Resource Bibliography on Willow Creek Church Situation and Bill Hybels’ Reported Misconduct

These links were initially posted on Twitter by brad/futuristguy. Tentatively, both that thread and this post will be updated with additional links as the situation unfolds.

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Thread Introduction and Twitter Handles

This thread includes statements by and about Willow Creek Church and the reported misconduct of Bill Hybels. These were posted by key individuals and organizations in the situation, and in news articles from the Chicago Tribune, which broke the story.

It also includes critical analysis from other sources — survivor bloggers primarily — also showing reactions and commentary from survivors of spiritual abuse and/or sexual abuse/harassment/violence.

Initial entries are in chronological order; more may be added as the situation unfolds.

Movements to Spotlight and Counteract Abuse



Willow Creek Organizations and People Associated with Them

. Willow Creek Community Church/Willow Creek Church.

. Willow Creek Association – Global Leadership Summit.

@NancyLBeach. Nancy Beach. former staff member at Willow Creek Church as their first female teaching pastor, and served on the board of Willow Creek Association.

@Chelseaker. Vonda Dyer, former employee of Willow Creek Church.

. John Ortberg, former staff member at Willow Creek Church.

Chicago Tribune and Reporters on Willow Creek

@chicagotribune. Chicago Tribune.

@TribSeeker. Manya Brachear Pashman, reporter for Chicago Tribune.

@jeffcoen. Jeff Coen, reporter for Chicago Tribune.

Other Bloggers and Tweeters

@carlygelsinger. Carly Gelsinger, writer at Unfundamentalists.

. Andrew Jones, writer at TallSkinnyKiwi.

. Dee Parsons, writer at The Wartburg Watch.

@futuristguy. Brad Sargent, writer at Futuristguy.

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Index to People’s Statements and Bibliography Entries

This is a list of individuals who have made personal statements in interviews or on their own social media accounts related to the situation with Bill Hybels, Willow Creek Church, and the Willow Creek Association/Global Leadership Summit. The numbers after a name correlates to the entry number in this bibliography.

The entries after Willow Creek leadership are mostly to official statements they have posted. Lead pastors, board members, and media representative(s) often have responses included in news articles.

Nancy Beach – #1, 16.

Vonda Dyer – #1, 9, 28.

Maureen “Moe” Girkins – #25.

Leanne Mellado – #1.

John Ortberg – #1, 5.

Nancy Ortberg – #1, 20.

Betty Schmidt – #11.

Julia Williams – #25, 27.

Unnamed women:

  • (1) – #1 / counselee, allegedly had oral sex, later recanted.
  • (2) – #1 / his flirtatious emails, she swam naked.
  • (3) – #1 / comments on her appearance, his hotel room invitation.
  • (4) – #25 / “leadership potential,” rubbed her feet.

Willow Creek leadership – #1, 7, 13, 24 (contents of official statements). News articles which may include leadership comments/responses: #1, 2, 15, 19, 22, 25, 26.

The index is current as of entry #28 — April 23, 2018.

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Blog Posts and Twitter Threads (Chronological)

NOTE: Numbers followed by a slash at the beginning of a line refer to order of entries in the initial Twitter thread of two introductory tweets and 20 items/links, posted by brad/futuristguy on April 12, 2018.

1/ After years of inquiries, Willow Creek pastor denies misconduct allegations.” March 23, 2018. Chicago Tribune article #1, by Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Coen. Details from accounts of Vonda Dyer, Nancy Beach, Leanne Mellado, John and Nancy Ortberg, others.

2/ Willow Creek congregation comes together to support pastor accused of misconduct, cleared in inquiries.” March 25, 2018. Chicago Tribune article #2, by Manya Brachear Pashman.

3/ Bill Hybels Of Willow Creek Accused of Sexual Misconduct: Why I Believe There Is a Problem.” March 26, 2018. Dee Parsons. The Wartburg Watch “survivor blog” covers a wide range of situations. Articles often draw 100s of comments.

4/ Willow Creek and Bill Hybels on Twitter.” March 30, 2018. Andrew Jones, pioneer blogger (20 years) and missional minister. Focuses on Twitter giving voices to women in this situation. Updated on how this plays out on social media.

5/ Observations on the Chicago Tribune article re: Willow Creek Leadership.” April 2, 2018. John Ortberg is a former staff member at Willow Creek Church. He addresses lack of independence in the investigation, and concern for victims.

6/ Breaking: John Ortberg Responds to the Willow Creek/Bill Hybels Situation.” April 2, 2018. Dee Parsons. Summary of Mr. Ortberg’s statement, plus analysis and community comments.

