Why Bloggers Continue To Write About Willow Creek

Dave Dummitt, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, has been telling his congregation not to complain – as he complains about people who complain.

On June 5, 2022, Dummitt spoke from the pulpit against Christians who discuss problems openly. He said, “So you go in private. Don’t go on social media and come against people. Bloggers. I’m so done with bloggers. You kidding me? If you don’t have a relationship with somebody, don’t go publicly and try to tear people down. Raise them up!”

The message seemed clear. Public talk should be positive. For negative talk, go in private. So on June 9, I and my friend and fellow blogger, Dr. Jim Bedell (drj1952.com), took action. As two of the more critical online commenters about Willow Creek’s continued problems, we contacted Willow Creek and sought a private meeting with Dummitt. And we were quickly granted a meeting time!

BUT… within 24 hours, we were told that he would “not be able” to meet with us. I suggested that we were flexible with our schedules, but there was no offer to give us an alternative meeting time with Dummitt.

Then on July 24, Dummitt again referred to people making negative comments during his sermon. “… why don’t we get rid of gossip and turn it into a good word. If you wanna talk about people, turn your gossip into a good word. … Let’s replace destructive criticism with constructive criticism or coaching … Some septic ways that we use our words – complaining … Let’s replace our complaining, our grumbling, with gratitude … “

His message, again, seemed clear: Complaining bad; gratitude good. But apparently, we hadn’t fully understood Dummitt’s point. It was really this: Don’t talk about issues in public – and don’t talk about them in private, either.

But how can leadership expect congregants to publicly “raise them up!” when their response to private inquiries is to shut them down?

To be clear, we do agree that malicious talk – or, to use Dummitt’s terms, “tearing people down … gossip … destructive criticism … complaining” – is not virtuous. But that’s not what our blogging and personal meetings with leadership have sought to accomplish. Actually, by describing our blog posts that way, Dummitt himself is the one engaging in malicious talk. He’s using his pulpit power to publicly tear us down. He has never sought to personally contact us about our blogging regarding Willow Creek.

And we think we know why.     

We think it’s because he knows we’re not looking to “come against people.” We are looking to hold leaders ACCOUNTABLE.

What do you do when a leader refuses to meet personally to discuss legitimate concerns? Just have an attitude of gratitude? How phony is that?!

When leaders refuse to be held accountable, bloggers blog.

When we asked for that meeting on June 9, there were two presenting issues that Dr. Bedell and I wanted to discuss with Dummitt.  In the last few days, a third lingering issue has also come to the forefront, for which the congregation deserves clarity.

And since we have not been afforded an opportunity to “go in private,” we’re going to lay these questions out here. As you’re reading them, please judge for yourself: are they all just destructive criticism? Or are they something else?  

Our first “private question” would have been:

Dave, how do you justify purchasing a vacation home for $1,060,000 in the midst of your plans to terminate 30% (approximately 100) of your staff?

Dummitt closed on his vacation home on April 8, 2022 while he was deciding which staff he would terminate the following month. To make matters worse, his family advertised the purchase of the vacation home as God’s blessing in May on Facebook within days of 100 staff having to find new jobs. How tone deaf can a leader be?

In Dummitt’s 2.5 years as pastor of Willow Creek Community Church he has overseen 2 mass layoffs and he purchased a million dollar second home to accompany his principal residence valued at $1,000,000.  Not a good look.

Our second private question was going to be:

Why didn’t you thank Matt Lundgren for his 25 years of service to Willow Creek at Matt’s last worship service on May 22?

It was truly bizarre. Everyone in that auditorium expressed their gratitude to Matt during that service … except for one person: Dave Dummitt. Why wouldn’t he thank Matt? Was it just an “ooops, I forgot?”

For 25 years everyone appreciated Matt leading worship on Willow’s stage. Between his instrumental and vocal talent, his creativity, his humor, and his ever-present smile, Matt was a welcome stabilizing force, especially over the last 4.5 years as Willow sought to limp past its scandals.  Matt had said  that he and South Barrington Campus Pastor Shawn Williams had really tried to make it work.  Unsaid but understood: it was Matt and Dummitt who didn’t see eye to eye. 

In fact, Dave Dummitt didn’t even stand with Matt when other leaders surrounded him and prayed for him and his family regarding their uncertain future.  At that “tender moment” (to use a favorite Willow phrase), Dummitt was nowhere to be found.  More than a few onlookers noticed his blatant snub and thought, “Why wouldn’t the guy at least acknowledge  a 25-year veteran for his service to the church?” 

If we had been allowed to speak in private, we would have privately advised Dummitt that such a noticeable slight added fuel to the sad confusion that still exists like an undertow in the Willow congregation… a sad confusion that has not gone away over the years, despite the fact that no one is allowed to talk about it.  A true leader – a servant leader – would want to know about that, and would be heartbroken to think that he was standing in the way of making things right.  

In our estimation, these two issues do not constitute complaining, or gossip, or grumbling. They are efforts to hold a leader accountable. And they provide opportunities for servant leaders to admit their mistakes and to apologize.

The third question we would have asked in a private setting was regarding church finances.

For years I have requested more financial transparency from Willow Creek.  My last request was prior to the May 2021 core meeting.  I asked for the status of their financial reserves.  Willow Creek leadership did not answer my question in the Core Meeting nor by email … ever.  

Rumors have swirled for years regarding the church’s financial reserves. Was it $12M? $18M? The latest rumor pinned it even higher, at $30M. Although Willow leadership has been reluctant to say publicly what that number is, they are required to reveal their finances to those that request their end of year financial statements.

I recently came across the church’s 2021 consolidated financial statement prepared by Batts, Morrison, Wales & Lee, Certified Public Accountants. (See a screenshot of this statement at the end of this post.)  It gives definitive insight to the question regarding financial reserves.  The statement points to $35M+ of reserves against a mortgage note(s) of $21M.  So any claim by Willow leadership that their finances are dire is simply not true.  They have a safety net, the likes of which would be the envy of 99.9% of churches in America.  

To be fair, Willow’s finances are not all rosy. The trajectory of Willow’s donation income is not headed in the right direction, as the graph of giving over a 10-week average indicates over the last few years. (See second image shown below this post.) This, despite a 5 week series on money at the beginning of 2022 that concluded with a public invitation to bring your giving commitment card forward and place it on the stage.

Asking a shrunken congregation to boost their financial commitment when the church has $35M in the bank is not a good look. When paired with a recently purchased million-dollar vacation home … it’s a downright ugly look.

The question remains: why is the Willow leadership hesitant to let its donors know the full extent of its finances? This deliberate hiding of tens of millions of dollars in reserves represents a lack of accountability in the bluntest terms. And it does not bode well for the future.

What’s next?

In conclusion, it would have been much better to discuss these three issues in private.  We were not afforded that opportunity.  So we have once again taken to the public square, not to engage in destructive criticism, but to advocate constructive steps.  Steps that would improve transparency, and trust.  Steps that would  establish the kind of accountability that has been sorely needed in the post-Hybels years.   

Willow Creek Community Church is a shell of what it once was.  Consider: 

  • Most of the Willow campuses that had two services to accommodate the crowds have gone to one service with plenty of room to spare.
  • The South Barrington campus used to have three weekend services. Since they opened up after the pandemic, they went to two services. And they could easily go to one service and the auditorium would still be only ½ full.
  • The once bustling food court feeding hundreds if not thousands of people for the mid-week and weekend services lies dormant. In fact, the huge commercial kitchen is now used for storage.
  • For 40+ years Willow needed a staff person dedicated to responding to ministries requesting space to use for meetings throughout the week. Now, the campus is largely a ghost town. And the 900,000 sq ft facility in South Barrington, for the most part is unused and falling into disrepair.

Dummitt has largely blamed the pandemic for Willow’s woes. The truth is:  Willow Creek is reaping what it has sown.  The leadership did not handle the Bill Hybels scandal honestly, by owning their sin, calling out Hybels, being genuinely contrite, and doing everything they could to help bring healing to Hybels’ victims.  

Rather, their goal seemed merely to get through the Hybels’ scandal with the least amount of damage to the Willow Creek brand, and to salvage their image.

Integral to accomplishing this goal was to hire a guy who would agree that the Bill Hybels scandal was in the past. I suspect that they didn’t have too many such individuals to choose from. And then they found Dave Dummit. When asked by the elders to be the new senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, Dummitt told them “no.” Then they came back to him again, and Dummitt told them “no.” And then they asked him a third time, and he said, “yes.” (Some suspect they know what changed hi$ mind.)

Dave Dummitt would be hard-pressed to point to anything at Willow that is better now than it was 2+ years ago when he arrived. He has sought to rid the church of anything that was from Willow past. The names of virtually every ministry have also changed. Do not be surprised if even the name Willow Creek Community Church ceases to exist soon. My bet? Willow Creek Community Church becomes, “Willow Commons.”

Trust them, it’s going to be great.

* * * * *

“Here are my instructions: diligently guard yourselves, and diligently guard the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has given you oversight. Shepherd the church of God, this precious church which He made His own through the blood of His own Son.” Acts 20:28 (The Voice)


Wow!! Woke Folk Are In The Bible!!

The wisest man in the Bible, King Solomon, said this in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun…” So it shouldn’t surprise us that even though the term woke has only come into vogue the last few years, woke people have been around for millennia. In fact, some of the ‘wokest’ folk of all lived way back in New Testament times.

The woke folk in Jesus’ day tended to have different issues than woke people today, but the two groups resemble each other in a multitude of other ways. They are eerily similar where it counts most: in their characters.

What Exactly Is Woke Now?

In 2017, the dictionary defined the term woke as: “well-informed, up-to-date, especially in regards to racial or social discrimination and injustice.” Since then, being woke has further evolved to indicate support for a number of causes and ideas, including:

  • BLM (Black Lives Matter, the “organization”)
  • CRT (Critical Race Theory)
  • DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion)
  • LGBTQ+
  • abortion rights
  • man-made climate change
  • open borders
  • absolute compliance with government mandates regarding the Covid 19 vaccine.

The list of compulsory beliefs grows as today’s woke elite deems necessary.

Woke Back Then

The woke in Jesus’ time were another kind of elite: the Pharisees. These were the religious leaders of the day. They made up their own rules that could not be questioned. In their eyes, they were the only ones who were right, and they were right all the time. (Sound familiar?)

Of course, today’s woke folk don’t call themselves religious the way the Pharisees did. (They may claim to be “spiritual,” but understanding what that means is like getting a firm grip on jello.) Most don’t pretend to have any affinity to formal religion. Still, they tend to frame their ideas in dogmatic tones, and wear their wokeness with a holier-than-thou attitude. You could say that today’s woke are secular Pharisees. In reality, like the Pharisee elites of old, the woke elites of 2021 have very little room for God in their lives, because they perceive themselves as being their own ultimate authorities. They act as their own god and originator of truth.

Woke, Old And New

A belief in their own universal rightness is only one of the character traits that these two groups of wokesters share. (Note: In the following section, the pronoun “they” refers to both the religious elite Pharisees of Jesus’ day and the secular Pharisees of today, aka, the woke.)

1. They Are DEMANDING Know-it-alls

The Pharisees had a very precise picture of what truth looked like, and they concocted all sorts of rules to impose upon everyone else. 

The Pharisees made up:

  • Rules for daily living: you MUST wash your hands before you eat. — Matthew 15:2
  • Rules for working:  you MUST NOT do any work on the Sabbath. — Matthew 12:11-12
  • Rules for social interactions:  you MUST only associate with good and clean people (that would be people like them), not dirty, contaminated people (everyone else). — Luke 5:30.

NOTE:  These rules were not God’s rules.  They were wildly-exaggerated standards that distorted Old Testament Jewish laws.  

The religious elite Pharisees demanded that everyone else comply with their arbitrary rules or risk expulsion from the synagogue (which was like  being canceled back in the day). The woke of today have also created their own rules.  They, too, seek to impose those rules – and their wills – on everyone else.  

Here are some examples of modern woke doctrine rules:

  • You must support Black Lives Matter, the “organization.”  To do otherwise makes you a racist.  
  • You must support Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).  To do otherwise makes you a racist.
  • You must support LGBTQ.  To do otherwise makes you a hater / homophobe.
  • You must support women having abortions.  To do otherwise means you are anti-women.
  • You must believe in man-made climate change.  To do otherwise means you are ignorant, anti-science, and you don’t care about the environment.
  • You must get the COVID vaccine and booster(s).  To do otherwise makes you an ignorant anti-science, conspiracy theorist that doesn’t care about others.
  • You must believe in open borders.  To do otherwise makes you a xenophobe. 

What is the message behind every woke doctrine? It’s the same two-part message of the Pharisees: A) We alone know what is true. B) You are an ignorant fool if you don’t agree with what we say.

In the eyes of woke folk, unquestioning submission to all their beliefs is absolutely mandatory because they are right. And to confirm that they’re right, the woke have “fact checkers” that tell the rest of the world that they are right.
In fact, they are an ugly right, because …

2. They are SELF-RIGHTEOUS Virtue Signalers —

Just like the religious Pharisees of the past, the secular Pharisees of today are very, VERY proud of themselves for how good they are. In fact, they are obsessed with their own goodness. The need to have others recognize that you are an extremely good person is at the very foundation of being woke. Most woke folks will resent you if you suggest that they’re sinners like everyone else on the planet.

The modern-day woke folks’ combination of pride in their own goodness, plus their belief in their own ideological perfection, makes them just as self-righteous as their first century counterparts, the Pharisees – and just as convinced that they’re better than everyone else.  

Today, we have a name for that kind of self-righteousness: virtue signaling.

The self-righteousness of the woke also makes them immune to any suggestion that they could ever improve. Translation:


In the Bible, the religious Pharisees are never seen engaging in any self-reflection. Isn’t that kind of amazing? They were face to face with Jesus Himself! But never did they say about Jesus, “Hmmmm, He may have a point. He could be right!” They did not consider that a paralyzed man was now walking by His command. They did not consider the genius of the parables He told. They did not consider the fact that huge crowds gathered to listen to Him. They certainly weren’t going to be duped like the ignorant masses!

The Pharisees were forever asking Jesus questions. BUT … they did not ask Jesus questions to learn from Him. No! They asked Him questions to trap Him. They played the “Gotcha!” Game. They had no desire to learn. No matter how Jesus confronted their faulty logic and false ideas and showed them to be wrong, they remained hard-hearted and spiritually blind.

Today’s woke elite are also stubbornly secure in their version of secular goodness:   

  • Defund the police – because the jobs that they perform are systemically evil.  
  • Open the borders – because we must care for the downtrodden of other countries.
  • Let boys think they are girls and compete in girls’ sports – because that is how they feel.

Though their ideas are based on premises that are highly debatable, and often seem to bypass common sense, the woke will not tolerate honest debate. They are opposed to hearing opposing viewpoints. Anyone who dares to express alternate views — whether on a college campus, in the public square, in a book, or even in a private conversation at the dinner table — will suffer their contempt.


