A pen? A Bible? Hot Wheels lunchbox? Who knows? That winger was just free to hold paper, which makes since as a weak finger, if whatever else he is holding is heavier.

    There is enough out there to discuss. We undercut our own voice for the abused if we focus on tertiary matters. Be the strong voice and don’t give those who disagree with TWW and it’s commenters something to hang their hat on instead of forcing them to face the hard questions, please.

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  100. Also, dang I can’t type today. Lord, I apologize for ALL THE TYPOS.

    GAH. My English teacher wife would rap my knuckles if she saw that.

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  101. jyjames: when President Al Mohler declared, “The culture of social work and the culture of theological education are not congruent.”

    Having worked with an awful lot of social workers, I just have to say this quote is ridiculous.

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  102. okrapod: I can’t see that it is necessary to want the destruction of a system merely because it is a system

    I think some people do think that, but I’m not one. My issue with willow seems to be that the leadership structures are flawed, and I don’t know the people there well enough to know if that is fixable. It seems that they are running off the people with integrity which won’t help.

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  103. jyjames: The trajectory of church suppression of highly regarded academic women with important work (like her research on Clergy Sexual Misconduct) has been in place for a long time. Mohler fired Garland 23 years ago.

    I hadn’t seen that she did research on Clergy Sexual Misconduct and it wasn’t in the article. I’m curious about the timelines, are you familiar with them?

    Also, Mohler just comes off like a shadier character every time I see his name mentioned.

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  104. jyjames: David Pooler, associate dean for academic affairs at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University in Texas has studied the impact of clergy sexual abuse:

    sorry, should have read down before I asked questions. Thanks!

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  105. okrapod: for the life of me it looks to me like there needs to be a system in religion.

    I would respectfully disagree. I tend to believe that organized religion has done nearly as much harm for the gospel as it has good. Mostly because it spreads the often faulty perception that ‘doing Church’ is the same thing as serving God and loving one’s neighbor. Particularly in the mega-Church industry originated by Hybels, it sets up idols in high places and giving them the worship, praise and glory that belong to God. Then the folk go home, persuaded that this little rock concert is what ‘worship’ is all about, and they spend the rest of the week doing life for themselves.

    I do believe that God has, as he always does, brought good through and in spite of the motivations and corruption of the idol makers, because he sees loves and seeks to bring the pure in heart to himself. But maybe, just maybe, if we got back to an interactive model of assembling together, we might see what happens when people are led by the Spirit of God, rather than a well-trained leadership complex. Imagine people knowing, encouraging and serving together in multiple, unique ways, making personal differences in our community and world, rather than getting plugged into ‘the system’ as dutiful, unthinking cogs. Most people serve ‘the system’ and believe that they are serving God. Willow has long been successful in creating mini-celebrities and increasing its reputation and influence.

    I sorta think a ‘church’ ought to be about revealing the goodness and love of God to a hurting, disillusioned world. Which really does not require so much the proper ‘system’ as genuine servants of God loving people as they have been loved.

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  106. jyjames: Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University

    As a side-note about Dr. Garland, Al Mohler fired her at Southern Seminary when he assumed the presidency there. Reason for her termination: she questioned Pope Mohler’s policies about limiting women in Christian ministry. She went on to have a distinguished career at Baylor.

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  107. Truthseeker00,

    That being said, I realize we look to The Church for certain services. We want someone to marry, baptize and bury us. We look to the power of numbers to provide services for the community that an individual may not be able to give single-handedly. I realize this, and it is perhaps the only reason I find myself continuing to search for a church with which I can live. But it is with deeply mixed feelings, as I have personally seen the damages of authoritarian, hierarchical religion, and these threads reveal the many who have experienced similar trauma that distances them from the God of love for whom they are seeking.

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  108. jyjames: “Willow Creek leadership event struggles without founder Hybels, its star”.

    Christianity-Lite characterizes the important among them as celebrities and “stars” … while real Christianity has martyrs.

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  109. Law Prof: I received a rebuke from my teenage son for being a bad sport in a basketball game not two hours ago.

    The wickedness in all of our hearts is best exposed in organized sports. 🙂

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  110. jyjames: Does Hybels have such a group of followers – leaders that follow his model?

    He must. As they’ve followed his leadership model, many likely have followed his sexual predator model as well.

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  111. Max: Christianity-Lite characterizes the important among them as celebrities and “stars” … while real Christianity has martyrs.

    Yep.

    I am becoming increasingly disturbed by the definitions of real Christianity and/or real Christians. Sure there have been martyrs, and missionaries, and evangelists and some outstanding people in various areas (founders of orphanages for example) but where are we talking about the ‘real Christian’ who goes to work, is faithful to their spouse, quietly fits in where they can, has no dramatic ‘gift’ and mostly just staggers on through life as it were. Some really are ‘the least of these my brethren’, or so you-know-who seemed to be saying.

    I think we are sometimes simply arguing not against celebrity itself but rather about who gets to look like or feel like a celebrity, aka a real Christian.

