Parenting posts
Evangelicals meeting with Trump at the White House August 27, 2018

Brainstorming about next steps for Willow Creek Community Church and Willow Creek Association

For background on this topic, see the post I have kept updated through Sept 18, 2018 with all of the developments on this story: List of articles from allegations to resignation of Bill Hybels and its aftermath



Update: 7:15 pm Note that this article published at 12:07 pm already seems dated since hours after posting the article, the WCCC and WCA both released statements that they are going to do an independent investigation. Still, the details are still be made clear so this may be useful. See also the updates below the original post. 




12:07 pm 

In response to Scot McKnight's article this morning: The Time is Now,

below is a comment I wrote. 


I agree. Who will step up? Will it be the elders of Willow Creek Community Church? Or will it be the board of the Willow Creek Association (which appears to be rebranding itself as the Global Leadership Network)? It should be both. Who will appoint a commission to look into what can be learned about what Hybels did and how the organization allowed this to happen and present recommendations for the future? Pick the most stellar people of integrity that you can findpeople with impeccable reputations, people with no relationship or minimal relationship to WCCC or WCA.

Some people have asked, "But who? What would this look like?" I don't know how many people to pick to head the commission. 1-3? I don't know how many members to have in total. 4-7? I am just brainstorming here. Some people I would nominate: Leith Anderson (National Association of Evangelicals), Andy Crouch (Praxis), Shirley Hoogstra (CCCU), Barbara Mutch (Association for Theological Schools), MaryKate Morse (Portland Seminary), Susan Maros (Academy for Religious Leadership), Jeannine Brown (Bethel Seminary and NIV translation committee), Tom Lin (InterVarsity Press president), Mark Labberton (Fuller Seminary president), Jeff Greenman (Regent College president), Jay Barnes (Bethel University president), Deb Harless (Bethel University provost), Andy Stanley (North Point Community Church), Marshall Shelley (Denver Seminary). I don't know all of these people well but am simply trying to say there are people to turn to. Or, perhaps ask some of these people for recommendations of others to be on the committeethey may have board members or staff or faculty from their organization who would be excellent. 

It has also been mentioned that a survivor of spiritual or sexual abuse would be helpful to have on the commission. Others have mentioned the importance of women being represented. 

This commission would in turn pick people with expertise to carry out the investigation (lawyers, investigators, Human Resources, psychologist, organizational leadership, theologians?).

WCCC or WCA would pay for the investigation. They would give the commission a wide mandate to explore what happened and what should be done in the future. They would give permission for the commission to interview whoever it wants and for all previous employees to be released from any non-disclosure agreements. They would allow the final report to be public and not determine what is in it. Perhaps a more detailed private report would only be released to the victims and the organization at the commission's discretion.

See the Boz Tchividjian article from 2015 that is relevant to independent vs. internal investigations.

I would think that the commission would return with a report over what it found probably occurred and what cannot be determined definitively. It would have recommendations for best practices regarding reporting incidents of sexual harassment and misconduct. It might more clearly outline who to contact as an advocate outside the organization if a cover up has occurred (whistleblowing, media, appeal, ombudsman). And it might sketch how Matthew 18:15-17 applies to these situations.

It would give guidance on training regarding complimenting people's appearance regarding weight and clothing and fitness, physical touch, time alone, travel, hotel rooms, alcohol, sleeping pills, pornography, back rubs, feet rubs, skinny dipping, exercising together, private plans, private yachts, staying over in someone's home overnight. It would investigate how the board functions with the chief executive for both effectiveness and accountability. It might recommend that Willow Creek Community Church associate with a denomination like Converge or Evangelical Covenant Church for some degree of accountability and connection in the future. It might mandate paying for seminary courses for Willow Creek staff so as not to concentrate all decision-making and authority at the top of the organization and to build up capability over the long-term in its staff. It would likely give recommendations regarding transparency of email and text messages and cameras. These people would know that more rules and regulations are not necessarily always better as there is no way to stop all misbehavior if the perpetrator is determined. It might give a recommendation regarding Bill Hybels's retirement benefits. It might give a recommendation regarding compensating victims. Again, this is just some idea of what a commission might find.


Update #1: 

Willow Creek to launch independent investigation of allegations against Bill Hybels
Manya Brachear Pashman
Chicago Tribune
August 6, 2018 2:40 pm

It is worth noting that some of the initial responses on Twitter have been skeptical. 

  • Independent? Not at all — because Willow Creek didn’t involve the abused in selecting experts. Not buying it. Anonymous donor? That person is who? Not trusting that one, either.
  • Ya, they've said that before. I don't believe that!
  • So... what does that say about all the earlier investigations? Flawed? Are there investigators into the earlier investigations? (Serious questions)
  • Who will choose this council? Preferably no one in present WCC leadership. “We are working on finalizing this key group of people.” -Heather Larson
  • Why should @WillowCreekCC leadership be trusted now? This all (still) seems sketchy.

 One takeaway is it is quite crucial who the people are. 


Update #2: 3:30 pm.

Willow Creek Association Announces Independent Investigation
Tom De Vries, President, WCA

Published August 6, 2018


Update 3: 7:00 pm

This article has been updated as of 6:50 pm Central 8/6/2018 with comments from Boz Tchividjian, Scot McKnight, and Nancy Beach. 

Willow Creek to launch independent investigation of allegations against Bill Hybels
Manya Brachear Pashman
Chicago Tribune
August 6, 2018 2:40 pm

Boz Tchividjian and McKnight are calling for resignation of leadership and new leadership of the organization from inside or outside. There is also concern about who will be on this new independent investigation, whether it will be able to be credible to victims, and who knows where the "anonymous" money came from to fund it.

Before going public with the composition of their independent investigation, the Willow Creek elders and the WCA should see if the person(s) they appoint to lead this independent council would have the trust of those who were previously harmed: Vonda Dyer, Nancy Beach, Moe Girkins, Julia Williams, Pat Baranowski, Nancy Ortberg, Betty Schmidt, John Wallace, Kara Powell, Leanne Mellado, and Jim Mellado. Ideally, these people who have been hurt would be willing to talk with who is appointed.