Look at the names the Pharisees called people unlike themselves:

  • Jesus ate dinner with rejects from society. The Pharisees called those people “scum.” (Mark 2:16)
  • A known prostitute humbly washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. The Pharisees were repulsed that Jesus would let such a “sinner” even touch Him. (Luke 7:36-39)
  • The Pharisees said John the Baptist was demon-possessed because he didn’t eat bread and drink wine as they did. (Luke 7:33)
  • On the other hand, they called Jesus a glutton and drunkard and friend of sinners because He attended parties with outcasts from society. (Luke 7:34)

The woke of today are no different. If you don’t agree with them, you are attacked, shamed, and branded with names such as:

  • racist
  • hater
  • homophobe
  • …and the list continues to grow.

The woke’s deployment of derogatory labels shows that, though they may speak of humanitarianism, equity, and fairness, they actually believe in dehumanizing, devaluing, and dividing. In fact:


The Pharisees hated Jesus.  They were on a mission to kill Jesus – the ultimate earthly cancellation. 

“As Jesus was leaving, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees became hostile and tried to provoke him with many questions. They wanted to trap him into saying something they could use against him.” — Luke 11:53-54

“ … the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.” — Matthew 12:14 –

I find it curious that the woke of today do not tolerate a belief in a God Who judges humans and would send anyone to Hell. YET, today’s woke are always ready to judge (cancel) everyone that does not conform to their teachings and obey their rules.  

  • A baker doesn’t want to make a wedding cake for a gay couple’s wedding?  Close that bakery down!
  • A health worker who was a hero during the pandemic now doesn’t want to get vaccinated?  Canceled! Fired! Out of a job!  
  • A coworker wrote the “n” word in a social media post ten years ago?  Call HR!  Start a petition!  Tell the boss to toss out that bigot!

The very ones who used to lecture conservatives to be tolerant and accepting of differing views have now become the least tolerant and the most judgmental people around.

So tell me, how attracted are you to know-it-alls who virtue-signal their goodness, while they arrogantly bully others and judge them mercilessly?  

My next post will look at what Jesus said about the woke of His day, and how those same words apply to the woke of today. Stay tuned!


Willow Creek Claims Transparency — You Decide

Willow Creek leadership has been accused of a lack of transparency for years. In fact, the word that nearly every blogger has used to describe Willow Creek’s communication is obfuscation. Merriam-Webster clarifies the meaning of obfuscation:

  • To make obscure
  • To confuse
  • To be evasive, unclear, confusing

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to hear Shawn Williams begin the May 26, 2021 Willow Creek core meeting by stating this:

  • “I’ve been around the staff team for about 10 months. And one of the things that I mentioned over the weekend that’s been very true [is] the more and more people that I’ve talked to around Willow — one of the things that I feel like is a constant theme in conversations — people say ‘Would you be transparent as leadership? It’s just something that is so critically important to us as a community.’ And so really in an attempt to honor that request that I’ve heard over and over again, we’ve had the …. core gatherings.” (First use of transparency)

Soon after that introductory reference to transparency, Williams used the word transparency again, this time to describe the church’s approach to volunteers being vaccinated from COVID. (Second use of transparency.)

Dave Dummitt hopped on the bandwagon next, referring to his communication in meetings like the core meeting when he said, “Especially in these environments, I always lean on the side of transparency…” (Third use of transparency)

Shortly after that, Dummitt was talking about a report on the demographic statistics of the communities where Willow Creek has campuses as well as the demographics of the staff. Regarding this topic he said, “So there’s just this transparency that is available I think to everybody …” (Fourth use of transparency.)

And then, a fifth use of transparency — in response to a question about what steps have been taken to address recommendations in the IAG Report (Independent Advisory Group that investigated the claims against Bill Hybels), Dummitt responded “If anybody wants more detail on that–you know–the efforts that were taken to make sure that we don’t slip back into any, you know, behaviors that could lead us toward something like that — Total Transparency. You come up, talk to us, we’ll get you everything you need.”

Five times in a one hour meeting, the leadership of Willow Creek maintained  their commitment to transparency. .  Is that true?  Or is this just  a “Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown to kick it” moment?  

Here are several issues to consider as you decide whether the trend is towards transparency, or more obfuscation.

The Lionization of Bill Hybels — Cancelled?

At the core meeting 2 months ago, Dave Dummitt directed Shawn Williams to share with the Sunday morning congregation the view that we can honor Bill Hybels for his unique once-in-a-generation ministry contributions, while at the same time acknowledging that he has a “shadow side.” The core of Willow Creek enthusiastically applauded the idea. That has yet to happen. Shawn Williams hasn’t. Neither has Dave Dummitt. I suspect it has not happened yet because it is not going to happen … ever.

In this public interchange, both Dummitt and Williams seemed to demonstrate their ignorance of the scope of Bill Hybels’ sexual predation.  They sounded clearly clueless about the price and pain that Hybels’ behavior inflicted on his victims.  Since there’s been no follow-up on their proposed Sunday morning mention of Hybels, it’s safe to assume that multiple sources have told them that they made a grievous error to even suggest such a disgusting gesture.  They obviously realize that they made a mistake.  

Leaders acknowledge when they make mistakes, right?  Nothing has been confessed, or even acknowledged.  There has been only silence.  Is this an example of transparency?  You decide.

Willow Finances: Dire Straits, or a Deep Stash?

In my last post, I mentioned that I had texted a question that I wanted to be addressed at the core meeting in May — a question that I have yet to receive an answer to. Here is the question I texted on May 25th:

  • “In following the finances, I am concerned over Willow’s financial stability. SPECIFICALLY, how much money does WCCC have in reserves?”

That is a reasonable and fair question, is it not? Despite the $$ reserves being a carefully guarded secret, it is understood that Willow Creek has multiple tens of millions of dollars in reserve. So, it appears finances are far from dire.

Does avoiding to disclose monetary reserves reflect transparency? You decide.

PPP Loans – More Money No One Talks About?

On July 9, 2020, Dave Dummitt wrote a blog post to the Willow congregation. It mentioned that the church had received substantial PPP (Payroll Protection Program) funds from the government (almost $5.7M — see below). Up until that post, the congregation had received no communication on that topic. It is suspicious that the Daily Herald, a Chicago newspaper, posted the local companies that received government funds just two days earlier, on July 7, 2020.

Only after  the PPP loan recipients were made public did Dummitt inform the congregation later that the church had in fact received a PPP loan.  WCCC had actually been approved for the government assistance funds three months earlier.  

The Global Leadership Network (GLN – previously known as the Willow Creek Association — WCA)  has received PPP loans  twice. Yet its website contains no mention of any PPP funds received.  The PPP loans to that organization totalled $2,591,200 — see below.

WCA (GLN) Loan #1:

WCA (GLN) Loan #2:

Is it good leadership transparency to solicit donations without disclosing that you have received millions of dollars from the government — funds that you do not have to repay? You decide.

“May We Be One” staff training — Is this CRT (Critical Race Theory)?

Willow Creek has contracted with World Vision to train Willow staff on the topic of racial justice.  These are once per month training sessions for twelve months.  There is reference to white supremacy, white privilege, white guilt, and systemic racism.  I emailed the World Vision contact person the following on May 15, 2021:

Thanks for tackling this relevant topic in the church today.

As someone that does not know a lot about the curriculum of “May We Be One,” I have a couple of questions.

1) How does “May We Be One” differ from Critical Race Theory training? (I know this is a VERY broad question, but a few differences shared would be appreciated.)

2) After a year of training and education, how does World Vision hope to measure the success of the training?

Thanks for your response.


Rob Speight

Unfortunately, I haven’t received a response from World Vision other than that they are very busy. 

The outcome of these training sessions on Willow Creek staff has not been more oneness and unity, but rather increased division and distrust between the races.

Twelve sessions on racial justice, spanning the course of a whole year, seems like a major investment of staff time and training.  Do you think the Willow Creek congregation has a right to know what the staff is being taught in these sessions?  Does keeping the contents under wraps give the impression of transparency?  You decide.

The Rebranding of Willow Creek

Dave Dummitt could not be more excited about what will be happening at Willow in the Fall.  In fact, he thinks that so many more people will be coming to Willow that he fears they won’t have enough volunteers to serve the guests.  One might wonder, what does he think will cause this new influx of people to Willow?  Is there going to be a revival?  Is there going to be repentance?  A renewal of commitment to the Savior?  A rededication to engaging with Scripture?  

No, Dummitt actually said that these yet to be identified new people will be coming to Willow Creek Community Church because the church is rebranding.  Yes, Willow Creek has hired Storyland Studios out of California (storylandstudios.com) to do a major rebranding.  Although Dummitt has told the staff that this is happening, the staff doesn’t know what the rebranding entails, but it’s going to be major.  

Essentially, rebranding is a publicity campaign designed to improve how people think about an organization.  Storyland Studios itself  describes the process like this under its website’s Brand and Guest Experience menu tab:

  • How do you want people to experience your brand? We love to take the strategic story of a brand and shape it into something people can walk into, interact with, and inhabit. Whether you’re developing a new brand from the ground up or building on an existing one, our team can help you define and create experiences that bring your brand to life in ways that propel your strategy and keep your guests engaged, immersed, and coming back for more. When we work with brands to shape immersive experiences and activations, we leverage our three-dimensional storytelling approach to add layers of meaning and connection for guests and employees alike. From concepting and executing the experience, our team of digital marketing strategists and designers are able to build an executable marketing strategy to promote your brand and experience in the world.

Willow’s obsession with the image that they portray to the world has not waned one iota. Repentance, revival, rededication, and renewal are better ideas than rebranding. Jesus said it this way to the self-righteous Pharisees when He confronted their love affair with image in Matthew 23:26-27

You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

So, does the fact that virtually the entire church knows nothing about this rebranding effort reflect transparency? You decide.

In the words of Jack Welch, “Trust happens when leaders are transparent”.  

Trust has been broken by the leadership of Willow Creek for years. If trust is ever to be rebuilt, the maneuverings of the leadership will need to become a lot less obscure. Maybe it’s a good idea for Dummitt and his crew to try actually practicing transparency. Because ironically, the more they merely claim it, the more we see right through them.


Willow Creek Asks The Wrong Question

Everything had been going relatively smoothly at Willow Creek over the past couple of years.  The decision to never invoke the name of Bill Hybels had worked.  His victims and their advocates had appeared to fall silent.  Willow could finally move forward.  Sure there was the pandemic, and the choosing of the new senior pastor, Dave Dummitt.  But there was a dull calm on the campus in South Barrington.  

That all changed on the evening of May 26.  Boy, did it change.  The problem:  Dave Dummitt and Shawn Williams didn’t realize what they had done.  While they were fist bumping and congratulating one another on how they handled the name that was never ever to be mentioned, the 200 member geriatric core in attendance applauded their performance.  Little did they know they in fact … pick your metaphor: 

  • Whacked the hornets’ nest. 
  • Poked the bear.  
  • Did not let sleeping dogs lie.  

This is what happened. 

Williams claimed to have received the following question from the congregation which he chose to address to those in attendance.  (Mind you, he had to CHOOSE to answer that question and CHOOSE not to answer other questions — I know this because he did not answer the question I texted to him.  That ignored question will be saved for another post).  Here’s the question that Shawn Williams chose to address:

“Why is Bill Hybels’ name rarely mentioned?”

In the 3+ weeks since that meeting, there has been a lot of criticism of Shawn Williams and Dave Dummitt’s infamous 8 minutes on YouTube.  You can find able insightful critiques of their interaction in the following posts:  

Before I suggest a more important question that Shawn Williams and Dave Dummitt ought to have answered, I’d like to reflect on the contrast of responses to Dummitt’s and Williams’ reflection on Bill Hybels’ life.

Affirming Applause vs. Disgust

On the one hand, it appeared that all those in attendance enthusiastically affirmed (via widespread applause) the notion of somehow, in some way, at some time, honoring the legacy of Bill Hybels for all that he had done and meant to Willow Creek and the evangelical church across the globe.  Dummitt also made a point of stating that Tom DeVries, the President of the Global Leadership Network (formerly the Willow Creek Association) was in attendance at the Core Meeting as he made his remarks about Hybels.

I ask you:  why did the core of Willow Creek applaud the notion of honoring Hybels, while so many others want to throw up at that idea?  

I believe it is because Willow’s remnant core does not know / understand / believe / or appreciate the depth of Bill Hybels’ sin.  They have no idea of the devastating impact of his conduct on his women victims, both named and unnamed.  And why would they?  For three years, ALL of Willow Creek’s leadership, both past and present, told the Willow Creek congregation a different narrative.  They were NEVER told the depth of Bill’s sin.  

To this day, Willow Creek leadership has NEVER told the congregation the specifics of Hybels’ heinous conduct. Rather, they fed them and the world a much-sanitized version called “the women’s claims are credible,” without ever saying what exactly those claims against Hybels even were.  They took this mum approach even though Bill Hybels’ women victims described his horrific conduct in graphic detail to multiple groups of elders both past and present. 

Willow Creek leadership never explained what Bill did.  Nor did Willow Creek leadership ever state that the women are telling the TRUTH. 

That’s why I don’t blame the core for applauding the memory of Bill Hybels.  Based on what they were told over the last three years, Bill simply had a “shadow side” — whatever that is (as per Shawn Williams).  And it seems that the leadership at Willow Creek feels that it’s possible, and maybe even honorable, to hold in tension both the incredible worldwide impact that Bill had along with his “shadow side.”  

Weighing Hybels’ much-ballyhooed impact on the church against his foggily-referenced “shadow side,” the congregation appears to believe that Bill Hybels has suffered enough — and perhaps now he needs to be celebrated for all that he has meant to the world.

If they feel that way, I suspect it’s because they’ve been deliberately groomed to feel that way —  just as Bill Hybels’ victims were groomed to accept his attentions as vaguely understandable and okay. 


Considering all that has been left unsaid, I propose that the question “Why is Bill Hybels’ name rarely mentioned?” is not the most useful question to pose at this point.  Rather, the WCCC congregation, and the public, deserve an honest answer to this question instead:  

  • Why have Bill Hybels’ actual sins never been named?

Again, Willow Creek leadership and GLN leadership have never told the congregation and the world that… 

  • Bill Hybels groomed women for his own deviant pleasure.
  • Bill Hybels is a serial sexual predator.
  • Bill Hybels is guilty of sexual harassment.
  • Bill Hybels’ sexual predation spans decades.
  • Bill Hybels’ conduct constitutes sexual abuse.  

As a result of their silence, the loyal but ill-informed core of the congregation, and the worldwide group of devotees to the Global Leadership Summit, may tend to conclude that poor Bill has become the real victim here. They may feel sorry that such a ground-breaking figure had to retire so suddenly, without any accolades. Wasn’t that punishment enough, they may feel?  As I’ve heard many say, “What more do those women want?”

Naming Bill Hybels’ actual acts of malfeasance would allow everyone to make their own evaluation of how the heights of Hybels’ public achievements compare to the depths of his sexual abuse of so many women.

At this point, Willow Creek’s decision-makers are facing a tough choice:  

  • Do they admit the truth (and alienate their base) by naming Hybels’ sins NOW, after three years of pussyfooting around the topic?  

Or …

  • Do they continue to ignore Hybels’ real legacy and start to reintroduce his name and rehabilitated image into the church’s organizational culture and identity?

It seems that they made their choice on May 26, 2021.  But one awkward discussion at that core meeting won’t keep the Bill Hybels issue from hanging over the heads of Willow Creek’s leadership FOREVER if they do not name his sins.