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  112. jyjames:

    President Al Mohler declared, “The culture of social work and the culture of theological education are not congruent.”

    Lea: Having worked with an awful lot of social workers, I just have to say this quote is ridiculous.

    Al Mohler is ridiculous in his self absorption and arrogance. There is being confident in one’s beliefs, and then there is verging on changing Jesus saying “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIGHT, and no man cometh unto the Father but by me” to “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIGHT, and no man cometh unto the Father unless you also believe these doctrines and truths as set forth by these, my anointed, who discovered the truth in the 1500’s”.

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  113. Colbyjack: Herein lies the problem at the heart of everyone who had a voice to speak out in that “church” and did not: “That is not to say that I am right and they are wrong.” Yes, they ARE wrong.

    Pastor Larson went the same way at the resignation meeting when she framed everything as stories… “We can respect someone’s story and stand up for our own.” And I can’t find it but I believe she said the women’s stories are not OUR story— as if they could be true and false at the same time.

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  114. okrapod: where are we talking about the ‘real Christian’ who goes to work, is faithful to their spouse, quietly fits in where they can, has no dramatic ‘gift’

    The first shall be last and the last shall be first. In my long Christian journey, the most faithful Christians I have known – the real deal – were in the pew, not the pulpit.

    Here’s just one example of the “real deal.” When a church member lost a child, a humble servant of the Lord went to their house the day before the funeral and asked for all the shoes the family planned to wear. He sat on the back porch, carefully cleaning and polishing them, left them at the door, and quietly left.

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  115. jyjames,

    Thank you!!!

    From the article, this sounds familiar. Came from a study in 2008 it looks like. Mohler thought SW was ‘incompatible’ with theological education. Hmmm.

    From those interviews, Garland learned there were five factors that perpetuate clergy sexual misconduct.

    — Nobody acts in a situation that calls for action.

    — Parishioners don’t want to hurt their pastor’s feelings.

    — Religious leaders don’t have to report to an office or supervisor. And much of their communication is private.

    — People worship in sanctuaries, which means “safe place.” That increases vulnerability and lack of awareness.

    — The same person exhorting the congregation from the pulpit is often the same person providing counseling or psychotherapy behind closed doors. The overlapping roles create an inappropriate power dynamic.

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  116. Scott McKnight has stopped taking comments on his recent blog. He also has deleted any comments that were in any way supporting WC. Why not be fair and listen to both sides? No, it’s so much easier to control the narrative.

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  117. Dave A A: Pastor Larson went the same way at the resignation meeting when she framed everything as stories… “We can respect someone’s story and stand up for our own.” And I can’t find it but I believe she said the women’s stories are not OUR story— as if they could be true and false at the same time.

    And in doing so, she joins the party of the abuser. That kind of thinking, and the statement that expresses it, are just as abusive as the acts themselves. Hence the need to tear down the institution that breeds it.

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  118. There are laws regarding social worker licensure, and apparently the laws differ from state to state. And some of the things that social workers deal with are part of legal procedures-taking a child out of the home, adoption, poverty issues for example. I am fairly sure that Mohler et al would not want the state telling them what to do.

    I am with Mohler on this one. Our family would certainly not have wanted his religions ideas spilling over into our international adoption issues.

    Note how some Catholic adoption services have resisted to the point of going out of business over some current laws regarding adoption. Choices sometimes have to made which put one’s profession and one’s religion into conflict.

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  119. Nathan Priddis: I can’t speak for others, but the porn “research” brought back 80’s-90’s religious flashbacks. Yes, James Dobson, took to the airwaves to inform us of his personal sacrifice watching that porn. Decades later, personal religious memories still are confusing, and surreal.

    I guess TWW offers a place to think out loud.

    This reminds me of a guy who was a huge anti-pr0n crusader in Austin back in the late 80s. He also liked to call the cops on people who were skinny dipping at Lake Travis on Sunday morning. I remember talking to an older German guy who liked to go to Lake Travis with his Sunday NYTimes and read it in the nude-he also got arrested. This guy couldn’t figure out what the anti-pr0n crusader’s thing was.

    Anyway, the whole point of this is that Mr. Anti-Pr0n Crusader was said to have the best collection of video pr0n in Travis County. For research, he said. Yeah, we said. The Dobson story reminds me of that.

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  120. Truthseeker: Scott McKnight has stopped taking comments on his recent blog. He also has deleted any comments that were in any way supporting WC. Why not be fair and listen to both sides? No, it’s so much easier to control the narrative.

    There are not two sides in this. Bill Hybels engaged in horrible, despicable behavior that harmed people over decades. He was backed up by a group of elders who didn’tdo their jobs. Ther is no way to get around this. It cannot be explained away. And, no, Scot McKnight or the Deebs are not required to give space over to people who are defending bad behavior by an institution or its leader.

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  121. Bridget: Are you and your family safe, Muff?