7/ Willow Creek Response: Frequently Asked Questions.” Early April 2018. This series of 37 FAQs covers 3 general questions, and the rest are grouped in chronological Phases of Willow Creek’s responses to allegations, from April 2014 to March 2018.

8/ Did Willow Creek Community Church Really Have an Independent Investigation? April 4, 2018. Dee Parsons. Independent investigations into reported abuse/misconduct have been a key issue in survivor communities like The Wartburg Watch.

9/ Vonda Dyer’s Statement re: Chicago Tribune and Bill Hybels.” April 8, 2018. Vonda Dyer is a former employee of Willow Creek Church, and one of the women who reported misconduct as first detailed in the initial Chicago Tribute article.

10/ Was Vonda Dyer Fired From Her Position at Willow Creek Because She Confronted Bill Hybels? #churchtoo.” April 9, 2018. Dee Parsons.

11/ Statement from Betty Schmidt: Shining the Light on the Truth.” April 10, 2018. Betty Schmidt is a former elder at Willow Creek Church. She corrects 5 false statements she says were made about her in Willow Creek’s FAQ point #13.

12/ Update: Hybels Out! Betty Schmidt, Former Elder at Willow Creek, Says Current Elder Board Mishandled Her Testimony. Will Bill Hybels Resign Tonight? April 10, 2018. Dee Parsons. Includes Dee’s prediction of essence of Bill Hybels’ resignation speech.

13/ Willow Creek Announcement,” with statement from Bill Hybels regarding his immediate resignation, remarks by Pam Orr on behalf of their elder board, and statement from executive pastor Heather Larson. April 10, 2018, on Willow Creek Church’s website.

14/ Regarding Willow Creek and Bill Hybels’ resignation.” April 10, 2018. Brad Sargent. Twitter thread, My own reflections on problematic issues, written immediately after watching Willow Creek family meeting in which Mr. Hybels resigned.

15/ Hybels steps down from Willow Creek following allegations of misconduct.” April 11, 2018. Chicago Tribune article #3, by Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Coen.

16/ Why We Can’t Move On.” April 11, 2018. Nancy Beach was Willow Creek Church’s first female teaching pastor. She addresses 2 unresolved issues that hinder healing/reconciliation, and gives 3 ways to help sustain constructive movement.

17/ Nancy Beach Responds to Bill Hybels’ Resignation: Why We Can’t Move On.” April 11, 2018. Dee Parsons. Summarizes Ms. Beach’s response, and urges Willow Creek members/friends to learn from this. [Some of them have posted comments on TWW.]

18/ 9 Responses to the Willow Creek Accusations That Reveal Everything Wrong with Evangelicalism.” April 11, 2018. Carly Gelsinger. Screenshots of social media responses to situation and analysis on how these perpetuate secrecy systems.

19/ After Hybels resigns at Willow Creek, some say they wanted to see more contrition.” April 12, 2018. Chicago Tribune article #4, by Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Coen.

20/ Flawed Process, Wounded Women.” April 12, 2018. Nancy Ortberg served on the board of Willow Creek Association and staff at Willow Creek Church. She addresses concerns about “the process and church governance that brought us all to this point.”

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The following entries were added after the initial Twitter thread of 20 items was posted. They are still numbered for easier reference in that thread.

21/ Nancy Ortberg Claims She Endured an Unwanted Physical Encounter with Bill Hybels and Raises Some Serious Questions About His Behavior.” April 12, 2018. Dee Parsons. This post summarizes some points from Ms. Ortberg’s post (see #20 above) and then ties in other issues and testimonies.

22/ Two publishers suspend publication of books by megachurch pastor Hybels in wake of misconduct allegations.” April 13, 2018. Chicago Tribune article #5, by Manya Brachear Pashman. Tyndale House Publishers is suspending publication of a forthcoming new book from Bill Hybels, and InterVarsity Press is suspending reprint of one of his books. His third publisher, Zondervan, has not yet responded to inquiries.

23/ VIDEOS. Brandy Betts’ YouTube channel has posted a series of videos from Willow Creek responses to the unfolding situation with Bill Hybels. Each video is labeled with the date Willow Creek presented it, along with a short description of the particular context for that video. Currently available:

  • 03-23-18 WC Response to CT Re: BH Allegations Part 1
  • 03-23-18 WC Response to CT Re: BH Allegations Part 2
  • 03-26-18 WC Response to CT Re: BH Allegations
  • 04-10-18 Willow Creek Bill Hybels Early Retirement Mtg
  • 04-10-18 WGN News Story Re: Bill Hybels’ Retirement

24/ Willow Creek Elders Send Letter to Church Members: Are They Starting to Realize They Have a Problem? April 21, 2018. Dee Parsons. This post includes “a letter from the Elders” of Willow Creek Church from April 20th, sharing issues they’ve realized they fell short on earlier, and their plan to “resolve any shadow of doubt in the trustworthiness” of the church.