Scripture is clear:  

“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.”  Proverbs 28:13

The “not prospering” part of that verse should also concern GLN’s president, Tom DeVries, who attended the Core Meeting.  His response to the Q & A interchange:  silence.  

What do true leaders do when they see — and are a party to — injustice?  They speak up for victims!  They admit their own wrongdoing!  Tom DeVries, Craig Groeschel, please don’t lecture the world about leadership if you won’t defend the abused victims of your founder.  Please don’t tell us how you’ve apologized to the women and have sought reconciliation.  Not one of the women victims is content with the paltry response of either the Willow Creek or GLN leadership.


It’s ironic that Willow Creek Church started a series of messages on Courage soon after the May 26 Core Meeting.  Courage has seemed to be in short supply for the past three years.  Now I say, YES!  Be courageous, Dave Dummitt and Shawn Williams!  

Dummitt breathlessly told Williams at the Core meeting on May 26, that he needed to talk about Hybels to the entire congregation on a Sunday morning.  Okay, if this is so right and good and wise, then be COURAGEOUS!  And do it!  Tell the whole congregation your admiring musings about Bill Hybels, the pioneer of so much good in the church. You seem to be expecting an ecstatic response. Will you receive it? Will the people — and the press — welcome the “tension” of a newly revised Bill-Was-Pretty-Great-After-All take on everything?

I would make the same challenge to the GLN frontmen.  Be courageous!  Go ahead and give Bill Hybels a plug at the Global Leadership Summit this year, Craig Groeschel and Tom DeVries.  Invoke his name for all the good he has done.  Honor him for his great legacy.  

After all, the applauding core congregation at Willow wants to hear his name, so the GLN crowd will, too, right?  It’s been three years since his absence from the Summit’s world stage.  He has paid a big enough price.  So, go ahead!  Show the courage of your convictions and talk about the positive impact of Bill Hybels on global Christianity.  

Give that hornets’ nest another good whack. 

Not going there, you say?  Leave Bill to stay in the shadows?  Well, that’s understandable.  After all, do we hear Matt Lauer’s name invoked any more for being such a wonderful early morning TV host?  Where are Hollywood’s accolades for Harvey Weinstein for all of the great movies he produced and the stars he made? Why isn’t Bill Cosby celebrated any more — by anyone — for his transformational comedic genius? 

Oh, right.  

Add Bill Hybels’ name to the list of sexual predators that no one wants to praise any more.  And rightly so. 

So, Willow Creek and GLN leadership, if you aren’t going to be courageous about defending Bill Hybels’ legacy, then be courageous about naming Bill Hybels’ sins of sexual harassment, grooming and abuse — so that people can be truly informed, instead of ignorant by default — of the full bandwidth of his “achievements.” 

My suspicion:  the WCCC and the GLN boards will do neither. They won’t come clean about Bill Hybels’ dark deeds, and they won’t try to resurrect his name, either.  They’ll be content to let the past record of Bill Hybels stay unapplauded, AND undefined…  because they are NOT courageous, as it turns out.  For them, image is more important than character.  Keeping the money rolling in is more important than truth.  Keeping the institutions going is more important than facilitating the women victims’ healing. They talk a good game of honoring women, but when it costs the Willow machine, the machine is more important.  

No, they are not courageous.  They are cowards.




During the last 23 months since the Bill Hybels / Willow Creek scandal went public, the elders of Willow Creek have sought to communicate on a regular basis both from the main stage at Willow Creek and through written communications to the Willow congregation called Elder Updates.

Unfortunately, none of these Elder Updates have caused Willow Creek to move any closer towards healing. Wishing that the past 23 months of scandal would be in the rear view mirror does not make it so. If anything, the scandals keep coming. Though carefully-tailored messaging would seek to portray that the worst is over and church conditions are returning to normal, a spiritual PET scan would actually show that the cancer cells have spread.

Directly below, I have created a potential update for the elders to use in their next communication.  I believe that messaging of this kind would be an honest and essential next step towards true healing for Willow Creek.  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

We, the elders and senior leaders of Willow Creek, are truly sorry.  We thought we could control the damage at Willow, but we admit now that we can’t.  We placed Willow Creek’s future above all other priorities. In so doing, we have failed … utterly.  We failed the women victims of Bill Hybels. We failed Bill Hybels. We failed the congregation of Willow Creek.  We failed the Willow Creek staff. We failed the churches around the world that trusted our church and looked to the Global Leadership Network to be an example of godly Biblical leadership.  We failed the watching world that points at us, shaking its head with confusion, dismay, and even derision. Ultimately, we have failed our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are sorry.


We are so sorry that we did not believe you and your advocates.  We are sorry for calling you liars and colluders against Bill Hybels.  You told the truth about Bill Hybels. We are the ones that lied and colluded against you to the Willow Creek congregation and the thousands of churches in the Global Leadership Network (previously:  Willow Creek Association). We confess that we have never fully made this right, no matter how much we have tried to convince ourselves that we did.

We are sorry that we did not hire a reputable third party clergy abuse investigatory organization that are experts in this field, such as GRACE.  We acknowledge that you and your advocates requested a thoroughly independent third party clergy abuse investigation repeatedly for the last six years.  We confess that we accused the advocates of trying to “control” the investigation, making “demands” and setting unreasonable parameters. We confess that we sought to control the narrative as well as limit the damage of this scandal.  We confess that we have not trusted God enough to tell the truth regarding your abuse at the hands of Bill Hybels.  

You are heroes.  You are brave and courageous.  We will be forever indebted to you for sounding the alarm to potential future victims.  May there be no more.

We recognize that if ten women have come forward, there DEFINITELY must be other women victims of Bill Hybels … many that have suffered in private agony, some for years, some for decades.  Whether from embarrassment, humiliation, and / or incalculable personal cost, they have not stepped forward. We confess that our actions toward the women who have come forward have only made it that much more difficult for others to find personal resolution and freedom from the nightmares that plague them due to the cruel interactions they endured from Bill Hybels.  We confess that we did not create a safe harbor for other women victims to come forward. We confess that we wanted to control the damage that the women’s stories would cause to Bill and the church. We placed Bill’s and Willow Creek’s reputation above your healing. We are truly sorry.

We confess that we have not presented victims of abuse at Willow Creek a safe conduit to share their stories.  We confess that we made a mistake to offer the following instructions to abuse victims in our January 30, 2020 Elder Update: 

“If you have experienced abuse from leadership at Willow, past or present, please contact us at 630-682-9797, ext. 1291.”

We confess that this phone number is to an organization called Capin Crouse.  Their website describes themselves as:

 “… a national CPA and consulting services firm, … providing support in the key areas of financial integrity and security,” 

We have had a 30+ year financial relationship with Capin Crouse.  We confess this is not a good first step towards sharing your stories of abuse with the elders.


We confess that our interactions with Bill Hybels have been cowardly.  We did not hold him accountable. We confess that we chose to believe and defend him rather than the women victims and their advocates, even when there was a preponderance of evidence against him.  

We confess that we have continued to treat Bill Hybels with misplaced deference, meekly asking him to meet with us and when rebuffed by him, concluding that we can’t force him to talk with us.  

We confess that we failed in the handling of his severance / retirement package.  We failed by not including a morality clause in that package. In fact, we failed him by not withholding his severance payments, even though there was not a morality clause. We could have been brave enough to refuse payment and then force him to take us to court where he would have had to justify being paid millions of dollars despite the accusations against him. We know in our heart of hearts that he would not have taken us to court because he does not want to face any cross-examination.

We confess that we feared Bill Hybels more than we feared God.  We confess that we should have declared to Bill Hybels, “You are that man,” just as Nathan confronted David in II Samuel 12:7.  We confess that we ought to have removed his ordination and stated that he was no longer fit to be a minister of the gospel due to his unrepentant and arrogant heart.  We confess that we also failed to excommunicate him from membership at Willow Creek Community Church for the same reasons. 


We have failed you, the congregation of Willow Creek, by not leading you well through this scandal.  We have allowed you, even encouraged you towards faulty thinking and conclusions regarding the women victims.  We have not given you a Biblical reason for how we handled Bill Hybels’ sin. And when asked repeatedly to Scripturally justify our responses to the scandal, we confess that we do not have a Biblical foundation to stand on.  We have not corrected you when some of you have expressed, “What more do these women want?” We did not correct you when so many of you expressed that you wanted to “move on.” We confess now that we can’t move on until we deal with the sin in our own house.

We have not taught you what the impact of sexual abuse and the abuse of power, especially by clergy, has on women.  We failed to explain the insidious nature of Bill Hybels’ grooming and sexual abuse. We have not revealed to you how these women felt utterly confused and alone when they tried to process the sexual advances by their world renowned pastor.  We did not teach you that women sexual trauma victims can suffer from PTSD. We failed to teach you that a woman does not have to be raped to suffer excruciating trauma. We failed to teach you that victims can block out the memory of sexual trauma for years in order to cope with the pain, only to be triggered later and have its ugliness recalled. We sought to minimize what Bill Hybels did to the women, and we are sorry for not telling you the truth.

We also hid the truth from you about Dr. B’s sexual harassment and worse.  We did not hold him accountable. Instead, we permitted him to minister as though  nothing had happened. We’re sorry for the pattern of dishonesty we persisted in creating.  And honestly, we don’t know how to correct all of these grievous errors. We have betrayed your trust.  

We confess that we, the elders of Willow Creek, have perpetuated the protection of the Willow Creek image and brand over the terrible truth of sexual and power abuse.  We have failed to be appropriately transparent with you.

We confess that we have terminated other staff for affairs, and we have been silent.  We have allowed them to simply … disappear. 

We confess that we have not been forthcoming to you regarding other staff departures of individuals who were a part of the abusive culture.  We confess that we wanted to hide how deep the abuse ran in our church.  

We confess that we did not hold accountable the leaders that so publicly lied, disparaged and slandered the women victims and their advocates, some of whom are still on staff.

We confess that we have hidden from you the financial terms of Bill Hybels’ and Heather Larson’s severance packages.  We have not been forthcoming regarding the financial costs to the church of attorneys, skyrocketing insurance premiums, and legal settlement costs out of fear that you would stop giving.  We confess that we have not been financially transparent with you.


We have failed the staff by making the wrongheaded decision to not have  the senior pastor be a member of the elder board. Rather than holding the senior pastor accountable, which we did not do with Bill Hybels, we decided to eliminate such a problem from happening again by not having the senior pastor on the board.  We are part time volunteers, and we confess that we are in way over our heads. 

We confess that we have not kept the staff informed of our deliberations, and as a result, they feel like they are doing their jobs (ministries) in the dark.  We know that we have lost their trust, and in many ways we have caused them to lose yours  And we are truly sorry.


We confess that WCCC and the GLN are inseparably linked, no matter how much we publicly deny it.  We confess that we have minimized Bill Hybels’ influence and impact on the GLN and GLS.  

We confess that we have never made right the damage we did to the reputations of the women victims who stepped forward.  

We confess that we have avoided any topics at the GLS that could possibly cast a bad light on Bill Hybels regarding his sexual abuse of women or his abusive leadership.  We confess that we sought to avoid the optics of the obvious hypocrisy of teaching churches around the world how to lift up women and be better leaders when the founder of the the GLN and GLS abused women and often led by bullying.  

We confess that we decided that the ends justify the means.  We confess that the ends of helping others around the world justified lying about who Bill Hybels really is.


We confess that we have been a poor example to those whom we say we want to reach with the good news of forgiveness from Christ.  The very mission of WCCC, upon which the church was founded, has been sullied by its founder and its leaders. We are sorry.

Ultimately, Father, we have sinned against you.  All of the above transgressions against others are ultimately sins against You.  We are ashamed, and we are sorry for damaging Your Name. We agree with David when he confessed that his sins against others were ultimately “sins against the Lord,” II Samuel 12:13.



We must take this action because we recognize that we have irretrievably lost the trust of victims.  

  1. HIRE GRACE (Godly Response To Abuse In The Christian Environment) — netgrace.org

We are sorry that we did not hire GRACE  years ago when it was suggested by the beloved former Willow staff when they first learned of troubling indications (still unresolved) regarding Bill Hybels’ alleged 14-year affair.  

We must take this action because we admit that we do not have the expertise to deal with clergy and church abuse.  GRACE does.


We confess that it has been a mistake to try to lead our church out of our scandals towards healing utilizing our own long-term staff.  We confess that the temptation to protect the church’s image rather than reveal the ugly truths that we discovered has been too great.

In fact, we insist that the interim pastor must agree to work with GRACE to lead Willow Creek towards healing.


We have concluded that it would be unfair to hire a new senior pastor when we have failed to address our scandals and take significant steps toward healing first. 


These topics will include:

      • The painful truths contained in this update
      • How to identify narcissistic and abusive leaders
      • How does a church board hold its senior leaders accountable
      • How to create a safe conduit for sexual abuse, power abuse, and grooming allegations to be heard 
      • Honest discussion regarding narcissists being attracted to the GLS

We will strongly recommend to the GLN board that these topics be included in their advance messaging to GLS 2020 host churches, that host pastors will be afforded ample time and opportunity to understand and process the information, and that these topics will not be treated as optional messaging in-between sessions, but as part of the sessions themselves. 

We want to say again how sorry we are for the pain that we have caused so many.  We cannot say it enough. We are appealing to God for His help to carry these commitments through to their conclusion, mindful of  the wisdom of Solomon when he taught in Proverbs 28:13, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”  

May our confessions and resolutions above finally begin to bring healing to our church.


A Must For Willow Creek: To Regain Trust

How important is trust in a relationship? It is ALL important. Are you drawn to people you don’t trust? Silly question. I want to run away from people I don’t trust. It’s for my own safety. Whom are you drawn to, and whom do you respect? I’m attracted to people who are appropriately transparent, who don’t put a spin on their speech to save face. I am drawn to people who tell the truth, even if (especially if) the truth is something that I don’t want to hear, but need to. In fact, I’m more than just attracted to such people — I seek them out and respect them.

In August of 2018, why did Heather Larson and the entire Willow Creek elder board resign?  Simply stated: they failed to be transparent, and they failed to tell the truth. As a result, they lost the trust of the congregation they were leading.  

Are we approaching such a moment in time … again?

Willow Creek Is In A World Of Hurt

As painful as it is to recall, consider Willow Creek’s most recent 22 month history:


  • Allegations of  sexual misconduct against Bill Hybels
  • Hybels’ “early retirement”
  • Hybels’ disappearance
  • Hybels’ refusal to be accountable to ANYONE
  • The resignation by Steve Carter that forced Heather Larson and the then elders to resign


  • The appointment of Steve Gillen as the interim lead pastor
  • The choosing of an entirely new elder board
  • The IAG report stating that the women’s claims against Hybels were credible
  • The new elders’ invitation to Hybels’ women victims and advocates to share their stories of abuse with them.
  • The hope of the women victims and their advocates that the elders were finally going to be TRANSPARENT and TELL THE TRUTH of Hybels’ abuse


  • The elders’ “last public statement” and the “reconciliation service” that followed, both of which were met with utter disappointment and a thorough lack of affirmation by Hybels’ victims and their advocates for their lack of transparency and truth
  • The majority of the remaining Willow congregation being so glad that the church was “moving on.”
  • The bewilderment of many in the congregation exclaiming that “these women will never be satisfied.”
  • ZERO teaching by Willow Creek’s leadership on the topic of clergy sexual abuse, clergy power abuse, and zero admission  that Bill Hybels is guilty of both.
  • ZERO correction by the leaders of Willow Creek of wrong-headed congregational thinking about the women victims.