    Yes we are Bridget and thanks for asking.
    The danger right now is in a mountain-top development between Corona and Lake Elsinore.
    No mandatory evacuations yet, but they’re getting nervous because the fire has just now crested the ridge-line above the homes.

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  122. DD: Old news? Was just referencing it as another article regarding the issue.

    Tongue-in-cheek, “news”.

    Bit shocking what’s been going on behind the scenes, for decades. Maybe, where there’s a stage, there’s not only an audience up front but also a backstage behind the curtain.

    Dr. Diana Garland was fired by President Mohler 20+ years ago and then went on to research and document facts regarding Clergy Sexual Misconduct 10+ years ago. Her research describes and warns about what was behind the curtain for many years, but we are seeing now in 2018.

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  123. jyjames: Tongue-in-cheek, “news”.

    Bit shocking what’s been going on behind the scenes, for decades. Maybe, where there’s a stage, there’s not only an audience up front but also a backstage behind the curtain.

    Dr. Diana Garland was fired by President Mohler 20+ years ago and then went on to research and document facts regarding Clergy Sexual Misconduct 10+ years ago. Her research describes and warns about what was behind the curtain for many years, but we are seeing now in 2018.

    It makes me think back to Dr. Mohler’s lament about the SBC being humiliated. If only Dr. Mohler had had someone on staff who could have warned him about things like this. I’m sure he would have found them a valuable resource. Hmmm….

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  124. Rambler: If only Dr. Mohler had had someone on staff who could have warned him about things like this. I’m sure he would have found them a valuable resource. Hmmm….

    Ha! Sadly, he would not have found them a valuable resource.

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  125. Truthseeker,

    I understand precisely what is going on. There are some commenters who are reabusing those who have been abused by Hybels. We have a prime directive here. Do not go after the victims. This blog is not going to allow more pain to be heaped upon those who have been hurt.

    Calling those who believe that Hybels abused women “a Lynch mob,” trying to get” vengeance,” etc. is indicative of what is going on. The victims are to bear the blame. Those defending the victims are lynching Hybels, etc.

    I have news for you. The other *side*. of the story being presented by people who are Hybels defenders is poorly conceived, ill argued and simplistic to the level of naive. It is merely grammar school level *shoot the messenger.*

    Never forget. These are our blogs. I pay for this blog and I pay for tech support. If you think that you are not getting a fair hearing, do what I did. Start your own blog and put time and effort into getting your point of view out there. If it is decent and well thought out, you will gain a following.

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  126. dee: Both sides? There are now 10 women. The Bible says that 2-3 witnesses should be enough. How many would you suggest?

    Besides, isn’t the final step going public when you have confronted alone, confronted with witnesses etc.? These “anointed” seem to forget going public is absolutely in the Bible.

    (Yes, I’m ignoring the law and other things that say go straight to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200, etc., to make a point. Even the Bible says make a public stink at a certain point.)

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  127. dee: We have a prime directive here. Do not go after the victims. This blog is not going to allow more pain to be heaped upon those who have been hurt.

    The church needs to hear the victims’ stories. The church needs to change.

    The church needs to have in place guidelines like you have for your blog, that would allow victims to share their stories in a safe environment.

    Truth is not vengeance. (It was incredibly painful to watch Jules Woodson share for the NYT video. Her pain was evident and brought tears even just in watching.) The truth is actually incredibly painful for the victims themselves to share. It was not their fault. Evil visited them and they are a witness – and, yes, the church needs to know so the church can responsibly act.

    Church guidelines in place for safety for victims in sharing would be a beginning. Of note – Dr. Diana Garland, who has passed but her research lives on, wrote 10+ years ago that Guidelines in Place for dealing with every aspect of Clergy Sexual Misconduct are necessary.

    When joining a church or supporting a ministry, who even asks if they have those Guidelines in place. We should.

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  128. Truthseeker00: The hard truth, which has been suggested by passing references, such as ‘Bill’s flavor of the month’ jests, is that this ongoing scenario could not have gone on for so many decades unnoticed by staff and well-placed participants.

    I know Dee and was with her at the church that in many ways was the impetus for this blog. A big thing that kept being said when things were blowing up is we all should keep quiet “for the unity” of the church.

    And there were some people we thought of as friends who parted ways with us as they “knew” the allegations could not be true as they personally knew some of the pastors and they would just never allow this to happen.

    PS: This is the comment that Dee was referencing a few comments up. Do to my poor coordination with PTB my original comment was deleted. Which is why her reference to NC Now goes nowhere.

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  129. The thing most people don’t understand about victims of abuse is that they often try to tell their story in various ways many times before it goes “public”. But most are shutdown because they or their families are threatened, some with death. And a lot of these threats are traumatic in and of themselves and add another layer of abuse. Then the victim detractors and defenders of the abuser lay on another layer with callous statements.