25/ Willow Creek Promises Investigation Amid New Allegations Against Bill Hybels. April 21, 2018. Bob Smietana. This article adds the narratives of Maureen “Moe” Girkins, former president of Zondervan Publishing, Julia Williams, and another woman who requested her name not be used. Excerpt:

So far, at least seven women have accused Hybels of improper conduct and abuse of power. They include the first woman teaching pastor at Willow Creek, a former worship leader, several former staffers, two church members, and the former head of a prominent evangelical publisher. One other woman accused him of an affair—then recanted that claim.

Their accounts follow similar patterns: that Hybels pressured women into spending time alone with him.

26/ Willow Creek elders will renew inquiry into Hybels as more allegations of misconduct surface. April 21, 2018. Chicago Tribune article #6, by Manya Brachear Pashman and Jeff Coen. Summarizes April 20th letter from WCCC Elders, new allegations, and continuing fallout that includes cancellation of book publishing for Bill Hybels and changes in speakers for the upcoming Global Leadership Summit.

27/ My Story. April 23, 2018. Julia Williams. Ms. Williams’ blog post adds details to her account that appeared in the recent Christianity Today article (see entry #25) of experiences with Bill Hybels.

What follows is my story about Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church. If you’ve read previous articles in the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today – including the most recent April 21st CT article written by Bob Smietana – then you already know about this subject – and a little bit about me. Please read on to learn more…

28/ Public Facebook post by Vonda Dyer. April 23, 2018. Vonda Dyer. In her Facebook entry, Ms. Dyer gives details to counter false narratives stemming from a recent statement by Willow Creek Church leaders (see entry #24) about their reported contact with women who have accusations against Bill Hybels. She also challenges them to a “truly independent” investigation. Excerpt:


Let me clarify just one false narrative coming, yet again, from the Willow Creek Leadership. The VERY first time that an elder or senior leader at Willow Creek initiated any official attempt to speak with me was last Friday through a mutual friend, A COUPLE OF HOURS before the letter to the congregation went out and less than 24 hours before the Christianity Today article released on Saturday.

The church’s official statement that “many of us have persistently requested meetings with people mentioned or quoted in media accounts” is categorically UNTRUE, at least in my case.


I WOULD ONLY FEEL SAFE TO ENGAGE with Willow Creek leadership through a truly independent third party investigation, with full disclosure of the findings, out on the table.

29/ Global Leadership Summit 2018 Update.” April 26, 2018. Rev. Dr. Daniel D. Meyer, Senior Pastor. Official statement from Christ Church Oak Brook and Downers Grove, Illinois, that they will forego hosting the Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit this August as originally scheduled. Excerpt:

In light of the allegations now swirling around the former senior pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church AND the larger national movement drawing needed attention to the stories of women treated in harmful ways, this message comes to inform you that Christ Church will not serve as a host site for the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) this coming August. […]

This decision has not been arrived at quickly or lightly. The GLS has been a well-attended event at Christ Church. It has provided valuable leadership insight for our staff, members, and guests. We will continue to look for opportunities to bring a similar conference or, if appropriate, the GLS itself, to our facilities in future years. We’d like to see the largely constructive witness of Bill Hybels, the Willow Creek Church, and its Association continue. But, given the high identification between Bill and the GLS conference, this year we are taking a purposeful pause.

Both the Christian and the American traditions have seen the value of stopping normal activities to observe a moment of silence … or to lower a flag to half-staff … or to issue a collective cry of lament — in the face of significant crisis, turmoil, or loss. We believe that the stories of the women that are now being told are deserving of this pause to LISTEN, REFLECT, and CHANGE. We feel that UNLESS we stop to listen, some stories that need to be heard will not be told and we as a community will lose the opportunity those voices can give us to become more compassionate, just, and holy.

30/ Religion Publishers Suspend Publication of Accused Pastor’s Books.” April 25, 2018. Emma Wenner. This Publishers Weekly article gives details on Bill Hybels’ books from three publishers — Tyndale House, InterVarsity Press, and Zondervan — and their statements about his situation.

