In order to help people who missed this story, here are what I thought were the key articles that came out from the allegations against Bill Hybels on March 22nd to his resignation ("early retirement") from Willow Creek Community Church on April 10, 2018 and then also the aftermath. This post has been updated through July 24, 2019. It was originally posted in April 2018.
Initial Chicago Tribune bombshell report (March 22, 2018)
After years of inquiries, Willow Creek pastor denies misconduct allegations
By Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Coen
March 23, 2018
Willow Creek Community Church meeting on March 23, 2018 to denounce allegations in the Chicago Tribune story
Video of initial response of Heather Larson, Pam Orr, Steve Carter, and Bill Hybels at Willow Creek to allegations on March 23. Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojmS_uEhQRo Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwTNCJsbto0
Commentary: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/time-reckon-celebrity-power/ Andy Crouch commentary about broad climate of celebrity pastors. March 24, 2018.
Prescient Commentary from 2015 about investigations hired by a board not necessarily being effective and truly independent. https://religionnews.com/2015/10/16/are-abuse-survivors-best-served-when-institutions-investigate-themselves/ Boz Tchividjian article from 2015 that is relevant to independent vs. internal investigations.
March 26, 2018 Bill Hybels responds to the initial allegations in a church meeting at Willow Creek Community Church
By my count, the five allegations explained by Hybels on March 26 include: Nancy Beach (described in Chicago Tribune article above); and Vonda Dyer (described most fully in her statement below); and three anonymous: woman who recanted (oral sex, overnights, 1150 emails, 14 years, suicidal, counseling) described in many of the resources; woman who swam naked with code word moon; recent case of woman who pressed him to bring wine to his room and he has this time email evidence that he rebuffed her.
April 2, 2018 John Ortberg, former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, speaks out.
https://jodiwalle.com/ Jodi Walle, John Ortberg's executive assistant at Willow for seven years, writes to say that her experience was the culture at Willow included teasing and joking around between males and females. She has removed the post. (It was written before April 13, 2018).
Vonda Dyer posts about her accusation of Bill Hybels in the Chicago Tribune report (April 8, 2018).
https://vondadyer.weebly.com/blog/archives/04-2018 Vonda Dyer accusation of Bill Hybels
Statement from Betty Schmidt, who was previously an elder. (April 10, 2018)
Bill Hybels resigns (April 10, 2019)
Christianity Today overview
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/april/bill-hybels-resigns-willow-creek-misconduct-allegations.html Summary article by Bob Smietana of resignation ("early retirement"). [Note: Why I probably should not have said "resignation" is that Hybels "retired early" and therefore is likely keeping his retirement package].
Nancy Beach responds (April 11, 2018)
Nancy Ortberg allegation (the sixth allegation by my count) (April 12, 2018)
Some publishers stop printing some of Bill Hybels’s books (April 13, 2018)
Three new allegations here (# 7, 8, 9): Maureen “Moe” Girkins, Julia Williams, feet rub anonymous woman (April 21, 2018).
https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/april/bill-hybels-willow-creek-promises-investigation-allegations.html "Christianity Today talked with six women who have made allegations against Hybels and reviewed emails and documents about the allegations." Bob Smietana (April 21).
http://www.juliawilliams.net/blog (April 23) .
There has been a total of 9 women (according to my count) mentioned so far above. Six have talked with Christianity Today.
Willow Creek elders apologize for casting doubt on women's allegations against founder Hybels (May 10, 2018)
Manya Brachear Pashman
May 10, 2018
An update from the Elders on May 9, 2018
https://www.willowcreek.org/en/elder-update-two Now removed and not at Wayback Machine
Heather Larson and Pam Orr Statement on May 9, 2019 starting at 14:30-20:53 minute mark. Then Steve Carter prayer.
Vonda Dyer statement May 10, 2018
Nancy Beach MY RESPONSE TO THE “APOLOGY” May 11, 2018
WCA statement about the Global Leadership Summit. May 17, 2018.
My (Andy Rowell) response to WCA statement is in this thread:
- Sadly, what is missing here is deep regret for the part that the WCA Board played in dismissing allegations and failing to provide accountability. Also, they do not say they will seek out the truth regardless of what the church elders do. So, "restoration" talk painful and scary.
- If one reads through the allegations and watches the defense by Bill Hybels and then the subsequent full descriptions of what occurred by the 8-9 women, it is clear (as Hybels admitted) inappropriate, defensive (abuse of power), and unwise things occurred.
- Recall @NancyOrtberg @KPowellFYI @presjonwallace resigned from the WCA Board @wcagls in 2015 because of "the board’s decision not to pursue another inquiry." The rest of the WCA Board needs to express deep regret for their mistake.