    Some never go public, but get to live with actual physical changes in their bodies and in their mind, and are robbed of the chance to spend their life as a unmolested person. Their innocence is shattered. Trust is gone. “Normal” daily function is altered forever. They are diverted, against their own will, down a path that is destructive at the core.

    So for someone to subject themselves to what will be certain abuse from defenders of the abuser takes a great deal of courage. These women should be applauded for taking that risk. Christians, of all people, should get that.

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  130. Lydia,

    “Again I have to ask what is the outside panel investigating? What is their endgame?”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++

    PR spin to forestall the inclination to file a lawsuit?

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  131. Lydia,

    “I fully admit to being Anti system when it comes to churches. Is it unrealistic? Probably. But how WC was built is ingrained. All systems tend toward bureaucracy and protection of system. It is unbelievable what it take to change the culture of a system. That’s a big part of my background.”
    ++++++++++++++

    from your background in systems, if money is removed from the system (revenue for enrichment, salaries, etc), how much of a difference would that make in dismantling the bureaucracy and protection of a system?

    or if starting a new kind of system, if money is not part of the equation (no revenue for enrichment — when there are minimal sanctioned expenses, money comes in and goes out, an immediate turn-around with a zero balance)… if starting a new kind of system like this, to what degree would this limit the natural tendency toward bureacracy and protection of system?

    (i know money isn’t the only ‘currency’; personal power and control is also a ‘currency’. but i have to think money is a more powerful motivator, also more complex from a legal perspective, and entangling amongst multiple parties — therefore more reason to protect it)

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  132. okrapod: I have lived though a massive change in the health care system primarily orchestrated by the gov and the insurance companies.That is a big part of my background.In this case both ‘systems’ were big dogs in the combat.Some of the change has been for the better, some not so much.Nevertheless there needs to be a system in health care, and for the life of me it looks to me like there needs to be a system in religion.

    First, let me emphasize that I am not saying religious systems in and of themselves are sinful. And, IMO, If you like your system, you can keep it. (Wink)

    My background and training is in org development. I thought the same way and was even proud I could take my experience to churches. Several years later I was convinced that it is huge mistake to map such concepts to the Body of Christ. I think it’s been a disaster whether it’s a bureaucratic denomination or a rock star mega church.

    Yes, there needs to be systems and leaders. And it needs constant care like gardens (sorry to be corny) do. Weeding, pruning, planning, watering, etc. And we have become horrible at it by adding everything we can think of and barely focusing on the core mission of the garden: edible healthy vegetables. But that’s another topic for another day.

    I was part of systematic religion. Delivering a better service or experience to “consumers”. And that is what most institutional churches are— both large and small. A leader, his staff and customers who pay for the experience.

    My view is that the concepts we understand as systems, organizations and leadership do not map to the Body of Christ. That’s just my opinion looking back on how Christianity became a market niche and honed itself to fit that growing niche from about the 70’s forward. And it started with Christian radio. Now, everyone says, ‘but no system is perfect’ and I agree. I don’t think good is the enemy of perfect either.

    I believe that mapping our definitions of marketing, org development, systems and leaders to the Body of Christ has been a disaster and we are now seeing the fallout from it. Do I have the perfect idea for a model? No. There isn’t one. I am kind of partial to the type of person you mentioned in another comment. The Christian who goes about their business providing for their own and living decent honest lives and raising children who become self governing honest adults. . I am completely weary of those who constantly megaphone their “radical” type good deeds whether it’s soup kitchens or soul saving. If you help people, great. I was always taught that for the dignity of those you help you don’t talk about it.

    Take away the specific non profit status that only institutional churches enjoy and let’s see how many last as a Body of Christ.

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  133. elastigirl,

    Money is the “measurement”. It rarely starts out as the goal. But leaders become accustomed to comfort and growth. Then money peovs success through constant building and remodeling programs.

    The #1 motivator for decades for most people is “recognition”. That survey was in WSJ every January for 20 years. Recognition is the #1 desire. Recognition, at some point in the success game, morphs into “legacy”.

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  134. NC Now: I know Dee and was with her at the church that in many ways was the impetus for this blog. A big thing that kept being said when things were blowing up is we all should keep quiet “for the unity” of the church.

    “UNITY! WE MUST HAVE UNITY, COMRADES!”

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  135. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes,
    Note the handle: TRUTHSEEKER.

    Whenever TWW exposes a corrupt church or pastor, they get a flood of Defenders of the Faith signing onto the comment threads defending their ManaGAWD. A lot of them have handles (all new to the blog) with “Truth” or “Concerned” or other Righteous-sounding word salad.

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  136. dee:
    One comment not approved. Do not go down the politics path.

    But one of the major venues of Church corruption IS “down the politics path”; Christianese Culture War has been highly Political since the Reagan years, and has come to make any strange bedfellow under the banner of The Cause and Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend. These Christians suck up to political leaders and in turn get used by them; don’t know who’s using who, but remember your Book of Revelation: Between The Beast (corrupt political system) and the False Prophet (corrupt religious system), which ends up the boss and which ends up the flunky?

