Trouble At The Global Leadership Summit

An Open Letter to Tom DeVries

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

I am jealous for Willow Creek Church!  

I do not personally have a dog in this race.  

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

But as the days march on with no apparent resolution in sight, and considering the events of this past weekend at church and now the article in the Daily Herald about the GLS, I am compelled to share more publicly.  Let me encourage you to click on the link here which contains my emails in chronological order throughout April, May, and June 2018 so that you may understand my efforts to goad the leadership of Willow Creek toward resolving this crisis.  I have tried privately, and now I am trying more publicly.

Thank you.

 

WC Elephant in the Room

Tom DeVries, President and CEO of the Willow Creek Association, was interviewed by The Daily Herald newspaper July 2, 2018.  After giving accolades to Bill Hybels and expressing how he will be missed at the GLS this year, he states that they’re going to address the “elephant in the room,” at the GLS.  

What is the elephant in the room, Mr. DeVries, President and CEO of the Willow Creek Association?

Mr. DeVries identifies the “elephant in the room” to be:  how men and women work together in professional environments.   

So that is the monster issue everyone from around the country and world is dying for the GLS to address?  That’s the elephant?

That is the elephant that is causing
                                           a cloud of malaise
                                                                and division
                                                                                    and heartbreak
                                                                                                        and confusion
                                                                                                                 at Willow Creek Church?

That is the big issue that leaders from all over the world are eagerly anticipating the GLS to tackle?  Mr. DeVries, it pains me to say that you calling that topic “the elephant in the room” lacks wisdom and discernment and is not an example of exemplary leadership.  

That statement is a deflection.  It unfortunately accurately reflects how the elders have handled the last 100 days since the Willow tragedy has gone public.  

Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association have not earned the right to address hundreds of thousands of leaders from around the world on this topic.  

Mr. DeVries, we are willing to listen to you address your elephant because it actually does have value.  But there are dozens of elephants in the room bigger and more formidable that need to be addressed FIRST.

There are BILL HYBELS elephants.
There are ELDERS elephants.
There are WCA elephants.

Below I will list four elephants in each of the above categories.  There are many more, but I will limit it to four. First address these, and then you will have the credibility to address your elephant.

elephant-transparent-background BILL HYBELS

  • The elephant of Bill lying when he declared that all the women lied? And that they were all lies that they spoke.
  • The elephant of Bill lying when he declared that Nancy Beach, John Ortberg, Nancy Ortberg, Vonda Dyer, Jimmy and Leanne Mellado, and Betty Schmidt all colluded against him?  He was the victim? (This is the example of leadership that you want to extol?)
  • How about the elephant of Bill refusing to confess his sin and ask for forgiveness from:

Each of the women?
Each of the beloved former Willow leaders?
The congregation of Willow Creek Community Church?
The global partners of the WCA?

  • And what about the elephants of the missing emails and texts and his abuse of power and … ?

elephant-transparent-background THE ELDERS OF WILLOW CREEK

  • The elephant of the first family meeting when they explained away all allegations against Bill and declared him innocent of all charges.  The elders deceived and fractured the entire Willow family that night.
  • The elephant of refusing to hire a totally independent third-party clergy abuse investigator to listen to the women’s stories.  Mr. DeVries, what are the elders afraid of? What might that investigation uncover that the elders want to remain hidden?
  • The elephant of refusing to say Bill had sinned until they were forced to by the courageous voice of Steve Carter, Lead Teaching Pastor of Willow, when he came forward on behalf of the women utilizing his own blog this past Friday evening 6/29/18.
  • The elephant of how poorly the elders have led and cared for the congregation through this crisis.  They have disqualified themselves. They are no longer trusted to lead. Yet they have not been humble enough to resign and thus retain at least a shred of dignity and honor.  

elephant-transparent-background THE WCA

  • The elephant of being a global megaphone for the elders’ narrative of this crisis despite boasting of the WCA’s independence from Willow Creek Community Church.
  • The elephant of obfuscation in the WCA’s communications with its global family and partners (I address this issue directly in my email number 6 to the WCA)
  • The elephant of deflection in the Daily Herald article which has spurred the writing of this blog post
  • The elephant of a WCA staff member slandering Vonda Dyer to a church in Texas to keep them from pulling out as a GLS host site and the WCA refusing to correct that staff member’s slander and offer a public apology to Vonda.

Tom, addressing “how men and women can work together in professional environments” does indeed have value.  But it is not addressing the real elephants in the room.

I am sorry, Tom.  This is not good leadership.  It continues the obfuscation that has defined the way the people involved have been treated for the last 100 days … and before, by the leaders of Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association.  

Tackle some of the elephants I named above, Tom, and then it will be worthy of being called The Global Leadership Summit.