- The WCA letter is signed by @trdevries and @DickDeVos (yes, husband of Betsy). I don't see on the WCA website who the other WCA board members are.
- A reminder that the Willow Creek Association is a separate organization from Willow Creek Community Church. The WCA Board have had to deal with controversies in the past with vetting speakers. They're putting on a public event for hundreds of thousands of people.
- Making tough decisions that involve millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of people so that Christ is represented well is what the WCA Board signed up for.
- I'm concerned because I used to believe in the GLS and Hybels. Our church hosted GLS last year and I attended. And I am a professor of ministry leadership at Bethel Seminary which has advertised at the GLS in the past.
Elders Update #3 (May 23, 2018)
Lane Moyer (Elder Chair) video announcement (May 23)
Vonda Dyer statement May 24, 2018: THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE
Betty Schmidt, May 25, 2018
Nancy Ortberg, May 24, 2018, Sequence Matters
Nancy Beach, May 25, 2018
WHAT "CARING FOR THE WOMEN" WOULD LOOK LIKE
May 25, 2018
As Willow Creek seeks reconciliation, pastor’s accusers seek independent inquiry
Manya Brachear Pashman
May 27, 2018
Elder Update #4 (June 6, 2018)
https://www.willowcreek.org/en/elder-update-four (now removed) and not available at Wayback Machine.
Video update from Lane Moyer (Elder Chair) on June 6, 2018.
Scot McKnight reflection (June 27, 2018)
Comment from Andy Rowell (June 27, 2018)
I agree with Scot's take here. Thanks for this reflection, Scot. I was concerned, then open to the accusations being explained properly, but then more and more similar accusations came out and the explanations began to sound more and more far-fetched, then Hybels resigned ("retired early), and then more accusations came out. It is a sad situation. Hybels was a hero to me.
It is good to have the conflict confrontation procedure of Matthew 18:15-17 in mind but it teaches proportionate escalation. Sometimes a situation needs to be escalated quickly past some levels because of the seriousness of the offense. For example, abuse of a child being reported to the police. A number of people resigned from the Willow Creek Association board a number of years ago when a proper investigation into these matters was not conducted. Scot is also right that when an organization does not properly deal with a situation, it is appropriate to speak publicly (in the press, on the internet, etc.) about the truth so as to warn others and see if there are more accusations.
None of us envy the responsibility that the elders of WCC or the board of WCA were in or are in because of Hybels's behavior. But the priority should be on the WCA and WCC commissioning an independent organization and then giving up control over it. It will seek out the truth of what has purportedly occurred and investigate the counter-evidence and issue a report to the church and the accusers. They also need to report on the failures of the WCC elders and WCA board and their policies and culture (email, private homes, hotel rooms, travel, alcohol, sleeping pills, language about other people's bodies and clothing, appropriate trust, swimming, exercise and fitness, accusations of inappropriate behavior, sidelining of spouses to isolate, and firing people who were raising accusations, denouncement of accusers). Perhaps also there will be words of concern about how the situation was handled by the accusers or recommendations for the future about how accusations should be reported and how they should be handled if they are not believed. This report should be made available to the accusers and to the accused and those who commissioned the report. Victims should be allowed to remain confidential in the report. It will not be long before Bill Hybels will be back as a speaker and author if Mark Driscoll, Ted Haggard, Tullian Tchividjian, and Percy Noble are any guide. The pain of victims and the distrust of Willow Creek Church and the Willow Creek Association will return when Hybels returns to public ministry--likely he will repeat his claim that much has been exaggerated. Those with concerns are understandably not interested in relational reconciliation with Willow until Willow has energetically attempted to understand what has happened and repent of their part.
Willow Creek leaders issue public apologies for mishandling allegations
by Manya Brachear Pashman
June 29 and updated through July 2, 2018
Statements from Heather Larson, Steve Carter, and the Willow Creek Elders
June 30, 2018
https://www.willowcreek.org/en/june-30-statement (now removed and not available at Wayback Machine).
Open Letter to Willow Creek Association Board and Tom De Vries
by me (Andy Rowell)
July 3, 2018
Open Letter to Tom De Vries
July 4, 2018
Speight also outlines what other steps he has gone to as a Willow Creek Community Church member to inquire into what the church's board of elders is doing in response to the situation.
Willow Creek's Global Leadership Summit Loses 111 Sites Due to Allegations Made Against Bill Hybels
By Leonardo Blair, Christian Post Reporter
The Christian Post
July 27, 2018
The Christian Post reports July 27, 2018 that 111 of 600 sites (so 18.5%) have pulled out of hosting the GLS because of the Hybels situation and the WCA's response.