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  137. okrapod: And some of the things that social workers deal with are part of legal procedures-taking a child out of the home, adoption, poverty issues for example. I am fairly sure that Mohler et al would not want the state telling them what to do.

    Those would be as a part of their job, and that depends on what their job actually is. It would not involve mohler at all, except that the school would be teaching them to be in legal compliance. Which they ought to be doing anyway, how many scandals could have been avoided if mandatory reports would actually report abuse instead of illegally covering it up? I don’t see them as contradictory but ymmv.

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  138. Truthseeker00:
    dee,

    Think I might have to change my handle. Please note that Truthseeker is distinct from Truthseeker00!

    Wouldn’t be the first time somebody tried to piggyback on an existing name.
    Also confuses the issue, which might be a Feature instead of a Bug.

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  139. Muff Potter: Yes we are Bridget and thanks for asking.
    The danger right now is in a mountain-top development between Corona and Lake Elsinore.
    No mandatory evacuations yet, but they’re getting nervous because the fire has just now crested the ridge-line above the homes.

    I saw the initial fire plume mushroom over Saddleback Mountain on Monday while on my way home. I can see the current fire plume like a brown stratus cloud from my break room window at lunch. Saddleback Mountain’s top half is invisible behind a brown fog; more like Mordor than the usual “Dwarven Stronghold” effect you get with low-hanging clouds. So far no overcast or ashfall where I live, but there was a report on the radio this morning of ashfall in Altadena (which is farther away; probably wind direction).

    Up north, the one near Redding is still burning but burning away from populated areas. The two in Mendocino & Lake Counties have merged to become the biggest fire in CA history. ANd Governor Moonbeam finally went on the air to scold us all about Global Warming Global Warming Global Warming.

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  140. Just some info about Willow and Hybels, et.al.

    -Bill and Lynn have always had a troubled marriage…from the get go. He talked about in sermons, and she talked about it, and we knew bcz they shared it. At least in the beginning. Sounds like it never got better. They were extremely different personalities.
    -Staff were almost all underpaid. Maybe not the top tier, but most everyone else. I always thought it peculiar. I don’t know if that is still the case…but during Ms. B’s time it was true, iirc.
    -I have heard a number of Willow people over the years make that rhetorical comment about “why was I selected for this job”, in that awed spiritual voice. I always found it strange, and responded with the dog head tilt.

    As for why Ms.B was living with the Hybels for so long, or at all, boggles the mind. What the heck was Lynn thinking? Believe me, other housing could have been found for her. I have many questions about all of it.

    Don Cousins baptized me and he is a man of honor that was greatly influential in building Willow. In fact, he was kinda Bill’s stand in…or right hand man. Jack of all trades. Nancy Beach, Vonda, Nancy Ortberg…wonderful women of integrity.

    If you haven’t seen the open letter Jon Ortberg’s prior assistant at Willow wrote…check it out. That was a real eye-opener as to staff culture. She also basically threw John and Nancy under the bus, IMO. It did not appear to me to be helpful.

    I just stumbled across this blog and thought I’d share some things. I stopped attending Willow many moons ago, and it had to do with a number of issues. I hope I am recalling things accurately.

    I’m not sure I will return here, so if you ask a question of me I probably won’t see it.

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  141. And I wouldn’t worry too much about Larson or other pastors who step down. Megas almost always have unbelievable golden parachute packages in place for the important people. It’s not like they will lose their home or go hungry. It won’t be even close to what Baranowski endured.

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  142. birdoftheair,

    Still don’t understand why people don’t see that they have been duped. The buck stops with Hybels and the “leadership” is an accessory to crimes. None of them have taken this seriously enough, and none of them realize the gravity of the situation. Last time I checked sexual harassment in the workplace is a crime. The crimes, the coverup, and all of the other non-leadership are most likely just the tip of the iceberg. They always are.

    The universe does not revolve around Willow Creek. They are now in the same league as every other failed mega ministry and charismatic catastrophe that I have witnessed in my lifetime. They do not deserve to survive. And there is no humility. It is c.y.a. time for these folks.

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  143. Headless Unicorn Guy: The two in Mendocino & Lake Counties have merged to become the biggest fire in CA history.

    I saw that it was one of the biggest fires in history the other day and I heard they closed Yellowstone. I know California’s a big place, but stay safe ya’ll!

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  144. Melly: -Bill and Lynn have always had a troubled marriage…from the get go. He talked about in sermons, and she talked about it, and we knew bcz they shared it. At least in the beginning. Sounds like it never got better. They were extremely different personalities.

    I’ve seen this mentioned. Don’t know them at all, but I would imagine having such a husband would create a troubled marriage if one did not exist before. Along with the usual spotlight on the preachers wife issues that would be magnified in such a huge church. I read some article when this thing first blew up but I can’t remember the details…

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  145. Lea: I saw that it was one of the biggest fires in history the other day and I heard they closed Yellowstone. I know California’s a big place, but stay safe ya’ll!

