A Live “Acknowledgement” at the Global Leadership Summit

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

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“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.

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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.  

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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)

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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 INITIAL PROBLEM AFTER THE FAMILY MEETING

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?

THE QUEST FOR THE TRUTH

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:

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PROBLEMS THAT PERSIST

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.

MY REQUESTS OF YOU, THE CONGREGATION OF WILLOW CREEK

  • 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.

 

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.

*****


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.

The First 100 Days of the Bill Hybels Crisis

Email 1
Date: Thursday, April 5, 2018 at 3:54 PM
Subject: Laner Muchin

Continue reading “The First 100 Days of the Bill Hybels Crisis”