Benjamin Ady has tried to keep track of the sites that have cancelled.
July 29, 2018: I was made aware of online 2017 Willow Creek Association Annual Report, which includes the names of the Board.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Tom De Vries
D. Mitch Barns
Bob Merritt (Merritt's Eagle Brook Church is not longer hosting the GLS)
Kimberly D. Simios
Benjamin Ady has tried to identify who these people are.
Pat Baranowski, 10th allegation, New York Times, Aug 5, 2018
He’s a Superstar Pastor. She Worked for Him and Says He Groped Her Repeatedly.
Bill Hybels built an iconic evangelical church outside Chicago. A former assistant says that in the 1980s, he sexually harassed her.
By Laurie Goodstein
Aug. 5, 2018
New York Times
Summary of ten allegations as of August 5, 2018.
By my count, Pat Baranowski is the 10th woman that it is alleged Bill Hybels behaved inappropriately with. This is just what has become public. The articles about all of these allegations are linked to above.
- Nancy Beach (described in Chicago Tribune article and on her website)
- Vonda Dyer (described most fully in her statement on her website)
- anonymous woman who recanted (oral sex, overnights, 1150 emails, 14 years, suicidal, counseling) described in Chicago Tribune article and explained by Hybels
- anonymous woman who swam naked with code word moon in Chicago Tribune article and admitted by Hybels
- anonymous recent case of woman who pressed him to bring wine to his room and he has this time email evidence that he rebuffed her reported from Willow Creek Community Church elders and Hybels explained it. Possibly Keri Ladouceur.
- Nancy Ortberg (see her website statement)
- Maureen “Moe” Girkins in Christianity Today article
- Julia Williams (see her website statement)
- Feet rub anonymous woman named in Christianity Today article
- Pat Baranowski in New York Times article.
Steve Carter resigns (Aug 5, 2018)
A Diverging Path
by Steve Carter
August 5, 2018
Willow Creek teaching pastor Steve Carter and co-successor to Bill Hybels (along with @HeatherJLarson) just announced his resignation from Willow Creek Community Church effective immediately because of the ongoing poor response by church leaders to the allegations against Hybels.
Hybels Heir Quits Willow as New Accusations Arise Before Global Leadership Summit
Teaching pastor Steve Carter resigns after New York Times article; GLS had already lost 111 host sites.
BOB SMIETANA AUGUST 05, 2018 3:20 PM
Teaching pastor resigns over Willow Creek’s handling of allegations against Bill Hybels
Manya Brachear Pashman
August 5, 2018 8:20 pm
Willow Creek, Your Time Is Now
AUGUST 6, 2018 BY SCOT MCKNIGHT
Lee Strobel, who was a teaching pastor at Willow Creek, writes:
August 6, 2018
My heart breaks for Pat Baranowski and all victims of Bill Hybels at Willow Creek. I never saw any hint of misconduct when I was there. Still, I know these women and they are Godly and credible. I believe them and weep for them. Scot McKnight is right:
Brainstorming about next steps for Willow Creek Community Church and Willow Creek Association
August 06, 2018
by Andy Rowell
Willow Creek to launch independent investigation of allegations against Bill Hybels (Aug 6, 2018)
Manya Brachear Pashman
August 6, 2018 2:40 pm
Willow Creek Association Announces Independent Investigation
Tom De Vries, President, WCA
Published August 6, 2018
Heather Larson and Elders announce their resignations (August 8, 2018)
Keri Ladouceur (possibly the 5th accuser speaks out) (Aug 10, 14, 2018)
Report on how Willow Elder Response Team would silence members with threats and how Willow Creek would silence staff with non-disclosure agreements (Sept 6-15, 2018)
Willow Creek Names Independent Advisory Group (Sept 18, 2018)
Independent Advisory Group Report (Feb 28, 2019)
March 4, 2019
Willow Creek Governance Review 2014-2018 by James C. Galvin (May 4, 2019)
Anyone interested in board governance should read this report. The report from Galvin makes clear that Hybels dominated the elder board.
Note this May 2 report on governance from Galvin is a different report from the February report on Hybels from the IAG (Anderson and Lyons, et. al.)
An omission is the incorrect theological conviction stressed at Willow that the elders are the only authority in the local church. But Paul writes, "Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?"- 1 Cor 14:36. Ask other churches for help!
Willow Creek also called gossip and collusion careful reporting by journalists from the Chicago Tribune, Christianity Today, and the New York Times. Whistle-blowers made the truth known after trying to work through in-house channels and being fired. The defensiveness was wrong.