  • Resignations of many staff, some who were lieutenants of Hybels’ inner circle of abuse of power.
  • Resignation by the one regional pastor that stood up to the current elders’ handling of the Bill Hybels’ scandal.
  • The continued erosion of attendance and giving.
  • The cancellation of 500+ host sites to the Global Leadership Summit since Hybels’ abuses were made public.

We must NOT FORGET what has brought Willow Creek to February 2020.  Winston Churchill said, ”Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”  

The Revelations At Willow Creek In the Past 10 Days

This brings us to the last 10 days and the recent revelations of abuse by Willow Creek’s co-founder, Dr. Gilbert Bilezekian (Dr. B).


  • Ann Lindberg posts her experiences of abuse at the hands of Dr. B.
  • Julie Roys, investigative reporter, writes several articles on her website, julieroys.com, regarding Ann Lindberg.  The latest offering is a 41 minute podcast of Ann telling her story.


  • Steve Gillen writes an email to Willow Creek staff stating that he believes Ann’s story.
  • The elders write an email to the entire congregation affirming Ann’s story of abuse at the hands of Dr. B and that he was supposed to be no longer permitted to teach at Willow Creek … but … somehow … that discipline was not adequately communicated.
  • Dr. B. writes to the Willow Creek leadership denying the allegations of abuse and questioning Willow Creek leadership about why they have publicly condemned him without first approaching him as Matthew 18 instructs.


  • An ALL staff meeting is scheduled to discuss the Dr. B situation and the status of the senior pastor search.
  • At the staff meeting:
    • There is no discussion of the Dr. B situation.  Staff are bewildered at the lack of communication regarding Dr. B.
    • Steve Gillen shares that he is resigning as Interim Senior Pastor as of March 17.  
    • The elders are back to square one in their search for a senior pastor because they have “released” the two final candidates from consideration.
    • The elders admit they knew that they did not have any viable Senior Pastor candidates before Christmas 2019, but they neglected to say anything to the staff or congregation until the final days of January 2020..
  • Many on staff express their distrust of the elders and senior leaders.


  • The weekend services of February 1 & 2, 2020 at Willow Creek are altered for prayer and reflection.
    • Jeff Mason, an elder, announces at the Saturday service, “This week the elders released two important updates which are at the website and the app.  And we invite you to read them completely. We are in the process of working through the complexities of the issues we addressed in our updates.”  He … never … once … mentions … the … sexual … abuse … perpetrated … by … Dr. B.
    • Regarding Steve Gillen’s resignation, Jeff Mason stated, “Steve has decided to fulfill his contract which ends on March 17th, conclude his time on the Willow staff and seek out what God has next for him and his family.”  Wait, wait, WAIT!  Steve’s contract does not end on March 17th.  Steve IS ENDING his contract on March 17th. Big Difference.  Steve is done. He’s spent. He’s had enough. Without a job to go to, he’s still through.  And no one can blame him.  
    • Matt Wright follows with reflections on several Psalms allowing for times of congregational reflection and prayer.  But something was missing.  It reminded me of the “reconciliation service.”  No mention of the Dr. B sexual abuse revelations.  No mention of how or why the senior pastor search is back to the starting gate.  It was an amorphous time of reflecting on life being hard and God will see us through.

What Has Gone Wrong?  

  1.  The Appeal For Telling The Truth Has Gone Unheeded

I wrote an email to the elders on April 13, 2018, 2 days after Hybels abruptly “retired early.” I repeatedly asked the elders to humble themselves and to tell the truth. Salient excerpts from that email almost 2 years ago are just as relevant 22 months later.


  • I appeal to you, the protectors of the flock, to be the catalysts that begin the healing.  You must start it.
  • Willow’s ministry cannot move forward until the truth is revealed and acted upon accordingly.
  • Please, humble yourselves …
  • Be courageous!  Tell the truth, so true healing can begin for everyone involved.
  • Please, humble yourselves …
  • Please, humble yourselves and tearfully confess …


  • As difficult as it is, coming clean now is a much better option than waiting …
  • The 800 pound gorilla in the room is, “What is the truth?”  Only you can tell us.
  • Bill is off the stage.  You are the leaders and focus of attention on this tragedy now.
  • … you are the representatives of what is true behind this whole sordid affair.
  • You have thousands of people in the congregation that ONLY know what you have told them.  They believe you. They are on your side in your public portrayal of the events.
  • Everyone wants to know the truth.  And only you, the elders of Willow Creek, can confirm it to the rest of the watching world.  And it is only then when healing can begin.
  • Willow’s future is in your hands.  Do the right thing. 

I received no response from the elders to my email.

I had been serving as a volunteer Response Pastor at Willow for several years and shared the email with my ministry leader.  I was told that I sounded angry in my email and that I was not humble. I was then asked to “go on sabbatical.” I agreed to do so.  Scott Vaudrey was the head of that department, Pastoral Ministries. Apparently, I’m still on sabbatical.

On August 12 , 2018 I stated in my blog, “Resignations At Willow Creek:  It’s A Start”:

“Before moving forward, the congregation needs to become unified again.  I believe this is job #1 for Steve Gillen. The divisions are horrible. Bill and Heather and the elders are the reasons for this division.  I believe that Mr. Gillen needs to communicate the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God. As difficult as some of the truth is, the truth is what the congregation needs.  There has been so much misinformation shared from the stage and through the Willow website. Most in the congregation have counted on these outlets to be their sources of ‘truth.’”

All that the women victims of Bill Hybels have wanted is for the leadership of Willow Creek to tell the truth of what Hybels did.  Instead, the elders gave the congregation what they wanted: They moved on. And the truth was left behind.

  1.  The Appeal For Transparency Has Gone Unheeded

It appears the only time the leadership and elders are transparent is when they are forced to be.  They get caught in a leadership blunder and they are compelled to make some form of admission.

  • A distraught Willow woman confesses to a female friend that she has been having a 14 year affair with Bill Hybels.  The woman states that she will deny the affair if she is asked about it. Respected former senior leaders approach the Willow Creek elders and WCA (now GLN) Board in 2014 and ask that these serious allegations be investigated.  The appeal to hire an expert independent third party investigator with expertise in clergy abuse was rebuffed at every turn. The woman, true to her word, writes an email to the elders denying that she ever had an affair with Bill Hybels.  A law firm that exclusively represents employers concluded that there was nothing to the charges against Hybels. That was good enough for the elders. That was good enough for the remaining members of the WCA Board. Case closed (whew!). There was absolutely no reason to say anything to the congregation, the elders concluded, because Bill Hybels was found to be innocent.  

But then that pesky article in the Chicago Tribune came out in March 2018, followed by more articles and blogs by Hybels’ victims and advocates.  And then … the NY Times article interviewing Pat Baranowski, Bill Hybels’ administrative assistant for several years in the late 80’s and early 90’s, came out on August 5, 2018.  The efforts to hide the truth, to obfuscate, and to outright lie about the women and their stories could not overcome the ugly appalling truth of Hybels’ hellacious treatment of many women.  So Heather Larson and the elders were forced to admit that Hybels had sinned.

Only when the ugly sinful underbelly of Willow Creek is made public does Willow leadership admit to it.

How To Regain Trust

Vonda Dyer, one of the earliest victims of Bill Hybels to come forward, tweeted the following on January 31, 2020 regarding Ann Lindberg’s testimony of grooming and abuse at the hands of Dr. Gilbert Bilezekian: 

“I believe this woman. Every organization has a culture & this culture is still bleeding stories of abuse, misconduct, abuse of power and legal silencing mixed with veiled apologies but lacking in total contrition, transparency & truthfulness.” 

Vonda’s tweet is true TRUE TRUE !!  The culture is broken, because the trust that was broken has never been restored. Without telling the truth, and without the appropriate transparency that leads to total contrition, there is no reason to trust Willow Creek’s leadership, and the trail of mistrust that has marked the past many years will inevitably continue.   

Here’s where it appears to stand now :  the elders are searching for a senior pastor that will agree with how they have handled Hybels’ scandals: how they treated the women,  and how they decided to move on. And now there’s the Dr. B scandal that they knew about for years and never disclosed — yet another scandal that a new senior pastor will inherit and be forced to deal with.  

Any candidate that believes Willow Creek leadership has handled and is handling these scandals Biblically and has done right by the women victims is disqualified from being pastor.  And any candidate that wants to clean up the mess that the past and current Willow Creek leaders continue to muck up will not be picked by the elders.  

Is that the stark reality?  I don’t actually know. Nobody knows really.  The elders don’t say. They really don’t say much unless they are forced to.  I would love to be proven wrong, but until there is more transparency, we’re all left in the dark.  

One thing I do know: if the elders and senior leaders do not regain the trust of the staff and congregation by being appropriately transparent, telling the truth, and being genuinely contrite, then they will be leading Willow Creek Community Church to yet another great train wreck.  

May it not be so.  May Willow Creek once again become a place where the truth is acknowledged instead of avoided. Where transparency is modelled instead of masked.  Where doing the right thing, instead of doing damage control, becomes the cornerstone of Willow culture, and sets the stage for trust and respect to once again be restored.


Powerful Personal Video Testimony by Victims of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek

For almost two years since the Bill Hybels / Willow Creek scandal became public, the world has read different versions of the whole sordid affair.  Now, firsthand video testimony by two of Hybels’ victims provides a powerful and frank personal account of the tragedy. In the link below, Vonda Dyer and her husband, Scott, give details about Hybels’ efforts to groom and seduce Vonda. They share how the situation impacts their lives and their family — and how the responses of the leadership at Willow Creek and the GLN only adds to their turmoil. It is evident that Vonda and Scott are paying a high price for telling the truth publicly.

In addition, also below, a third video by Mitch Little, gives a top shelf primer on sexual abuse in the church. From his unique perspective as both an attorney and a church elder in Dallas, TX, Mitch outlines typical missteps by church leadership. He also gives “best practice” recommendations for church elders to lead their congregations through such a crisis.

Watching these videos is a must for those who care about what happened at Willow Creek and/or care about protecting victims. After you watch and learn the truth, let me invite any of you who know people involved in Willow Creek leadership (the executive team, elders, GLN leadership) to share this post and these talks with them. ASK FOR THEIR RESPONSE TO THE CONTENT.  I encourage you not to give up until you receive a response that satisfies you.

Vonda Dyer shares her story of being labeled a liar after coming forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against former Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels. Dyer gave this message at the No More Silence conference, sponsored by the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Scott Dyer, a worship pastor and husband of Vonda Dyer, tells his moving story of how watching his wife being vilified for exposing abuse by former celebrity pastor, Bill Hybels, traumatised their family. And from that experience, he offers advice for church leaders on how to handle allegations of sexual abuse.
Attorney Mitch Little, an attorney who’s represented several women who accused former Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels of sexual misconduct, talks about how church leaders should handle sex abuse allegations. Little argues that the reason churches have responded worse to the #MeToo crisis than corporate world is because “corporations are more afraid of their shareholders than churches are.” He adds, “The church has one shareholder. And it’s a fear of God problem.” Though Little offers solid advice on how church boards should respond to sex abuse crises, he admits, “If your leadership lacks the requisite character and experience, no manual will help you. If you have the appropriate level of character and experience, no manual is necessary.”

I am grateful to Julie Roys, a Christian investigative reporter, for posting these videos and  for all of her efforts exploring important issues facing Christians and spiritual seekers.

The full talks of Vonda, Scott, Mitch, Q & A sessions, and other speakers at the No More Silence conference can be obtained by contacting the Dallas Theological Seminary Bookstore at (214) 887-5110 or online on the bookstore’s website.  They are a most valuable resource for any church / Christian organization that is serious about being prepared to address sexual and power abuse within their midst.

Many thanks to the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary for making these resources available.


Willow Creek’s Leadership Strategy — Is It Working?


The leadership at Willow Creek conducted a reconciliation service earlier this year in an effort to move on from the tumult of its recent past.  Leadership insists that they will no longer speak publicly about the Bill Hybels scandal.  So, what has been the result of this approach?  Has the church overcome?  Is the situation at Willow Creek getting better?

The answer to that question is a resounding … No!

Willow Creek’s problems continue to persist and even get worse.  Here are the facts:

  • Weekend attendance in the main auditorium continues to go down.  There are three weekend services.  The auditorium seats 7,200.  Total weekend attendance for all three services COMBINED is in the low 6,000’s.  That is less than an average 30% “fill rate,” as Bill Hybels used to call it.  If a church holds three weekend services and averages less than a third full at each service, does it make sense to rethink holding three services?
  • Giving continues to go down.  Despite South Barrington’s drastically reduced 2019 budget, receipts are now running consistently 20% below target.  Does that portend even more staff reductions and budget cuts for 2020?
  • The voluntary departure of long-term staff continues.  The latest is Marcus Bieschke, beloved lead pastor at Willow Crystal Lake.  His departure is not sitting well with the 1300+ regular adult attenders at WCL.  Marcus’ departure is due to fundamental differences that he has with the eight elders that “lead” all of Willow Creek’s campuses.  He especially disagrees with how the elders have dealt with the Bill Hybels scandal and their treatment of Hybels’ women victims.
  • The Culture Building Team, a special task force for staff that was established at the South Barrington campus is getting an earful.  This group’s primary purpose:  to ask employees what it’s truly like to work at Willow Creek.  During the Bill Hybels’ regime, it was widely reported that staff had better rate their employment experience really well if they wanted to keep their jobs.  The good news:  staff feels that they can be more honest rating their workplace satisfaction.
  • Participation and enthusiasm for GLS activities continues to decrease.  There was widespread disappointment in the lack of integration of Scripture and worship as well as Christ-followers speaking at GLS 2019.  Some GLS host churches said that if the continued secularization of the event is the future direction for the GLS then they’re “out.”
  • Most recently, there is the announcement that Seeds, Willow Creek’s on-campus Bible and Christian bookstore will be closing at the end of the year due to a lack of interest and sales.  Sounds like a good business decision — but not a good decision if you are committed to making fully devoted followers of Christ.

Why isn’t Willow Creek healing?

John 8:32 gives us the answer.  As Jesus declares in this verse it is truth that sets us free.  Willow Creek has not been able to free itself from the continuing fallout of past sin because it has not heeded those words of Jesus.  I have repeatedly encouraged the elders to traffic in truth.  In my second email  to them in April of 2018, I exhorted them to tell the truth, no matter how dark and difficult, and to do it sooner rather than later.  The longer they wait to tell the truth, the worse it will be for the congregation when the truth finally comes out.   In my blog immediately following the resignation of Heather Larson and the elders and the naming of Steve Gillen as Acting Senior Pastor, I encouraged Steve to make his top priority to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God.

Unfortunately, 15 months into the tenure of Willow Creek’s new regime, obfuscation continues to be the order of the day.  The elders’ communications continue to be comprised of spiritual platitudes that lack clarity, coherence and self-evident application.  Instead, there are as many interpretations of the elders’ communications as there are readers.