31/An update from the Elders.” May 9, 2018. The Willow Creek elders apologize to several groups of people, state that they will be posting updates every other Wednesday through this 45-day period, mention working with Willow Creek Association and with Bill Hybels, and they have reached out for expert help. EXCERPT:

Since the posting of our letter to the Willow family, we continue to listen and process.

Our top priority has been reaching out to the women who have made allegations against Bill. We have talked with several of them and are deeply saddened by the experiences they are sharing with us. We do believe we owe these women some apologies.

The tone of our first response had too much emphasis on defending Bill and cast some of the women in an unfair and negative light. We are sorry. Initially, it was stated that the stories were all lies and the individuals involved were colluding against Bill. We apologize for those sweeping statements. We do not believe the stories were all lies or that all the people were colluding against him. It takes courage for a woman to step forward and share her story, and we are doing everything we can to listen respectfully.

Based on the conversations we have had to date, we believe at least some of Bill’s choices were inappropriate. We are grieved that this situation is difficult for so many people. On behalf of the Elders, both past and present, we now see that while we have many policies in place, they did not prevent the situation we are now in. We regret that, and we are looking into what additional safeguards could be implemented in the future.

32/ ‘We Do Not Believe the Stories Were All Lies,’ Willow Creek Elders Say on Bill Hybels Allegations,” by Leonardo Blair. May 10, 2018. Christian Post. New details from the May 9th update from Willow Creek Elders, in light of the ongoing context of the abuse allegations against Bill Hybels and systemic institutional issues.

33/ Willow Creek elders: ‘We are sorry. … Some of (Bill Hybels’) choices were inappropriate.’ by Natalie Watts. May 10, 2018. Daily Herald.

34/ My thoughts on the latest @WillowCreekCC statement. Vonda Dyer. May 10, 2018. Twitter link and thread. Ms. Dyer provides critical analysis of specific concerns about the Willow Creek Elders’ statement of May 9, and of responses to the women who have come forward.

35/ Willow Creek elders apologize for casting doubt on women’s allegations against founder Hybels. Chicago Tribune article #7. May 10, 2018. Manya Brachear Pashman. Covers the latest statement from Willow Creek elders, and overviews key elements in the historical context of the scandal. EXCERPT:

The highest-ranking elder of northwest suburban Willow Creek Community Church told the congregation Wednesday that elders owe apologies to women who made allegations of misconduct against church founder Bill Hybels.

Pam Orr, the outgoing chair of the church’s elder board, said it has been the elders’ “top priority” to reach out to women who have come forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior.

“We have talked to several of them and are deeply saddened by the experiences they are sharing with us,” Orr told the congregation during a midweek worship service. “We do believe that we owe these women some apologies. The tone of our first response had too much emphasis on defending Bill and cast some of the women in an unfair and negative light. We are sorry.”

In a reversal, Orr also apologized for initial statements that called the allegations lies and castigated former senior leaders of the church who called for a more robust investigation.

36/ “Willow Creek Community Church’s Latest Statement and Response by Vonda Dyer, Hybels’ Victim.” The Wartburg Watch. May 10, 2018. Dee Parsons. Looks at the Willow Creek Elders’ update statement of May 9th and Vonda Dyer’s critical analysis and response. The post also links to the Chicago Tribune article.

37/ Vonda Dyer, Bill Hybels Accuser Who Was Called a Liar, Rejects Willow Creek Apology.” Christian Post. May 11, 2018. Leonardo Blair. Continues an updated context to the recent statement by WC Elders, response by Ms Dyer, and implications on prior investigations.

38/ My Response to the ‘Apology’. Nancy Beach. May 11, 2018. Ms Beach addresses the lack of “weight” in the May 9th apology of the Willow Creek Elders, and considers what the path to healing requires.

I am still sorting through my response to the update statement given by the Willow Creek elders on Wednesday evening.  Some have asked me if I am encouraged by the step toward an apology. I wish I could say that I am. But instead, I find myself deeply disturbed, disappointed, and, frankly, angry. As I’ve tried to think through and pray through my response, this is the big idea that keeps coming back to me:

            The weight of an apology needs to match the weight of the transgressions.

[…] The path to healing requires a sequence:

            Truth leads to Repentance which can then maybe lead to Reconciliation

39/ Letter to Global Leadership Summit Community. Letterhead from Willow Creek Association and Global Leadership Summit. May 17, 2018. Letter from Tom DeVries (WCA President) and Dick DeVos (WCA Board Chair) in response to Bill Hybels situation and WCCC Elders’ ongoing investigation.