After describing a long list of board of elder failures, this line at the end of the report is weird: "The place to start is with the paid staff at Willow Creek." Is that another defensive lashing out at the staff? There is plenty to do for both elders and staff.
Benjamin Ady is right that this line is dissonant. "Unfortunately, it is difficult for any board to hold a Senior Pastor accountable more than he or she is willing to submit." There are a lot of things the elders failed to do as the report makes clear. https://twitter.com/tripleoxymoron/status/1124291373568413698
Benjamin Ady is also right that it is important to acknowledge, more than this report does, the victims, the human pain afflicted, the deep wounds, when a leader is allowed to bully and avoid accountability.
Overall, I think this church governance report by Galvin is well done and very useful in the history it tells and the recommendations it suggests.
The Elders release a letter on July 19, 2019.
Elder Update: Reconciliation
Willow Creek Elder Board
JULY 19, 2019
Julie Roys writes a tweet on July 20 that links to her report on the letter.
Willow Creek Elders Release Statement Supporting the “Women”; Yet One Woman Says Hybels’ Sins Were “Far Worse” Than Anyone’s Said Publicly
The elder statement is included at that post.
Vonda Dyer responds by tweet. "I am grateful for the compassion of current @WillowCreekCC elder board and support their desire to bring restoration. Details matter & provide context for the severity of what occurred over decades. It’s a tragedy w invitation for unity and reconciliation."
and another tweet: "I hope for clarity in order to remove the shadow of obscurity behind credible and important allegations, and continue to open the door for unity and reconciliation of this matter for all. #mercifuljustice"
Emily McFarlan Miller of the RNS (Religions News Service) also writes an article:
Willow Creek plans reconciliation service to move on; Hybels not involved
Vonda Dyer responds to this article by tweet. "I look forward 2 finding out how it went & hear what’s spoken on behalf of victims and their advocates in this long road to transparency. I am hoping for a restorative reset for everyone to reconcile the depth and breadth of abuse & sin that occurred."
Willow Creek Community Church has a meeting on July 23, 2019.
"Join us tomorrow, at 7 p.m. in the Lakeside auditorium of the South Barrington campus for an Elder-led Worship & Reflection Service. During this service our Elders will share on reconciliation, their vision for the future, and the gospel-centered hope that anchors our church."
Emily McFarlan Miller of the RNS (Religions News Service) tweets July 24th to a story she wrote about the meeting.
Willow Creek elders preach reconciliation after allegations against Hybels
The story is reprinted with permission by Christianity Today:
Can Willow Creek Find Closure After Bill Hybels?
The elders: There is “a fracture in our church marked by disbelief, confusion, fear, and hurt.”
EMILY MCFARLAN MILLER – RELIGION NEWS SERVICE JULY 24, 2019 7:20 AM
Nancy Beach responds to the meeting. She is one of at least ten women who Bill Hybels has been accused of behaving inappropriately toward. She attended the meeting. Here is her tweet to her written post.
THE MORNING AFTER THE “FINAL WILLOW MEETING"
July 24, 2019
Scot McKnight also tweets about his reposting of Nancy Beach's response.
Nancy Beach: A Voice of Wisdom
Someone tweets: "I mean no disrespect with this tweet, but I believe the Church has said all of the things you hoped they would say in email updates from the elders to the members. And I believe that is all public information. Have you not seen that communication?"
I reply: "They should have done a lot more orally, rather just written. "We did the repentance and truth-telling via email!" rings hollow. Hybels, elders, and staff said on the stage that the victims were jealous liars colluding together. The repentance should also have been on the stage."
"Even in the written communication, there is little specificity so that a reader might think all of this hubbub was much ado about little."
Julie Roys writes a tweet on July 24th that links to her article:
Willow Creek’s Reconciliation Service Brings Closure to Some, But Alleged Victim Says “Hope Evaporated”
Resource Bibliography on Willow Creek Church Situation and Bill Hybels’ Reported Misconduct
Resource Bibliography on Willow Creek Church Situation – Part 2
July 1, 2018
I should say that I, along with everyone I know, is sad about all of this. I am however a ministry leadership professor. This blog is called Church Leadership Conversations. My fellow seminary professors, seminary students, and pastor friends are all keenly interested in this story because of how much we have learned from Willow Creek Community Church and Bill Hybels.
Note about url: I had this post repeated three times on this blog because I accidentally kept changing the url of the post when I updated the date so I have an April (2018/4) and May (2018/5) post that link to this post: June (2018/6). Links to all three are at various places on the internet. But this (June post) is the main one now.