The truth of Bill Hybels’ abuses of his women victims has never been told.  Neither has the truth about his leadership abuses toward numerous staff; some of whom have yet to recover years after experiencing his bullying leadership style toward them.  To this day, some still suffer both physically and psychologically from Bill Hybels’ demeaning leadership style.

Proverbs 28:13 makes it clear, “People who conceal their sins will not prosper,
    but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.”

Willow Creek could be well on the road to healing if leadership had only told the truth and not tried to cover for Hybels, themselves, and the image of Willow Creek Church.

The current elders have heard in painstaking detail from Hybels’ women victims of how they were groomed and were the victims of his inappropriate sexual advances.  The elders were shocked and forlorn at hearing the real stories — yet they proceeded to communicate only very minimized, sanitized and vague versions of Hybels’ conduct in their last public address on the Hybels scandal.  Most people in the congregation do not know the extent of Bill Hybels’ abuse because the leadership of Willow Creek has refused to tell them.   That is why there are many within Willow that see the women victims and their advocates as complainers who will “never be satisfied.”  In this way, the cover-up has led to the re-victimizing of Hybels’ women victims.  They are now cast as ingrates for all of the elders’ supposed efforts on their behalf.

As long as their true stories remain untold, they seem to be isolated frowny-faces in Willow Creek’s otherwise beaming, camera-ready congregation — the only squeaky wheels in an otherwise well-oiled machine that banked on its reputation as the world’s most publicized well-led church to carry them into the future.

Up until now, the leadership of Willow Creek has in effect deceived the congregation … and the world … by not coming clean and confessing the sins of the founding senior pastor and the senior leaders who protected him.  As a leadership strategy, this approach has clearly not brought healing, as indicated by the trends described above.

Willow Creek’s Unanswered Questions

$$$$$$$$ — Financial Accountability — $$$$$$$

  • Bill Hybels “golden parachute”
    • How much money in the form of tithes and offerings has WCCC committed to paying Bill Hybels after he resigned amid scandal in April of 2018?
    • Who constructed his golden parachute retirement agreement, and when?  Why was there no morality clause in it?  Was it written before or after the elders were confronted with his alleged sexual abuse?  If before, why was it not amended accordingly when multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct?  What is the execution date of that contract?
    • Bill’s golden parachute document should be made public for the congregation to see.  After all, it is their tithes and offerings that are paying him.
  • Insurance, Settlements, and Attorneys
    • How much were the church insurance liability premiums before the scandal broke?  What are the insurance premiums now?
    • How much money has been paid out in settlements because of the Hybels scandal?  I know of one settlement that has occurred and the church has never disclosed it.  Church members have a right to know.
    • How much money has been paid to attorneys since early 2014, the time period when accusations against Bill Hybels were initially brought to the board of elders?
    • How much money is required from weekly offerings to continue to pay Bill Hybels, insurance premiums, and attorneys?
  • Church Debt
    • Willow Creek South Barrington would consistently boast that it does not have any debt, but there is significant debt that has been incurred by the regional campuses.  How much is that debt and how is it structured?

Why would any person in their right mind give another penny to the church without a transparent accounting of the above issues?

Governance Abuses

  • Human Resources and Elder Response Team
    • Over the years, these two departments generated a number of non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) and “banishment letters” (warnings against coming on any Willow Creek campuses accompanied by the threat to involve police).  Those individuals who were especially responsible for these actions are no longer employed at Willow Creek, but they were lauded for their good service as they were exiting their church employment (Huh?!?!).  The extent of these abuses at the direction of Bill Hybels has never been revealed.

Others Are Leading.  Willow Creek Is Not.

  1. The Billy Graham Center held a one day summit in November 2018 calling the church to address sexual violence, harassment, and abuse.  Nancy Beach, a Hybels’ victim, was one of the speakers at this conference.

2. Dallas Theological Seminary held a one day conference in September 2019, entitled, “No More Silence, Hearing and Addressing Sexual Charges in the Church.” Vonda and Scott Dyer addressed the subject of working under the leadership of Bill Hybels, which included his purposeful seductive grooming of Vonda and the demeaning caricatures he made of Scott in an effort to turn Vonda away from her husband.

3. On November 2, 2019, Judson University in Chicagoland will be sponsoring “Restore Chicago, A One Day Conference Restoring Faith In God and the Church.”  Nancy Beach will be speaking.  So will Wade Mullen, an expert on church abuse and cover up.  The third keynote speaker is Julie Roys.  Julie is a Christian investigative reporter known for seeking and uncovering the truth.  Julie is the most recent writer who is shedding necessary light on the Willow Creek scandal through her podcasts and articles.  You can benefit from Julie’s insight at julieroys.com.  By the way, how many Willow Creek elders and senior leaders will be attending this conference which is just minutes from the Willow Creek campus?  Every one of them should be there to learn how to restore faith in God and in their church.

4. And then there is Willow Creek.  What do we hear from Willow Creek leadership on the subject of their own clergy and church abuse?  Crickets.  Zip.  Nada.  That goes for the GLN and GLS too.  No admission of sin.  No confession.  No repentance.  Just marginalization, self-justification, and silence … except for the “can’t we all just get along and move on” pablum.  It is a disgrace.  They know they have blown it.  Otherwise they would be telling the church around the world the “how to’s” of going through such a scandal.  “How To Overcome Bad Leadership” might be the most crucial lesson that Willow, and the Global Leadership Summit, could ever deliver.  But first they have to learn how to do it themselves.

Due Diligence Done BY the WCCC Senior Pastor Candidates?

Lastly, as the Willow community looks to move forward, there is much talk about the vetting of senior pastor candidates.  I believe the two remaining candidates should vet Willow Creek as much or more than they themselves are being vetted.  If the candidates ONLY know and believe what WC leadership tell them regarding the Bill Hybels scandal, then they only know a very sanitized and incomplete version.

The women victims and their advocates are not “going away.”  If the two candidates do not speak with the victims and their advocates (including the bloggers who have written on the subject), they will be making career decisions based on thoroughly incomplete information.  That would be utter foolishness on their part.  Will they listen to the siren of Willow Creek to “come hither” while disregarding any other input other than that of Willow Creek leadership?  If so, they risk being dashed upon the rocks as many who have answered the Willow Creek call before them.

Telling the truth would be so much more productive for everyone concerned.  Then healing can begin.



The Leadership Dilemma at Willow Creek


Image result for tiananmen square

I truly believe that the leaders of Willow Creek are good people.  When the elders met with Bill Hybels’ women victims over the last several months to hear their stories, I believe they were sincerely interested in supporting them.  These women and their advocates sincerely believed that the elders were at last going to tell their stories to the congregation and make things right.  After all, some of the elders wept when they heard their stories, their heads held in their hands.  But something seems to have happened to change the elders’ resolve as they wrote their last update and planned the Reconciliation Service.  

How could they give so much hope to the women victims of Bill Hybels and their advocates that they were going to set the record straight — and then fail to follow through?  What in the world happened during the time between meeting with the women and the elders’ “final public statement” and the Reconciliation Service that wasn’t?


There is no group of people more aware of the details of Bill Hybels’ violations of the women than the new elders of Willow Creek Community Church.  If you have followed the Bill Hybels scandal and its aftermath, you know that the previous board of elders sought repeatedly to meet with the women victims.  They made many overtures to the women, and the women refused to meet with them upon every request.  Why?  Because the women and their advocates didn’t trust them.  The previous group of elders had proven themselves untrustworthy.  Some members of the previous board maligned the women and called them liars.  Some agreed with Bill Hybels, who accused their advocates of colluding against him and wanting to ruin his legacy.  Some defended the work of the first investigation into Mr. Hybels that concluded there was nothing to the allegations.  It’s easy to see why, disillusioned and disheartened, the women at the center of these character attacks wanted nothing more to do with that previous group of elders.

However, those women thought they could trust this present group of elders.  They were led to believe that they would receive a fair hearing.  There was absolutely no … good … reason for Bill Hybels’ victims to tell their stories to the new elders if they thought the elders would present their final conclusions to the congregation in the weak and tepid way that they did.  (Basically, the messaging in that meeting went like this, and I paraphrase:  Done!  Finis! We are finally moving on!  Willow can finally look to the future!)  Nor did those women victims expect the Reconciliation Service to turn into a mere “Can’t We All Just Get Along?” Service.  Their voices were ultimately stifled; the root causes of their torment were left buried under feel-good rhetoric.  No one mentioned sorrow, regret, shame, accountability, or even forgiveness, except in the most general terms.


Let me repeat the sentence with which I began this post.  “I truly believe that the leaders of Willow Creek are good people.”

So the question needs to be asked, “Why is there such a disconnect between who we know the leadership to be and what they said publicly and wrote in their updates?  We have sincere confidence in their characters and their desire to support the women We have been told that every one of them had to possess the character trait of courage to be considered to be chosen as elder in the first place.  Yet we are witnesses to a very awkward, un-courageous, and in the end an unsupportive approach on their part, as evidenced by their bland reporting and final “make nice”overture.

It takes neither a brain surgeon nor a rocket scientist to conclude that there is something else going on behind the scenes.  It has become increasingly obvious that attorneys are ultimately controlling how the Bill Hybels scandal is handled.

Who are these attorneys?  That is the million dollar question.  Up until now, I must confess that I have always thought they were just WC attorneys.  There is no doubt that those folks are engaged in providing guidance.  But I believe that the evidence alluded to above, suggests the involvement of other attorneys as well.

In addition to WC attorneys, it appears to me there are Willow Creek’s insurance company attorneys.  If that assumption is correct, it would explain a lot:

  • Both WCCC and the WCA (GLN) are insured in order to protect their assets.
  • The insurance companies’ attorneys also want to protect their own assets.  
  • The insurance companies’ attorneys do not want to pay out claims unnecessarily.  They only want to pay out claims that fall within their contractual obligations.
  • The insurance companies’ attorneys fiduciary responsibilities are to WCCC and the GLN, not the injured women, nor any other injured parties due to institutional abuse.
  • The insurance companies’ attorneys have not been tasked with “doing the right thing,” or “being transparent.”  They want this whole ugly affair to go away.
  • The insurance companies’ attorneys permit the church and GLN to communicate minimal morsels of transparency (see elders’ “last public statement” update and Reconciliation Service) with the hope that those tidbits will satisfy the women and that the Willow Creek debacle will be over and done with.
  • These insurance companies have no responsibility to protect Bill Hybels personally regarding any of his misconduct.
  • Bill Hybels has his own personal attorneys that are telling him to admit to nothing and to keep his mouth shut.

If I am wrong, I am more than willing to admit my error and apologize.  I welcome WC leaders to confirm or deny the conjecture that I am about to posit — because that would at least contribute to additional transparency on their part.


I believe the leadership of Willow Creek is feeling exceedingly conflicted.  That Reconciliation Service was intended to put the capstone on the Bill Hybels scandal.  The GLS 2019 could then carry on without the cloud of the Bill Hybels scandal over its head.  They were hoping against hope that maybe now the various injured parties would be satisfied.  Oh God, may they be satisfied with our efforts!  But it was not meant to be, and for good reason.

The women and their advocates know how forthcoming they were in telling their stories to the elders.  It was devastating for them to read the final elder update that obfuscated, sanitized, and minimized Bill Hybels’ sin.  And then to hear that the WC leaders unilaterally decided that they are done publicly addressing the scandal?!  How gut-wrenching!  In effect, the women have been re-victimized.  Here is how:

Some folks who only know what they have been told by Willow Creek and the GLN conclude:

  • What is wrong with these women?!
  • What more do they want?!
  • The elders said they were sorry … AGAIN!
  • We even had a Reconciliation Service.
  • They’re just disgruntled women!
  • Dissatisfied jerks!
  • They just want to disrupt the GLS.

I can’t make up these epithets.  They are actual quotes.  The women were victims of Bill Hybels and the Willow machine.  Now they have been labeled as ungrateful complainers that don’t appreciate what the leadership of Willow Creek has done for them.

As a result, all of the original pain felt by these women is now magnified.  

Imagine if you waited for years to speak up about a shocking and shameful injury, because you feared — maybe were even verbally threatened — that public embarrassment and/or financial retribution would be swift and sure.  Imagine that in those years, your peace of mind, your emotional balance, and your career opportunities were badly impacted by your silence. Then you finally confided in someone, who urged you to speak out for the good of others, so that the guilty could be stopped, and others would not be victimized as well.  Imagine the courage it would take for you to speak out — only to be disbelieved, scoffed at and vilified!  How you would retreat in horror as your worst fears came true!  Imagine, then, being given another chance to make your case, this time before a much more receptive power group.  You would certainly hesitate to revisit that awful chapter of your life, to open up old wounds.  Where would you ever find the courage?  But imagine that you finally, recklessly gave in to the urgings of well-meaning supporters who told you “this time it will be different.”  Imagine dredging up the degrading details once more, stating your humiliating story in a way that left you feeling spent and vulnerable all over again.  And all for… what?  For a quick, whitewashed dismissal of your pain?  A final statement that scarcely resembled any true admission of any real wrong-doing, or any acknowledgement of the depths of your personal suffering?  

This was absolutely not the desired outcome by the WC and GLN leadership, nor the insurance attorneys.  But this is what happens when the truth is not told — and the responses are dictated by attorneys in charge of protecting the organization, and not the victims.

This sad scenario appears to describe the behind-the-scenes machinations of a Willow Creek Corporation much more than the steadfast, sacrificial shepherding of the Willow Creek Church.


So what are the executive leaders of WC and the GLN to do?  What are the elders of WC to do?  What are the legal and insurance implications if the aforementioned leadership were to come clean, admit the wrongs, and communicate publicly what many of them know to be true?

The optics of what is happening now at WC are worse than a year ago.  Say what you will about the previous leadership regime and their myriad of mistakes.  At least they were early in the unveiling of this tragedy.  The current leadership of Willow Creek now seems stuck.  It knows even more details regarding this scandal than it ever imagined possible.  Those present in leadership are trying to move their organizations forward, but at the same time they are limited legally as to what they can say in order to bring authentic reconciliation (healing!) to the hurt women, the whole congregation, and the worldwide church of Jesus Christ.

I don’t doubt for a moment that this current group of leaders feel horrible, — that they are conflicted, and that they wish they could do more as the duly chosen elders of WCCC.  But what can they do as long as they feel bound to walk a legal tightrope and constrained to speak with one insipid voice?


Who does each of us ultimately answer to?  There are numerous examples of courageous men and women in Scripture that risked their lives to do the right thing.  Here are a few:

  • Peter and John were brought before the religious leaders of the day and told to keep their mouths shut.  The Sanhedrin “… commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John replied,  ” Acts 4:18-20
  • There were three young men who refused to obey a king in favor of their God,  “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
  • In order to stave off the evil plot of Haman to destroy the Jews, Mordecai conferred with Queen Esther, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” Esther 4:14.  Queen Esther knew the law.  She could be executed if she went before the king apart from an invitation to do so.  She made her decision, “… I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16.  Queen Esther risked her life to tell the truth of the underhanded plot to exterminate the Jews.  She did the right thing and trusted God with the consequences of her actions.
  • Nathan the prophet did not shrink back to declare to King David, “You are the man,” II Samuel 12:7. And then Nathan proceeded to recount David’s sins … one after another after another.  Thankfully, David was humble enough to admit that he sinned against the Lord.

