Theologian and Jesus Creed blogger Scot McKnight was part of Willow Creek Church for nearly a decade. He has been asked repeatedly what he thinks about the situation with Bill Hybels. He responded today (June 27th) with, “About Willow Creek: What Do I Think?” This is an extensive article — almost 3,000 words — with Mr. McKnight’s insightful and incisive laying out of details and doctrines. He helps us to discern the facts, to see where integrity has decayed and trust been lost because of a false narrative and flawed actions by Willow Creek pastors and Elders, and to understand why he would come to this conclusion:
My aim is not to act like I know all that happened. I do not. I believe the women on the basis of what I have learned. I am, as I said at the outset, often asked about the Willow situation and I have done my best to discern the facts. What I do know is this: Bill Hybels and Willow Creek’s leadership have undone forty years of trust for many. A church that has stood valiantly for women in ministry, that has always stood for Christian grace and truth and forgiveness for repenters, that has supported #metoo in various places, that then responds to women as they did to these women unravels the thread Willow has woven for four decades. Many of us are asking why Bill Hybels and Willow Creek’s pastors and Elders slandered the women, calling them liars and colluders, and still refuse to offer them apologies. Willow is being undone as we watch, and the pastors and Elders are at the center of the unraveling.
Mr. McKnight explains why these women and other advocates who came forward were taking prophetic action to challenge Willow Creek leadership to rethink their actions and repent. His article does that as well. Willow Creek’s pastors and Elders are being confronted by an increasing number of witnesses. Hopefully they will halt their trajectory, turn, and listen …
4 thoughts on “Theologian Scot McKnight Responds, “About Willow Creek: What Do I Think?””
I have been a part of two churches where the pastor was caught in adultery. The first one handled it well-the elders did their investigation when they started hearing rumors, and the pastor was put on leave. An announcement, with minimal details, was made to the congregation about the pastoral leave. About a month later, the pastor was dismissed for his actions, another congregational meeting was held for a more detailed explanation of the situation, steps going forward, and for Q/A. The congregation was emotionally devastated, but only a few people left, and the church continues to thrive.
Church #2-The situation came to light, with a back story of a pastor who was always able to talk himself out of an issue (there had been many). However, the church was losing members rapidly while the pastor continued to maintain his innocence. However, he had been seen too many times in the company of the “other woman.” While he defended himself from the pulpit, the leadership board wrung its hands, and the damage was almost fatal. There had been many other instances of this pastor “courting” the women of the church that had been previously ignored. The pastor finally left, after the deacons bought him off with a huge severance package. Most of the congregation fled to other churches. 30 years later, the church has never recovered.
I hope that other church leadership boards take McKnight’s words to heart. People are not as stupid as leadership would like to think.
Quoting Scot McKnight:
“Second, there is the incredible admission by Bill that a woman spent nights at his home when Lynne was out of town. This admission seems to have met with no resistance […] How can the pastors and Elders have known this and not done something? What kind of moral leadership is this?”
Moral leadership seems to be sadly lacking at Willow Creek.
Bill Hybels has confessed to secret overnight trysts with another woman, in the sanctity of the Hybels’ family home, while his trusting wife traveled and knew nothing. This is exactly what it means to be an unfaithful deceiver. Based on all of the other testimonies of his misconduct, it appears this was his preferred lifestyle for a long time.
McKnight gently says something I noticed at the outset of this; when the accused lashes out at his accusers, and especially if he impugns their motives (Hybels said people wanted to impugn his integrity so he couldn’t retire with a good reputation, more or less), then you’ve got a good idea that the whole matter is going to turn out badly for the accused. If you have the evidence to prove nothing happened, you go with that and leave the invective alone.
In the same way, WillowCreek’s refusal to release the entire report they did about the matter is also a bad sign. Again, if you’ve got the evidence to prove your case, you don’t need to go scorched earth.
FYI: If you haven’t read the latest: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-willow-creek-elders-step-down-20180807-story.html
I think this was a necessary step and a good one. The leaders there recognized that they seriously breached the integrity of their offices and realized that the way to restore trust in themselves and the church was to remove themselves.