    This morning going to work, the fire plume was over us. Kicked the sun down a complete spectral class from G to K, giving everything a sepia-tone effect.

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  146. Noevangelical: Still don’t understand why people don’t see that they have been duped.

    Because they don’t want to. When you’re totally wrapped up in a carefully crafted spiritual-orgasmic-bliss-stage-show with the best of Christian music talent, the high is no less powerful than the one described by Eric Clapton in his song Cocaine.

    Couple that with …To hear the softly spoken magic spell… (Pink Floyd), and voila, you’ve got a guaranteed returning customer base.

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  147. Headless Unicorn Guy: This morning going to work, the fire plume was over us. Kicked the sun down a complete spectral class from G to K, giving everything a sepia-tone effect.

    I’ve lived in Corona for 37 years now, and it’s the biggest plume I’ve ever seen.

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  148. Michelle Van Loon,

    Steve Carter was NEVER an outsider.
    He was handpicked by Rob Bell to work on staff at Mars Hill in MI.
    During this time, he was being mentored and groomed by Bill Hybels during frequent visits to the South Haven retreat house & of course, sailing . When Mars Hill folded, Carter and wife temporarily moved back to CA. During this period, the Elders asked Hybels to start working on a successor. Hybels invited Carter to move to IL & join the WC staff. He then asked him to apply for the lead pastor position (all the while knowing it would go to Larson). Carter was selected, along with Larson to work the next 4-5 years as the future leaders of Willow. During this time, there are women who filed complaints to Elders about Carter. Carter is no hero. Rob Bell & Bill Hybels strategically positioned him to be where he was at Willow. The fact that Carter has manipulated his involvement with this mess to throw others under the bus, to save himself tells me that he is in deeper than we might ever know. So far his plan has worked, he’s the hero, for now anyway. In my opinion, Larson & Carter are also victims. Hybels groomed them at a young age. I think they both need really good therapy, and I pray for them.

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  149. Bea,

    I tend to believe you based on what I have seen other places. The succession focus in Megas is serious business. Now he can write a book and go on the circuit full time. Maybe Bell will hook him up with Oprah for the next “Everything’s Spiritual” tour. Sigh.

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  150. Bea: Steve Carter was NEVER an outsider.
    He was handpicked by Rob Bell to work on staff at Mars Hill in MI … Rob Bell & Bill Hybels strategically positioned him to be where he was at Willow.

    Now there’s an alliance – Bell & Hybels! There are some corners of Christendom which consider Rob Bell a heretic. And Hybels … well, we’ve learned a lot about him, haven’t we!

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  151. Lydia: And I wouldn’t worry too much about Larson or other pastors who step down. Megas almost always have unbelievable golden parachute packages in place for the important people. It’s not like they will lose their home or go hungry.

    The Christian industrial complex takes care of its own. And what does this have to do with Jesus?! I know I’m old and fuddy-duddy, a blogosphere curmudgeon, and culturally-irrelevant … but for the life of me, I’ve seen very little with the fingerprint of Christianity on the Willow Creek situation.

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  152. Sandy Williams:
    This post concludes with some good questions.I have a few more.
    1.Is there a clue in Steve Carter’s resignation blog when he refers to standing “on that stage”?What happens on a stage?A performance, a production, a show, an act?Was WCC and WCA shaped more by American entertainment culture than by Jesus? Does the fact that it all began in a theater have any significance?
    2.Why would a “lead teaching pastor” just resign and walk away?Was he just a hired hand like the one Jesus exposes in John 10:12-13–the one who “abandons the sheep and runs away . . . Because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (NIV)?Why would a pastor/shepherd leave when the sheep need him the most?Is WCC and WCA shaped more by American business culture than by Jesus?Are pastors (whether Bill Hybels or Steve Carter) just hired hands?
    3.Where is Bill Hybels?Is he a member of WCC?Is there any church discipline forthcoming (discipline that is redemptive and restorative and not just punitive)?Is WCC (both the elders and the people) willing to do everything possible to bring Bill Hybels to repentance?See James 5:19-20.Would it not be a great display of grace and truth if Bill Hybels was rebuked publicly so that others are warned (1Timothy 5:19-20)?Is WCC going to act like a Christian church or was this merely an ambitious human venture after all?

    Jesus’ story of The Wise and Foolish Builders (Luke 6:46-49; Matthew 7:24-27) has an important message for us all.It’s not just learning or talking about Jesus that will matter in the end, but putting his words into practice.

    1. Good q’s, as stagecraft seems to be an increasing priority in some corners of Christendom.

    2. Why would a “lead teaching pastor” just resign and walk away? Was he just a hired hand like the one Jesus exposes in John 10:12-13–the one who “abandons the sheep and runs away . . . Because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep” (NIV)? Why would a pastor/shepherd leave when the sheep need him the most? Is WCC and WCA shaped more by American business culture than by Jesus? Are pastors (whether Bill Hybels or Steve Carter) just hired hands?