These scriptural examples of uncompromising truth-tellers should make each of us wonder:  what is my role when sin has gone undiagnosed and unchallenged in my local body of believers?  To what lengths should I be willing to stand up for victims, and help them gain restitution, while holding the powerful accountable?  How will my condoning silence ever serve to bless this ministry and help it to grow in the way that God intends?

Make no mistake.  There is a price to pay when you do the right thing in the face of intimidation.  Yes, you could lose your job.  Yes, you could lose a ministry.  There could be people that would be really mad at you.  You will be misunderstood by some people, no matter what.  But you will have the peace of knowing that you did the right thing.  Paul said it clearly, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Every one of us struggles with fear.  What if … ?  We fill in the blank with all sorts of scenarios.  God’s words to Joshua when he was faced with the monumental task of leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land are true and reassuring for each of us as well,



A Deep Divide Remains At Willow Creek. How Come?

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[author’s note:  I have purposely not written about Willow Creek for a year because I wanted to give its leadership room to navigate through their scandal.  It appears that they believe they are done.  Here are my initial thoughts.]

The new WCCC board of elders made their self-proclaimed “last public statement” regarding the Bill Hybels scandal on July 19, 2019.  These same elders conducted a Reconciliation and Reflection Service on Tuesday evening July 23, 2019 to put this painful chapter of the church’s history in the rear view mirror.  Bill Hybels’ name was NEVER mentioned … not once.  The women’s names … not one of them … were ever mentioned.  Bill’s sins were never mentioned.  But … there were lots of Bible verses quoted.  And there was much emotion expressed by the elders.  So what was the outcome?

Almost everyone heartily applauded and rose to their feet to affirm the efforts of these Willow Creek leaders on Tuesday night.  There was the sense of FINALITY.  We’re moving on!  In fact, the second half of the service was dedicated to Willow Creek’s future and the Global Leadership Summit on August 8-9.

The great majority of the 1100 people who attended that service were happy, satisfied, content, hopeful, and ready to move on.  Yet there was NOT ONE of the impacted women and NOT ONE of their advocates that felt the same way?  Rather, the sentiments that they expressed were:

  • beyond disappointed
  • nauseated
  • stunned
  • devastated
  • [my] hope evaporated

How in the world could there be such divergent reactions by groups of people who read the same exact elder update and experienced the same exact reconciliation service?!?!?


Let me illustrate.  Imagine you read a newspaper article about a guy who was caught speeding.  The article states that he was going 90mph in a 45mph zone.   In fact, this guy received a speeding ticket for $1,000, and because he hit some people while he was speeding, his license was taken away!  Most people reading that article would think, “Wow! 90 in a 45!  That’s fast!   He deserves that $1,000 fine.  He hit some people?  Yep, he probably should have had his license taken away?”  And then they move on to read the next article of interest.

But there is another group of people, those who were hit and hurt by the speeder as well as those who were witnesses to their injuries.  This group of people was disappointed because the article fell woefully short of telling the whole story.  The drunk driver’s victims told the newspaper reporter important details that were left out of the article!

Same article:  two totally different reactions.


Stick with me here.  Continuing with the illustration, the people who were hit and hurt by the speeder know more details that were not reported by the newspaper.

  • They know that he has a history of speeding.
  • They know he was drunk at the time he was caught speeding.
  • They know he had been cited several times before for driving under the influence.
  • They know that it was a hit and run accident.  This driver fled the scene of the accident.
  • They know that one person that the driver hit almost lost her life.
  • They know that others were so injured they couldn’t work and lost significant income.
  • They know that when he was caught he denied that he was drunk.
  • They know he denied that he ever hit anybody.
  • They know that he refused to take a sobriety test.
  • They know that when the police called him in to be questioned, he refused to come in and answer any questions.
  • In fact, they know he fled the state, and no one can find him.

There was NOTHING that was technically inaccurate in the newspaper article.  The offender was guilty of speeding excessively and some people were injured.  The man was fined and lost his license.  That is all true!  

Returning to the Willow Creek tragedy, the impacted women are not “disgruntled and they will never be satisfied,” as some low-information folks conclude.  No!  100x NO!  They are upset and disappointed with what was neglected to be reported because the omitted details whitewash the story!

  • They know that Bill Hybels had a history of grooming and preying upon women.
  • They know that he continued his predatory practices as late as 2017.
  • They know that it was so serious he was most recently grooming a woman many years younger than his own daughter.
  • They know that in the case of one of Bill Hybels’ victims, her life was virtually ruined because of Bill’s treatment of her.
  • They know that another of Bill’s victims lost significant income because churches believed the initial lies publicly told about her and wouldn’t hire her.
  • They know that their reputations were falsely trashed at the Family Meetings in March 2018.
  • They know that Bill destroyed evidence in order to cover his tracks.
  • They know that he had his “lieutenants” at Willow Creek carry out his abusive leadership bidding.
  • They know that non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) and banishment letters were issued for image management purposes.
  • etc. etc. etc.


The women whistle blowers and their advocates are upset, disappointed and unsatisfied because they see that the pursuit of image management by the leadership of Willow appears to be more important than accurately reporting what has transpired over these past several years with regards to the investigation of Bill Hybels.  It is sanitized reporting.  In the Elder Update — July 19, 2019, the elders refer to:

  • “the events made public in March 2018”  =   the biggest scandal in the church’s history
  • the new elders wanted to “listen, learn, and apologize”  —  Is that all that is involved in reconciliation?  No.  There is confession, repentance, restitution …
  • “individuals who raised concerns regarding our senior pastor”  =  Bill Hybels’ victims and their advocates wanted the elders to investigate and address a pattern of grievous sin on the part of the senior pastor of WCCC who was also the founder of the WCA (now GLN).
  • Regarding Bill Hybels, “he has chosen not to engage in dialogue at this time”  =  he has chosen to neither defend his actions nor to confess them to be sin and ask for forgiveness.  Instead, he has gone dark.
  • The elders called on Bill “to repent where necessary.” —  That statement could be said about every human being alive!  We don’t know where he needs to repent?  He determines where he needs to repent?

I do want to give some credit to the new board of elders for their efforts to date.  They have gone further than any of the previous investigations.  Their apologies to Menlo Church and Compassion International were definitely steps in the right direction, but these are painful baby steps they are taking.  By not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, this sordid affair in Willow Creek’s history goes on … and on … and on.  To me, it feels like the IAG Report said that the women were right and we’re sorry.  And it feels like this latest elder update concludes that the women were really right and we’re really sorry.

Willow Creek leadership has refused to engage a third party organization with expertise in clergy abuse to investigate this scandal at every turn.  This request has been repeatedly posed by Bill Hybels’ accusers, their advocates, and many bloggers.  The answer has always come back:  No.  No.  No.  Why not?!  I am not aware of any good reason given by Willow Creek leadership for refusing this request.  Could it be that their refusal is by design?  If a truly independent third party clergy abuse expert is omitted from the process of discovering and reporting the truth, it would be much easier for WC and the GLS to control the narrative portrayed to the church and to the world.  Willow Creek is reaping the fruit of this misguided decision.


Are there NO ACTIONS that the elders can and should take against Bill Hybels?  Of course there are.  The elders should publicly:

  • Remove him from membership at WCCC due to his unwillingness to engage with the leadership of the church regarding his sinful conduct.
  • Take away his ordination as a minister of the gospel because of his unrepentant pattern of sinful conduct.

In addition,

  • The elders should have gained the approval of their written update and the content of the Reconciliation service from the women victims of Bill Hybels before proceeding.  That would have shown genuine care for their well-being.  All future public communications should have their approval.  (FYI, I have received the approval of Vonda Dyer and Betty Schmidt to publish this piece.)
  • The elders should publicly thank the women victims and their advocates for coming forward!  And the elders should publicly state and make perfectly clear that the main reason the women victims and advocates came forward in the first place was to protect potential future victims from Bill Hybels.  They recognized that Bill’s grooming and preying upon women was a pattern of sin that continued over decades.  In fact, the latest incident that came to light occurred AFTER the initial investigation back in 2015-2016 that found him innocent of all charges.
  • Willow Creek Community Church should support Pat Baranowski financially for the rest of her life.  Bill Hybels’ treatment of her in the late 80’s has negatively impacted her ability to support herself adequately since then.  The elders know all of the horrific details from their 2 1/2 hours with Pat.
  • Willow Creek Community Church should make appropriate financial restitution to Vonda Dyer for wages lost due to the spreading of lies about her and injuring her reputation by both the church and the WCA (GLN).  The elders know about all of the slander and the lengths that the WCA went to to discredit Vonda.


There are three probable reasons for the elders’ lack of transparency regarding Bill Hybels.

First, they have decided / concluded that they can’t tell the congregation the true details of the women’s experiences with Bill because his offenses are so bad that if the congregation (and the world) knew those details, there would be even more ministry fall out from those revelations.   Their reluctance to report fully is an effort to perform damage control.

Second, it is thought by many that attorneys are behind the scenes determining what can and cannot be put in writing as well as what is said from the main stage.  There is a fear that if certain magic words are spoken or written by the leadership, it will open up the church to all kinds of lawsuits.

Third, there is the distinct impression that image management and protecting the Willow Creek brand is more important than telling the truth and making things right with the women victims.


The truth is:  nowhere near Willow Creek.  Instagram informs us that he is living the good life, enjoying sailing, fishing and sunsets on the water with family and friends.  Bill told the congregation at Willow Creek over and over how much he loved them and that Willow would always be his church home.  But he can’t be found.

Is this what a great leader does?

  • A great leader refuses to admit his own wrongdoing?
  • A great leader lies and blames whistle-blowers?
  • A great leader grooms and seduces women who are not his wife?
  • A great leader refuses to engage in conversation over a scandal of which he is the central figure?
  • A great leader slinks into luxurious obscurity while the organizations he claimed to love continue to suffer from the effects of his longstanding egregious conduct?
  • A great leader lets the organizations he founded suffer unnecessarily because he refuses to come forward and set the record straight?


You will not hear the name of Bill Hybels — The Global Leadership Network wants to distance itself from its founder, creator, and its #1 driver.  Why?  Because they know how toxic that name is, and the hope is attenders and speakers will begin to disassociate the GLS from Mr. Hybels.

You will probably not hear the words: 

  • Narcissist
  • (NPD) Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Sexual abuse
  • Abuse of power
  • Bully
  • Scandal
  • Grooming
  • Gas-lighting
  • Victims
  • Re-victimization

There’s a good chance people would associate these words with Bill Hybels and ask themselves, “How does Willow Creek and the GLN think it is qualified to teach the world how to lead?!”  Now THAT is a very good question.

You will not hear plenary sessions or workshops on:

  • “How A Church Board Can Hold An Abusive Narcissistic Leader Accountable,”
  • “How to Identify A Narcissistic Leader,”
  • “Mistakes We Made In the Bill Hybels Scandal and How You Can Avoid Them” 
  • “How To Lead Your Church Through a Leadership Scandal”
  • A panel discussion by whistle blowers:  “What We Can Learn From Church Leaders that Uncover Hidden and Destructive Sin In The Church”

If the Global Leadership Network really wanted to help churches and organizations, these sessions would be high on their agenda.  But no such talks will be heard because again, GLN leadership can’t take the chance that people might associate those talks with the founder of the GLS.

Willow Creek and the GLN appear to have their top priority to keep up the image that they are a paragon of care and virtue and supporters of women and the premier experts on leadership.  Any mention of character, humility or integrity will never be illustrated with the person of Bill Hybels.  Way too toxic.  Nothing to see here.  Let’s move on.


  • self-congratulatory remarks about how many people are attending
  • how many host sites that are broadcasting
  • how many countries they are in
  • how great an impact the GLS is having all around the world.

The unspoken message is that the GLN and GLS are too big to fail.  It is huge and beautiful and strong.  They will never ever again admit publicly that it has been built on the clay feet of Bill Hybels.


Do you think that in this day and age of #MeToo and #ChurchToo that they would be so quick to lend their names to GLS 2019?  I’m not so sure.  And there lies the dilemma:  Do we continue to protect the brand or do we come fully clean with regards to our founder?  I think we have been given our answer.


The great majority of people who attend Willow Creek Community Church as regular attenders only know what the elders and other senior leaders have told them.  That is a problem.

In the end, this undercurrent of unaddressed and under-reported issues is the single biggest cause of the leadership’s failure to achieve their cherished goals of reconciliation, relationship healing and the regeneration of the Willow Creek ministry.  It is not the fault of the women accusers.  It is not the fault of their advocates.  It is not the fault of bloggers.  It is not the fault of any of the peripheral participants, past or present.  It is the fault of the Willow Creek leadership which continues to fail to be transparent with the congregation.  Claiming to be transparent in emails or from the stage doesn’t make it so.  Their lack of transparency is the source of the deep divide that still exists at Willow Creek.  Hopefully the elders will realize this and rethink their proclamation that their most recent update was their last on the subject of the Bill Hybels scandal.

I end this piece with a quote from Julie Roys and an experience she had with an attender at the Reconciliation Service.

As I was leaving Willow last night, a kind woman approached me and asked what I thought of the meeting. I returned the question, and she said she thought it was wonderful and gave closure to the painful events of last year.

Then I took off my reporter hat and expressed that I was disappointed that the elders didn’t tell the women’s stories in detail. And as Beach suggested in a post in March, I told her I believed that the church should consider giving two alleged victims—Pat Baranowski (Hybels’ former assistant) and Vonda Dyer—some sort of financial compensation for the lost income they suffered as a result of Hybels’ alleged actions.

The woman expressed surprise. She said she didn’t realize the women had suffered financial loss. I encouraged her to read more blogs.

It would be wonderful … for everyone … if the leadership of Willow Creek reported thoroughly on the Bill Hybels scandal.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.


Scroll through their blogs for the posts regarding Willow Creek

  • Nancy Beach — nancylbeach.com/blog
  • Dr. Jim Bedell — drj1952.com
  • Vonda Dyer — vondadyer.weebly.com/blog
  • Dr. Scott McKnighthttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/
  • Julie Roys — julieroys.com
  • Betty Schmidt — veritasbetold.wixsite.com/website
  • Rob Speight — robsp82.com  — 

This list is not exhaustive.  And some of these leaders can be found on twitter.


Please be Advised:
Comments have been turned on to allow for respectful dialogue between readers on both sides of the issue. Comments may or may not be responded to by the author of such blog but will be moderated in such a way to provide a safe place for open and honest dialogue. Any comment that would hinder an open, honest, and respectful dialogue will be removed. Thank You for your cooperation.


Resignations at Willow Creek:  It’s a Start


Don’t get me wrong.  Heather Larson and the elders resigning on Wednesday night, August 8, 2018 was a big step forward for the women and Willow Creek.  And I am grateful to God that they did so.  But there is still much work to be done.  There are lots of difficult challenges and choices ahead for Steve Gillen as the interim lead pastor.  We are grateful that he authentically gave hope to Willow Creek this weekend.