40/ Twitter thread of May 17, 2018, by Julia Dahl. Ms Dahl applies the concept framework of Image Repair Methods to show tactics that attempt to cover deficiencies and provide deflections in the Letter to Global Leadership Summit Community from Tom DeVries and Dick DeVos. (See item #39.) The following link is to an ongoing compilation thread by Ms Dahl:

41/ Twitter thread of May 17, 2018, by Andy Rowell. In response to today’s WCA letter, Andy Rowell posted a series of tweets with historical context of actions by the Willow Creek Association board, plus analysis/critique of what remains for them to do now.

42/ An update from the Elders. May 23, 2018. Covers email retention policy, men and women working together, hiring of Crossroads Resolution Group (CRG) “to serve as an independent, neutral third party to listen to the women involved and discuss with each of them their requests and desired process outcomes.” CRG will also train conciliators. EXCERPT:

We have asked Crossroads Resolution Group (CRG) to serve as an independent, neutral third party to listen to the women involved and discuss with each of them their requests and desired process outcomes. CRG will work toward mutual agreement on any further investigation or mediation. Crossroads’ focus is to work with each woman individually and with the church on a plan that is agreeable to everyone.

Additionally, Crossroads has agreed to provide trained conciliators to serve as an independent confidential resource for anyone who has concerns and does not feel comfortable contacting the Elders. We are committed to providing this resource—and confidentiality—to those in need of it. Information can be found below.

43/ Twitter thread of May 24, 2018, by benjaminady. A crucial thread that critiques the most recent WCC Elders’ report, including their hiring of Crossroads Resolution Group. The author gives several points from CRG’s website that would indicate it is not independent/neutral as Willow Creek’s Elders claim, and he points at how the report still uses language that minimizes victims. Here is the entire thread:

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Additional Analysis and Response

The following are select posts that offer important analysis/responses on lessons to learn from the situation at Willow Creek. They have not been added to the numbered Twitter thread.

Bill Hybels, Willow Creek and Truth, by Ray Carroll. April 16, 2018. The Aquila Report. Expands upon three essential lessons from the problems embodied in this situation:

  • External checks are not enough to prevent failure or accusations of failure.
  • Before the first hint of moral failure arrives, your church must have a plan in place.
  • Take every accusation seriously and create an environment where people who feel threatened are comfortable reporting their issues.

Why Churches Disbelieve Victims and Believe Pastoral Abusers, by Mike Phillips. April 23, 2018. Listen Carefully. A series of points that offer a practical explanation for the following questions:

Why do churches and church members doggedly defend Pastoral Abusers? What are the essential reasons this happens? Here is what I and other victims’ advocates and abuse consultants have found.

#BillHybelsToo?, by Aimee Byrd. April 25, 2018. First Things.

How do we evaluate the condition of the church today, with #ChurchToo stories of sexual abuse shared by victims on social media sounding as sinister as the #MeToo movement that first gave women a voice? What do these accounts reveal about the church’s message about men and women made in the image of God?

Letter: The Willow Creek community deserves justice, not just ‘understanding,’ by Cathy Ellison, Evanston, IL.April 26, 2018. Letter to the Editor in The Chicago Tribune.

Julia Dahl Twitter thread on recent revised response of Willow Creek Elders on May 9, 2018. Are there potential liability issues going on?

Andy Rowell Twitter post, May 10, 2018.

Tweets by Amy Moore and Julia Dahl in a thread, May 11-12, 2018, on the potential legacy of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek.

Twitter, May 22, 2018.

Twitter, May 23-24, 2018. Critiques of WCCC Elder’s report posted May 23.

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10 comments on “Resource Bibliography on Willow Creek Church Situation and Bill Hybels’ Reported Misconduct

  1. Pingback: Some Thoughts on Supposedly Feminist Men Who Reportedly Abuse/Harass Women | futuristguy

  2. I didn’t do a thing, Andrew. I just got home from school and, voila!, I see Brad’s amazing work! Thank you, Brad! It looks great. What a shame there is a need to compile resources like this, but it is what it is, and we’ll keep doing our thang, blogging and compiling, as needed.


  3. Pingback: Resource Bibliography on Willow Creek Church Situation and Bill Hybels’ Reported Misconduct | Speakingtruthinlove's Blog

  4. Thanks … when situations like this have major developments, I compile posts like this so I can easily find the links to official statements, news, and analysis. Otherwise, I tend to lose track of the chronology of what happened. So, voila indeed — glad it’s of use. B-

    Liked by 1 person

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