    2. I was just talking to someone about David Platt and his teaching pastor position at a mega church while he continues to be funded by the IMB but was headed out the door. This was after what I still can’t disassociate from a corporate hatchet-type dealing with the IMB just three years ago. Yes, sometimes the impression of differing priorities from what the assembly (and outside community) needs and what those ceded authority intends to deliver comes to mind.

    3. This is a great point — where are the above-reproach leaders in the church doling out strong discipline without allowing disassociation from the assembly (reportedly) 9Marks style? Funny how the 9Marks verbiage is so heavy on top-down discipline delivering but doesn’t really go into much detail about dealing with pastorates not above reproach or even in the Biblical category of grievous wolves…

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  153. Bea,

    “Steve Carter was NEVER an outsider.

    …. Carter was selected, along with Larson to work the next 4-5 years as the future leaders of Willow. During this time, there are women who filed complaints to Elders about Carter. Carter is no hero.

    …The fact that Carter has manipulated his involvement with this mess to throw others under the bus, to save himself tells me that he is in deeper than we might ever know…”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    looks like the makings of a blog post article to me.

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  154. Muff Potter: I’ve lived in Corona for 37 years now, and it’s the biggest plume I’ve ever seen.

    The “Lake Elsinore Effect” blew the plume over us late yesterday afternoon.

    Imagine a thick raincloud that blots out the sun and shades everything, except dingy brown instead of dark grey. When the sun peeked through, it had dropped TWO spectral classes from G to M, and was dim enough to look at directly. Some smell of burned wood in the air, but no ashfall or taste when inhaling through the mouth.

    Saddleback Mountain was completely obscured; you could see maybe a silhouette of its lower slopes, but everything above that was completely lost in dark brownish cloud.

    The shade DID cut the temperature from heat wave down to shirtsleeve.

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  155. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    Did you see the news feed of the DC-10 fire retardant tanker?
    Her driver had the balls of a brass monkey (skill and nerve too).
    He gave her full slats and flaps, throttled up her turbo-fans full bore, and then dipped into an arroyo for a drop.
    Her starboard wingtip barely cleared the ridge line on the way up and out.

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  156. elastigirl,

    The night before the last Family Meeting, (to announce the resignations), there was at least 1 WC inner circle member fielding questions/comments, etc. via Vonda’s FB page. His words came to pass 24 hours later and I therefore have no reason to doubt what he wrote about Carter: The WC Elders would NOT accommodate Steve Carter’s request to become the new WC “Senior” Pastor. (Remember Hybels set up the co-pastor roles, giving Larson the vote traditionally held by the Senior Pastor. Carter would be present at all Elder’s meetings, but with zero power. I’ve often wondered how well that went over with his ego?

    So he waits until Larson is out of the country (on family vaca) to telephone Hybels’ victims and write a blog post. (All in concert w/the timing of his new book). Now he has secured his position as the only leader with “integrity.”

    Like many at Willow, CARTER has problems that have been swept under the rug. And after years of mentorship by Hybels & Rob Bell. How could he not? (Carter shared MI residence w/ Rob Bell and wife with frequent visits to South Haven for sailing and mentorship with Bill Hybels.)

    Prior to the Elder’s resignation, MEMBERS should DEMAND a published FULL Elder’s report including: meeting minutes, ALL complaints filed against staff, pastors, members, etc.

    The 1 person who could help the Body of Christ at large, is Lynne Hybels. Any pastor’s wife who refuses to attend her husband’s local church for over 12 months is a key character witness in this dumpster fire. I realize that MANY WC members have been forced to sign NDAs over the years, etc., but there must be a legal way out of those agreements. Too many people have been harassed, too many souls walking wounded. Like a chapter out of Francine Rivers’, “And the Shofar Blew” and “A Tale of Three Kings.”

    Heather Larson has gotten a bad rap on social media, even by Hybels’ victims. I see Larson as 1 of Bill’s victims, another groomed Blonde Beauty.

    Go back & watch the video announcement of Larson’s promotion to Lead Pastor. Even then, I was disgusted by the way Hybels was publicly drooling all over Larson. But for the grace of God, Larson could have been any 1 of us, our sister, daughter, or friend: a post-college, young, naive, impressionable, 20 year old, pretty, smart, full of zeal, workaholic, PK, seeking God & purpose…blonde, thin, tall, athletic & as Hybels told it, she scored close to Hybels on the leadership exam (which he was giddy about). Oh and she likes to make lists (according to Hybels). Not to mention that her mother had severe health problems. 20 years of gas lighting, grooming, brain washing, & manipulation by Hybels. Larson is a victim.

    Even Nancy Ortberg stated that she blocked out an occasion when she felt violated by Hybels.

    Most Christians don’t know that we can actually request that tithes/offerings, and other financial contributions be reimbursed to us. Yep or should I say, “YES WE CAN.”