Devastating Congregational Damage That Needs Repair

One of my first concerns after Bill Hybels resigned and the mantle of ultimate leadership was passed officially to the elders was for the welfare of the congregation.  I attended the first “family meeting” when Bill and the elders declared all allegations against him as lies.  I watched as the congregation breathed a collective sigh of relief standing to their feet, applauding Bill and the elders for a job well done in handling these unwarranted accusations.  Less than three weeks later, the founding pastor of the 42 year old iconic ministry called Willow Creek resigned.  In effect, he has not been heard from since in the ensuing 4 months, except to deny any and all additional charges leveled against him by other women.  Tragic.

I wrote an email to the elders immediately following Bill Hybels’ resignation on April 13, 2018 entitled “An Appeal.”  In it, I sought to warn the elders of the potential congregational devastation that would occur on their watch if they did not humble themselves, come clean and tell the truth immediately.  Below is a short excerpt from that email.  I strongly suggest you read the entire second email.  I wrote to the elders:

You have thousands of people in the congregation that ONLY know what you have told them.  They believe you.  They are on your side in your public portrayal of the events. …

How devastated will those defenders of Bill be if the truth lies in options 2, 3, or 4?  Then, not only is Bill guilty of abusing his power with women, now he and you have perpetuated a lie.

We are now experiencing this congregational devastation in full bloom.  On Wednesday evening I witnessed people in every stage of grief when Heather Larson and the elders resigned.  


I heard the Denial when congregants yelled, “No!” at Heather’s announcement that she would step down.  Hundreds, if not thousands of the faithful, have kept their heads down, serving as always, trusting, believing, hoping that Heather and the elders had and were handling the Willow tragedy well.  Wednesday evening’s confessions and apologies were a shock to thousands who trusted their leaders.

More than one person expressed their Anger towards me for what I have written.  I sat with advocates for the women at the Wednesday evening Family Meeting.  We were verbally attacked when the meeting was over, being told, “I hope your group is happy now.”  Our group happy?!  I was flabbergasted.  Certainly this individual should know better!  I told her that this was not about groups.  This was about the women and the future of the church.  No apology came our way.  Rather, a retort that “this has been so divisive,” a thinly veiled reference that the women’s advocates have caused this division. She did not see that it was Bill Hybels and Heather Larson and the elders who were at the very core of this congregational division.  The women and their advocates have simply been God’s whistleblowers!

Hundreds, if not a thousand folks, stayed in the auditorium after the resignations to talk and support one another in impromptu small gatherings, to use Kubler-Ross terminology Bargaining with one another.  A healthy and beneficial exercise to make sense of it all.

Others I know, didn’t even come to the meeting, feeling too Depressed, feeling overwhelmed and helpless as to what they viewed as inevitable.

And then there was a contingent of folks who received the news of the resignations with Acceptance.  They knew that this was necessary for the church to move forward.  They knew Willow needed a fresh start with new leadership. They embraced; they shook hands heartily, rejoicing that Wednesday evening was a very good FIRST step for the women and for Willow Creek.

Admittedly, I was a part of this last group.  But I also recognize that NOW the hard work starts.  And much work needs to be done.


Before moving forward, the congregation needs to become unified again.  I believe this is job #1 for Steve Gillen.  The divisions are horrible.  Bill and Heather and the elders are the reasons for this division.  I believe that Mr. Gillen needs to communicate the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God.  As difficult as some of the truth is, the truth is what the congregation needs.  There has been so much misinformation shared from the stage and through the Willow website.  Most in the congregation have counted on these outlets to be their sources of “truth.”

That which has been confessed by our former Lead Pastor and former elders needs to be reiterated to those in the congregation that still refuse to believe that what happened on Wednesday evening was anything other than a railroad job.  The congregation must understand that Heather and the elders were not forced out of leadership for no reason. They earned it.  And their resignations were absolutely the right thing to do for the sake of the women and for the welfare of the church.

Mr. Gillen needs to help the congregation navigate through the five messy fluid stages of grief until there is an overall sense of ACCEPTANCE within the congregation.  Each of the stages is represented by thousands for those who call Willow Creek their church home.

More Confessions To Come

Yes, the elders misrepresented the women.  Yes, the elders misrepresented the former beloved leaders of Willow who became the women’s advocates.  Yes, they did poor investigations.  Yes, they did not hold Bill accountable well.  Yes, Bill is guilty of more than lingering hugs.  Yes, Bill lied.  Yes, Bill is unrepentant.  Yes, the WCA slandered Vonda.  Yes, the WCA echoed the false narrative of the elders.  These are but samples of what Heather and the elders and Tom De Vries have admitted to.  The yeses are many … but there are unfortunately more.

Throughout the almost 5 months of public discourse on Willow’s tragedy, other significant concerns have been raised.  Rightfully, nobody has wanted to detract from the main focus, the women’s claims of sexual harassment at the hands of Bill Hybels.  As the confessions and apologies to the women by Willow leadership are now taking place, it is imperative that these other significantly dark issues also be transparently addressed prior to Willow being able to move forward in a healthy manner.  

Steve, here is a sampling of issues that we need addressed, and where sin is in the camp, it needs to be rooted out:

  • Non-Disclosure agreements (NDA’s) — severance for silence, separation packages for silence.  I am aware of a Willow employee as recently as a month ago who “disappeared,” and has just surfaced stating that she can’t say anything due to a legal agreement with Willow Creek Community Church.  The history and cost of NDA’s to the parishioners of Willow Creek needs to be revealed.  ALL NDA’S NEED TO BE DECLARED NULL AND VOID so the ugly truths behind them will be revealed and so that history will not repeat itself.
  • Who / What departments have been behind NDA’s?  Did the Elder Response Team (ERT) play a role in these?  Was Human Resources complicit in administering these?  Were there particular individuals that spearheaded the dismissiveness and dismissals of Willow staff?
  • Requests made by Steve Carter that the elders were not able to accommodate?  Missy Rasmussen referenced these in her statement Wednesday evening.  What were those requests, and why couldn’t the elders accommodate them?
  • Who is the outside, independent governance expert that you have engaged?  Please be specific. Remember:  transparency!
  • What about former elder Rob Campbell whose current role is the pastor of Willow Chicago?  Rob was instrumental in the initial investigations of Bill when he was the elder board chairman.  He was on stage at the first family meetings giving testimony and color around the investigations that declared Bill’s innocence.  What is his culpability?
  • How much money has Willow spent on legal fees and outside marketing addressing investigations into Bill Hybels as well as constructing NDA’s?  The congregation has a right to know.  It has been their tithes and offerings that have financed these bad ideas and cover-ups.
  • What financial separation agreements did Bill andonion Heather receive?  Severance packages?  Pensions that the congregation will be paying on for years to come?!? 

Steve, there are many layers to this onion that must be peeled away.  Think: transparency.


Heather stated, “God has helped to give us a clear plan, and we have asked Steve Gillen to step in as interim lead pastor to set up the new pastoral team.” 

When a leader resigns due to failing to lead well, that leader does not get to set a plan for the future of the organization.  

Everyone hopes that Steve will lead the church well through this transition, but it is not clear what it means when Heather states that Steve will “set up the new pastoral team.”  Has he been assigned to choose the new elders?  Is it his duty to find a new Lead Pastor/Teacher?

Will a search committee for a new senior pastor of WCCC be formed?  Please describe the process that you will employ to select a new senior pastor.

By way of reminder, may I also encourage the review of all the ministries at Willow prior to seeking a new senior pastor.  Please see more detail in my post, “For Willow Creek to Survive …” 

The first step towards Willow Creek recovering was taken on Wednesday evening, 08/08/18.  It was a big step, a necessary step. There are many more steps to be taken. May we do so humbly, wisely and transparently, depending fully on the Savior who redeemed us and desires to heal our church beyond what we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).  We can only hope.


Please be Advised:
Comments have been turned on to allow for respectful dialogue between readers on both sides of the issue. Comments may or may not be responded to by the author of such blog but will be moderated in such a way to provide a safe place for open and honest dialogue. Any comment that would hinder an open, honest, and respectful dialogue will be removed. Thank You for your cooperation.


For Willow Creek To Survive . . .

The tragedy of Willow Creek continues to unfold before our very eyes.  And it is beyond tragic.  But there is hope!  Can it survive?  I believe it can.   Here is how:

Remember, Bill Hybels’ sin does not negate God’s work in and through Willow Creek.

Some wrongfully conclude that because the dark underbelly of Bill Hybels has come to light, the entire 42 year ministry of Willow Creek has been negated and its foundation was built on sand.  I don’t believe that is true.  The gospel has been preached over the years at Willow.  Thousands have responded by faith to the redemption that Christ offers.  Thousands at Willow Creek serve one another and the community weekly in Christ’s name.  My opinion:  gradually over time, as Bill’s stature increased nationally and on the global stage so did his propensity towards narcissism and his abuse of power.

Gradually, the worship of the ‘80’s and 90’s was replaced with the stage performances of the 2000’s and beyond.  Willow needs worship leaders that will usher us into the presence of God, worship leaders that know where we live in our daily lives and who have spent time in God’s presence themselves.  Think:  Joe Horness.

Additionally, Willow has always struggled with the proper emphasis of Scripture in weekend services.  I thought this issue was on its way to being solved with the REVEAL study 10 years ago when it was clearly revealed that Creekers wanted to be taught more Bible!  There was an improvement made, but gradually over time there has been a digression back to giving talks with only verses interspersed to support the talk’s topic. We need to first and foremost teach Scripture from the pulpit and show how it applies to our daily lives.  Scripture can be trusted to impact us.  “For the Word of God is alive and powerful.  It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12 — Think:  Don Cousins

The message of forgiveness through Christ has always been true, no matter the messenger.  The revelation of Bill’s corruption does NOT negate God’s work in and through those who call Willow Creek their church home.  

Heather Larson and the elders must resign now!

It is incomprehensible that the elders of the past 5 years allowed / encouraged / charged Bill Hybels to pick his own successor while he was under investigation for sexual misconduct.  What organization does that?  No organization, unless it is one that is run by an exceedingly powerful narcissist who has hand-picked his own lieutenants to do his bidding.  If secular companies would avoid such a grievous error, how much more a Christian church that is charged with reflecting the person of Christ?  Bill Hybels picked a woman to be the lead pastor who worked alongside him as executive pastor for years, Heather Larson.

Heather Larson has betrayed herself continually since the very first “Family Meeting” on Friday evening, March 23, 2018 after the first Chicago Tribune article alleging misconduct on the part of Bill Hybels.  In her introduction that evening, Heather alluded to a time some five years previous when she was warned to “get out of Willow Creek.” My first immediate thought: that statement was not vetted by Mr. Hybels! 

What did those people know that was so nefarious that Heather Larson should get out of Willow Creek?

She proceeded to say that God had given her peace about remaining at Willow.  And she went on to describe that the evening was designed not to attempt to change people’s minds.  They simply wanted to give information from the perspectives of the elders and Bill Hybels.

I was surprised that the elders called another Family Meeting to be held on Monday, March 26, 2018 … that meeting was videotaped and posted.  I watched Heather’s Monday introduction with great interest.  Would she mention the warning that she received some 5 years previous that she did not heed?  Nope.  No mention of the warning.  And gone was the unbiased introduction.  Rather she staunchly stated that she supported the elders’ investigatory conclusions.

She has continued the narrative of defending the elders and Bill … until she no longer did.  I will not recount her missteps here.  Others have done so repeatedly.  I don’t know how many ways and times I and others can call for Heather’s and the elders’ resignations for the good of the church.  

I must insert an update here:  While completing the writing of this post, an “Investigation Update” arrived via email from Heather Larson [8/6/2018 1:40PM], explaining the latest quest by Heather and the elders to investigate the women’s claims of abuse. The first thing I noticed was the lack of any mention of collaboration and/or approval by the women regarding this 5th investigation.  I checked to see if the women were aware of these new investigation plans?

Answer:  No.  They had told the elders that they had botched the last four investigations and while the private investigator came up with no victims nor evidence, Christianity Today, The Chicago Tribune and New York Times had no problem finding both.  The women have asked the elders to do the right thing and apologize immediately to all of the women and their advocates for slander, lies, and collusion.

My call for Heather’s and the elders’ resignations stands.

If . . . IF . . . she and the elders are more interested in the church’s future than their own, they would confess their miserable performance and resign.  

I have heard from many many Creekers who privately state that Heather and the elders ought resign.  Would that they now share their voices publicly.  

Our Great Healer

Creekers, Heather and the elders will listen to you, but you must speak up.  They equate your silence to agreement with them.  Speak up for your church’s future.

To Scot McKnight’s point, a transitionary leadership team could be assembled to provide the necessary guidance to move Willow into the future without Heather and the current elders — a little more on this below.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalms 34: 18 

May the abused not lose heart.

Willow Creek Must Put Bill Hybels Behind Them

Everyone agrees that so much pain and shame and confusion could be / could have been avoided if Bill Hybels humbled himself, confessed his wrongdoings and repented.  Unfortunately, as Dr. Jim Bedell has expertly explained, narcissism is one of the most difficult psychological disorders to overcome.  The narcissist’s narcissism keeps him from admitting wrongdoing.

To wait and hope for Bill’s confession is most likely a vain wish.  It is probably not going to happen.  How many women have to come forward?  How many psychologically damaged and bullied ex-staff of Willow have to reopen old wounds for Bill to confess his power-mongering?  The number is irrelevant.  Odds are … he ain’t confessing.

As is true for Heather Larson and the elders, if Bill cared so deeply for the church, he would see the damage he is causing and come clean, for the good of the church.  Unfortunately, he has only expressed care for himself and his own self-protection.

So Willow must move on without Bill’s confession.

Willow Creek Must Evaluate Every Ministry

Before Willow secures another senior pastor, EVERY ministry needs to be reevaluated. Does it reflect the heart and mandates of Christ in Scripture?  Or does it reflect the person of Bill Hybels and his personal interests?  This must be done honestly and without bias.  This evaluation cannot be administered by the faint of heart.  It must be ruthlessly performed.

Are there ministries that should receive less emphasis, more emphasis, eliminated, added?  Example: for 42 years, Willow has needed a ministry to effectively follow up and nurse the hundreds of new Christians that are born into the family of God each year. Should such a ministry be a priority in Willow’s future?  My opinion: Absolutely!

Only when these questions are answered is it wise to choose a new senior pastor. Willow must find a senior pastor that aligns with the church’s future vision.

The Willow Creek Association Must Go Back To Its Roots

In the beginning, the WCA sought primarily to reinvigorate church leaders with Scriptural principles along with Christian business people who lived out their faith in the marketplace.  But it has migrated over time to primarily hear from business people and their secular leadership practices that church leaders should take back to their churches.

The WCA is getting it backwards.  The church is intended to influence business with Christian principles for the glory of Christ, rather than business to primarily influence the Christian church with marketplace ideas.  We want the church to look more like Christ rather than Facebook or Ford.

Another recommendation for the GLS:  church and ministry leaders need to be honest with themselves.  Bigger and bigger can be intoxicating and seductive.  It is not difficult to claim that it is all for God’s glory, but in our private honest moments we would have to admit it is for our own glory.  The necessity for ruthless honesty and accountability within our ranks has never been greater. 

Are you taking regular contemplative looks in the mirror?

Are you inviting others to bravely speak into your life?