    Perhaps Hybels has severe mental impairments, along with his seared conscious. Perhaps he believes as his buddy Bill Clinton believed, oral sex is not sex, and not adultry.

    Perhaps Hybels felt entitled to touch and lust after the women at Willow because of his own marital “suffering.” Whatever is going through his heart & head, please church let us pray that he will seek God’s mercy & forgiveness before he takes his last breath, or his soul could be eternally separated from God.

    I think Willow has a “deep state” of its own. Perhaps it will run the “show” unless the congregation demands that they shut Willow down and build something NEW.

    elastigirl,

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  157. Bea: Prior to the Elder’s resignation, MEMBERS should DEMAND a published FULL Elder’s report including: meeting minutes, ALL complaints filed against staff, pastors, members, etc.

    That is an excellent suggestion – one I hope you can make officially of whoever is still running things at WC?

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  158. It also appears that there is a huge issue with the NDA’s (Non-disclosure agreements) many employees were required to sign. Those need to be voided so that people can come forward and tell the whole truth. Help, resourceful Deebs – how can these things be pursued?

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  159. Bea: CARTER has problems that have been swept under the rug. And after years of mentorship by Hybels & Rob Bell. How could he not? … Lynne Hybels. Any pastor’s wife who refuses to attend her husband’s local church for over 12 months is a key character witness in this dumpster fire … MANY WC members have been forced to sign NDAs … Hybels was publicly drooling all over Larson … Perhaps Hybels felt entitled to touch and lust after the women at Willow because of his own marital “suffering.”

    Whew! And this is church?! The survivors at Willow Creek need to hang the Cross there ASAP!

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  160. TS00,

    They sign them to get their severance package. And there is often something in them that doesn’t reflect well in the person signing whether it’s true or even in context or not. I have seen it. Nasty stuff.

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  161. Lydia,

    I think this is the greater issue hiding behind the few voices who have spoken up. How many, hundreds?, have been driven out in the dark of night with a severance package and a warning? And this is how the false image of Willow has been preserved. It is time for everyone to tell the truth. I’m not buying the ‘I didn’t see anything’ stories of certain big names. And I would like to see all the facts on Steve and Heather. I’m guessing the NDA’s are what’s keeping Vonda and Nancy from telling all they know.

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  162. TS00,

    This is all too much. As glad as I was to see the resignations, justice has not been served. I don’t write out of anger, (which is appropriate for this situation), but sadness. The Church at large seems to be asleep at the wheel. Lord Jesus, what have we done? Please forgive us.

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  163. TS00: I’m guessing the NDA’s are what’s keeping Vonda and Nancy from telling all they know.

    Well, here’s what God thinks about Non-Disclosure Agreements:

    “What I say to you in the dark (privately), tell in the light (publicly); and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops [to many people].” (Matthew 10:27 AMP)

    For those of you who have signed NDA’s to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil … throw the darn contracts away and get honest with the people of God! Unload your burden – it’s refreshing.

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  164. Max,

    And they absolutely would not stand up in a court of law. NDA’s are intended to protect legitimate intellectual property, not hid malfeasance or abuse! No jury in the land would condemn someone for breaking a code of silence put on people by an institution shown to be simply covering its own a**.

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  165. Max,

    Out of the blue, I found myself thinking of my absolute least favorite church song of all time. Don’t know if you remember the Promisekeeper era, but the boys came home singing ‘Let the walls fall down’ – about the tritest, least melodic tune I ever had the misfortune to hear.

    As per orders, I will skip the political innuendo’s 😉 but, what if this is it? What if God is cleansing his house, once and for all, and, once his true children are safely out, he’s going to let the walls come crashing in on all that is false, just as they did on Samson?

    The walls of hypocrisy, oppression, deception and preying upon naive sheep; walls that claimed to be the walls of protection to keep ‘the world’ out? Isn’t it likely that to his very last breath, Satan is going to pretend like he is the victor? Will his final words be ‘I wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii . . .?’

    My ears are listening carefully.

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  166. Bea: Perhaps Hybels has severe mental impairments, along with his seared conscious. Perhaps he believes as his buddy Bill Clinton believed, oral sex is not sex, and not adultry.

    “I did not know that woman in a Biblical sense.”
    — Doug Phillips ESQUIRE (No Tab A inserted in Slot B, LOOPHOLE! LOOPHOLE!)

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  167. John M,

    To John M:
    People still go there (speaking just for myself) because it is God’s church not Hybel’s church. And the congregation -the people that I sit next to every week are God’s children and we are all Willow and we all stand for all that is good. We do our best and have hope for the future of OUR church—-not Hybel’s church.
    Satan loves the division. He loves you and others being angry rather than hopeful. Therefore, I refuse to accept that division and that anger and move toward unity of all of the people of God’s church…Willow… I also would love to see a magnificent cross as the backdrop behind where the pastor stands and I would love to see a magnificent cross in the atrium. I would also love for the area where the pastor teaches to be referred to as the sanctuary—NOT the stage.

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