We have seen where neglecting these necessary personal evaluations can lead.  These are not optional. They are necessities going forward.

A Transitionary Leadership Team Must Be Put Into Place that also includes a Governance Policy Overhaul with Outside Accountability

Scot McKnight has called for this multiple times.  I am confident that there are national Christian leaders who would lend their wisdom and expertise in aiding a sister church in its quest to corporately repent of its sin and to move forward to reflect Christ to a world that desperately needs Him.

Additionally, a governance policy for independent Willow Creek Community Church must be put into place that would include outside accountability so that the tragedy we are experiencing will never again be repeated.

Don’t give up on Willow Creek, everyone.  I haven’t.

* * * * * * *

Please be Advised:
Comments have been turned on to allow for respectful dialogue between readers on both sides of the issue. Comments may or may not be responded to by the author of such blog but will be moderated in such a way to provide a safe place for open and honest dialogue. Any comment that would hinder an open, honest, and respectful dialogue will be removed. Thank You for your cooperation.

A Live “Acknowledgement” at the Global Leadership Summit


WC Elephant in the RoomP.S.  DON’T FORGET THE ELEPHANTS  

* * * * * * *

“He who heeds discipline shows the way of life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.”   Proverbs 10:17

I have become aware of some disturbing news about the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) 2018, and how it will be kicked off.

The WCA has made the decision to make a “live acknowledgement” approximately 10 minutes prior to Session #1 on August 9, 2018.  The webinar that described this announcement was directed to the host site producers and tech staff of the GLS.

The Summit is God’s Event

By way of introduction, the following statement was made on the webinar:

“First off, the Summit is God’s event.  It’s always been God’s event, not about one person.  So it’s not something that we felt the ministry had to pause for a year.”

This statement is fraught with troublesome issues.  Several inferences are obvious:

  • The WCA is reassuring the host sites that remain that they are participating in an event that belongs to God.
  • At the same time, the WCA implies that the host sites that have pulled out of the GLS have made a mistake by choosing to not participate in this event because it belongs to God.
  • By ascribing God’s name to and ownership of the GLS, one is not permitted to argue against it.  It compares to the age old dilemma posed by “that” friend who would say to you, “God told me . . . (and then fill in the blank).“  If God told that person something, then the conversation ends.  One can’t debate or question that which is of God.
  • The WCA falsely concludes that because the GLS belongs to God, they must automatically hold the event this year.
  • It could well be argued that if indeed the GLS is God’s event, the WCA ought to hit the pause button this year!  After all, God is the Defender of the oppressed.  The women have been oppressed at the hands of the powerful.  First, by Bill Hybels, and more recently by the leadership of Willow Creek.  Until the truth is revealed regarding the women’s claims, would it not be wise for the WCA to err on the side of caution and on behalf of the women who claim personal violation?
  • It is technically true that the GLS is “not about one person.”  But:

○ That one person originated the GLS.

○ That one person traveled the world representing the GLS.

○ That one person was the face of the GLS.

○ That one person was looked to by all other WCA senior leadership to give them their marching orders.

○ That one person raised untold millions of dollars for the WCA and GLS.

○ That one person’s own star power attracted other stars to participate in the GLS.

○ It is this same one person’s inappropriate conduct (while traveling globally on behalf of the WCA & GLS) with women (not his wife) that is at the center of the biggest scandal in the 26 year history of this iconic ministry.

No one but no one would ever say, “Michael Jordan was just one player on the Chicago Bulls.”  Technically true, but it would be disingenuous.  Michael Jordan was the Chicago Bulls.  And so it is also true:  Bill Hybels was Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association and the GLS.  His fingerprints cover, and his DNA permeates every aspect of these ministries.

Transparency and Criticism

The WCA communicated to host site leaders that they have valued transparency, but they feel that transparency has resulted in them being criticized.  So, to avoid more criticism, they are keeping this “live acknowledgement” secret right up until the last possible minute.

First, this conviction that the WCA has been transparent, as stated in the webinar, contradicts what I have heard from the women.  I have spoken to the women and I believe their testimonies that the WCA’s claims to previous transparency are not true.

I wrote an entire email to the WCA pleading for clear (transparent) communication (Email 6).  When something is transparent, it is clearly seen. When words are transparent, the meaning behind those words are clearly understood. The WCA has not communicated clearly.  They have not been transparent.

Second, the WCA feels that they have been criticized.  I submit that the WCA has not been criticized.  Criticism has no redeeming value.  Criticism is a put down.  Criticism makes the recipient feel smaller.  What I and several others have sought to do in communicating with the WCA (and elders) is to instruct, give advice, admonish, correct. Correction has great redeeming value . . . if received and acted upon.  When words of correction and admonishment are NOT received humbly and processed by those to whom they are directed, those same words are often viewed as criticism by the receivers of those words.

“Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.”   Proverbs 9:9 (NLT)

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.”  Proverbs 12:15 (RSV)

Third, it appears the WCA thinks they will again be “criticized.”  This time, for their “live acknowledgement.”  May I assure the WCA that:

  • There is no time like the present to announce their sorrow over how the women have been treated.
    • Apologize specifically to the women for each of the false accusations uttered against them.
    • Since you cannot prove Bill’s innocence, show immediate concern and compassion for the women as secular corporations have done.  Note:  you can only do this if the WCA and GLS have truly separated themselves from Bill Hybels’ influence as well as devotion to and communication with him.
  • They do not have to wait until August 9 to apologize to the women for any communications that have gone to other parts of the world supporting the elders’ initial narratives of Bill’s innocence and the women’s lies, and the former leaders’ collusion.  
    • Apologize in full for exporting Bill’s and Willow Creek’s narrative as truth to your global leaders.
    • Apologize for sending sales teams into the field to reassure WCA partners with that same false narrative.
  • They do not have to wait to announce they agree that a totally independent third party investigator with expertise in clergy abuse is needed to find out the truth behind this sordid affair.  
    • STAND UP AND DEMAND a gold standard investigation into all of Bill Hybels’ actions OUTSIDE of any construct from the WCA or Willow elders or Willow attorneys.  
    • Then let the outcome stand on its own merit.

These announcements could be made TODAY.  And there would not be a word of “criticism” from those who want to know the truth.

But it does not appear the “acknowledgement” will include any such thing.  If it did, it would be wise and advisable to make the acknowledgement NOW.  

As a former staff person from Willow Creek has communicated:

Willow’s leaders need a total commitment to discover truth and then do what’s right. They can do that anytime.  If they think the women are obstructing or lying, they should say it.  This can’t be (and shouldn’t be portrayed as — tho’ it will) a ‘negotiation’ between two ‘sides.’  It’s not about a ‘list.’  It’s about a will-to-truth that will be unmistakable should it ever make it to the forefront of this sorry story.  The women’s stories are already on record!

The House of Cards Narrative Continues

I have been struck as of late, how much great insight and wisdom and advice and admonitions, etc. have been offered to the WCA and elders since late March 2018.  These truths, many times difficult to read, difficult to admit, difficult to face, appear to have been largely ignored.  I have been told, “We hear you, Rob.”  I suspect others have been told the same thing.  Yet the narrative from Willow Creek platforms continues largely unchanged.  And when the narrative does change … ever so slightly … it causes MORE questions because the new narrative contradicts the old.

I have not forgotten about the elephants in the room from my first post.  I want to believe that the elders and WCA have not either, but all indications point in the opposite direction.  Please heed the hard truths and difficult discipline that have come your way these last 4 months.

Rather than address the #MeToo issue which is waaaaaay premature, in my view, how about addressing the subject of narcissism in ministry at the GLS?  Some session recommendations:

  • Identifying Narcissism in the Pulpit

  • The Almost Impossible Task of Holding a Narcissist Accountable

  • A workshop for elder boards dealing with a narcissistic leader

And whatever you do, please, please, PLEASE do not follow through with the suggested segment at the GLS addressing how men are not hiring women because they don’t know how to act around them — that men don’t want to put themselves in that vulnerable* position (*my word).  Such a segment would be the ultimate slap in the face to the women who have bravely stepped forward, the same women to whom the leadership of Willow Creek has vainly expressed their deepest care and listening (sarcasm intended.)

Would that the WCA heed the instruction, advice, and correction from the many voices that have sought the ultimate good of the women, Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Church and the Willow Creek Association.  To ignore a myriad of well-intended admonitions would indicate at a minimum, a less than humble and teachable spirit.  At its worst, it would sadly reveal a direct contradiction to the event scheduled just days from now that bears its name, the Global Leadership Summit.

Who will ultimately suffer if the WCA fails to heed discipline, and responds to this “controversy” with anything less than a fierce commitment to righteousness and the truth?

Who will be led astray?

What global consequences will result?

The need for true leadership from the WCA has never been greater.  May the Global Leadership Summit choose to use their influence wisely.

* * * * * * *

Please be Advised:
Comments have been turned on to allow for respectful dialogue between readers on both sides of the issue. Comments may or may not be responded to by the author of such blog but will be moderated in such a way to provide a safe place for open and honest dialogue. Any comment that would hinder an open, honest, and respectful dialogue will be removed. Thank You for your cooperation.

An Open Letter to The Willow Creek Congregation.


“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.”    Proverbs 18:15

This blog post is addressed to you, my fellow members and attenders of Willow Creek Community Church.  


Before you read this post, allow me to introduce myself.  After graduating from seminary I was a college chaplain and then a senior pastor.  I have been a member of Willow Creek for more than 25 years. During my tenure at Willow, I served as an intern.  I assisted teaching the spiritual gifts assessment classes. I have served as a marrying pastor, funeral pastor, small group leader, section leader and response pastor.  I have attended the GLS numerous times. Over the years, my wife and I have hosted GLS attendees from the U.S., the Netherlands (2x), and Namibia (2x). I have invited co-workers and family members to attend the GLS and attended with them.

I am jealous for Willow Creek Church!    

I have written emails to the elders, the WCA, and the Elder Response Team throughout this crisis beseeching them to be forthcoming.  I have had 2 phone conversations with elders. I spoke to one elder face to face after the last elder update. And I have had a face to face meeting with members from the Elder Response Team.

As the days marched on with no apparent resolution in sight, I have felt compelled to share more publicly.  

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.

Your brother in Christ,
Rob Speight (Sp8)

*  * *  *

Willow Sheep In The Storm 2

Since late March, much has been said and written about the players in the tragedy we are going through:  Bill Hybels, the accusing women, the former leaders at Willow, the elders, and the WCA.  There is one very important group of people who have been almost entirely left out of the conversation:  you, the congregation of Willow Creek.  You play an immensely important role in this crisis.  And that is why I am addressing you in this post.

B1BA453985F9473FB83C4A74AF54859CAs you are well aware, very soon after the accusations against Bill Hybels by several women were revealed by the Chicago Tribune in late March of 2018,  the elders held a family meeting for you so that they could address the allegations against Bill. 

You responded scripturally to your pastor and elders at that meeting.

  • “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account…”  Hebrews 13:17

It is a rare congregation that responds as well to its leaders’ words and place themselves under their authority as well as you do!  Throughout our church’s 42 year history, the congregation has trusted and responded to its leadership.  As a result, God has performed spectacular works that could have only come from His hands.

One would  assume the family meeting would have put an end to any discussion on the topic of Bill Hybels being inappropriate in his conduct with various women.  The elders explained that they had performed multiple investigations over the previous 4+ years, and Bill was found innocent.  Plus, Bill vehemently denied any wrongdoing.  


The beloved former leaders of Willow sought to have an investigation into the allegations against Bill Hybels for 4 years.  They would not take the denial of any wrongdoing by Bill as the final word. They believed that the search for the truth in this matter was not complete.  

Plus, a few of the offended women continued to seek justice for themselves and others.

What did they know that we in the congregation did not?


1 — These former leaders continued to press for a more diligent effort to discover the truth.

Let me encourage you to read the blogs of these former leaders of Willow who we all loved and respected.  Click on their highlighted names below to find out their perspective.

2 — In addition, I felt compelled to email the elders as well as the Willow Creek Association during April, May, and June because I felt there were too many unanswered questions hanging out there.  My purpose was to be an additional voice that would seek to hold Heather Larson and the elders accountable.

Let me encourage you to click here for my communications with the elders, WCA, and the Elder Response Team.  They are in chronological order.

3 — There were stories being published of additional women coming forward to tell their stories of troubling interactions with Bill.  The links to those stories are below:

4 — Vonda Dyer has been relentless in her Twitter feed to advocate for the women, to link with pertinent experts on the topic of clergy abuse and to repeatedly call for a totally independent third party investigation to reveal the truth of what really happened with the women and Bill Hybels.  Let me encourage you to follow Vonda @Chelseaker

5 — Others have felt compelled to address this sad chapter in Willow’s history:


1 — Gradually, baby step by baby step, over the last 3+ months, Heather and the elders have altered their narrative.  It has gone from:

  • Bill is totally innocent and the women are liars … to
  • Not all of the women are liars, and not everything they reported are lies … to
  • They have expressed apologies of sorts to the women.  And they for the first time ever said that “Bill entered into areas of sin.”

This migration of narrative is very troublesome for several reasons:

  • It implies that there is some truth to the women’s stories, but we don’t know what it is.
  • It implies that Bill’s declaration that all accusations against him are lies — is not true.
  • It indicates that the conclusions of the investigations of the past (Bill is innocent of all charges) differ from the most recent attestations by the elders that “Bill entered into areas of sin.”
  • There continues to be obfuscation in the elders’ statements, because we don’t know what the phrase “Bill entered into areas of sin,” means.

2 — The affected women do not trust the elders.  And they do not trust the outside groups that the elders have chosen to engage them,  But the elders continue to put the responsibility of engagement solely on the women. This is not fair.

3 — Ever since this sad issue was brought to the elders, the women and the women’s advocates (both personal and in social media) have requested a totally independent investigation to be performed so that the truth can be discovered.  Yet the elders have denied this request at every turn. To claim otherwise is to be disingenuous. Every investigation so far has had fatal flaws in it.

A totally independent third party investigator with expertise in identifying clergy abuse is absolutely essential to discover the truth of this horrible chapter in Willow’s history.

4 — Willow Creek has been a champion of women ever since its origin.  The leadership’s treatment of the women who have come forward is a black eye to the church’s reputation and insulting and hurtful to the women.


  • Please choose to engage with the insight and wisdom contained in the links in this post.
  • Share this post with all of your friends at Willow.  Remember, the heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out — Proverbs 18:15
  • Ask God to give you clarity of thought and understanding.
  • Ask God to show you what action He wants you to take.  Then be courageous and take it.  After all, this is YOUR church.
  • Finally, pray that the truth will be revealed and set everyone involved in this tragedy free.  This freedom may look different for each of the parties concerned.

Dark storm clouds have hovered over Willow Creek for far too long.  May God clear the ominous skies and cause the Son to shine more brightly than ever before over the ministry of Willow Creek.  Amen.

Willow Sheep In The Rising Light

Please be Advised:
Comments have been turned on to allow for respectful dialogue between readers on both sides of the issue. Comments may or may not be responded to by the author of such blog but will be moderated in such a way to provide a safe place for open and honest dialogue. Any comment that would hinder an open, honest, and respectful dialogue will be removed. Thank You for your cooperation.