ABUSE & VIOLENCE IN THE CHURCH, Abuse Systems and Transformation Tools, Bill Hybels, Clergy Misconduct, Clergy Sex Abuse, It's All About the Image, No-Talk Rule, Sexual Abuse/Assault and Churches, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Authority, Spiritual Bullies, Willow Creek Church/Willow Creek Association, Women and the Church

Bill Hybels, the Willow Creek “System,” and Why the Women Needed to Speak Publicly

Bill Hybels, Clergy Sexual Misconduct, Willow Creek Church

Bill Hybels, Willow Creek, Clergy Sexual Misconduct


Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed wrote a very important article about the Bill Hybels/Willow Creek sexual misconduct scandal. This is a very important article that summarizes the system that was in place which allowed Bill Hybels to not only go unchecked, but to be protected and defended. You can apply this kind of corrupt system to many others where perpetrators are defended and protected. Simply replace the names/locations with another renegade high-controlling pastor who abuses (sexually or spiritually), and victims are silenced and their characters maligned.

The important take-home here is to note the universal pattern that keeps corrupt systems corrupt, and what it takes to stop this system so that truth can be revealed, and hopefully bring restoration to both victims and the church.

The women who spoke out are the heroes at Willow Creek. They were trashed, called all sorts of evil things, but truly, they were the heroes, trying to protect the church. We would do well to listen to survivors!

“We would not know any of the truth of this problem at Willow (Association and Elders) had they not gone public. Four years of silence, four years of nothing being known, four years when others may have spoken up. We know what we know only because the women had the courage to go public.”

Please read the article and try to apply the Willow Creek “system” to other abuse stories you are familiar with. I think you will see the pattern. This is the pattern we must learn, or we will repeat the same mistakes.

Scot McKnight’s article:  Willow: Why the Women Went Public?


6 thoughts on “Bill Hybels, the Willow Creek “System,” and Why the Women Needed to Speak Publicly”

  1. “The women who spoke out are the heroes at Willow Creek. They were trashed, called all sorts of evil things, but truly, they were the heroes, trying to protect the church.”

    I think that is the most significant pattern to watch for – when someone speaks up about bullying or abusive behaviour and the automatic response is silencing, shaming, name-calling and dismissal of their words 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s very true. I don’t know that it works much differently in churches that are part of an organization, either, in my experience, those same instincts to protect the institution come out.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Scot McKnight use to attend Willow Creek, I think for about 10 years or so which is why he has the insight into this situation that he has. He is now an Anglican. Perhaps that is why his articles on the situation at Willow Creek have more depth and good analysis. He certainly is anti-complimentarian and I would think would be a valuable resource for SBB.


  4. Julie Anne

    Thanks for posting this link. I found the author’s analysis of the dynamics that can occur at churches especially with no central accountability right on. I also think the dynamics this author talks about is what happened with Sovereign Grace and C.J. Mahaney with an unhappy and still unresolved ending. I am sure these same dynamics are what happened with a number of other leaders that started well with good intentions but eventually fell into the traps described.

    I found the term “goodness” a little nebulous but I know what what was meant. I would say it means a church where both leaders and regular members exhibit James 3:13-16 behavior vs. Jame 3:17-18 or see Christ’s interests that Paul talked about in Philippians 2:20. I have seen churches where the members exhibit goodness and sadly those where there is a lot of self seeking or lack of goodness. Sadly sometimes a few that don’t have “goodness” can ruin the whole church.

    The trap that leaders “are always tempted away from goodness in the seductions of relishing celebrity and exploiting power” needs to be something churches and leaders become aware of. I am sure a lot of leaders don’t go in with these temptations in mind but this becomes a trap that traps many. Sure there are narcissistic leaders that will easily fall into this but I hope the narcissists are more the exception than the rule.

    Regular members should also be aware that the persona leaders presented on stage isn’t always who this really is. Some are good at acting the part and regular members are duped to think that this persona is the real person. At least sometimes this persona ends up not being what the leader really is in that they can talk a good game but don’t have much character to practice what they teach.

    Silencing and bullying is evidence of power mongering that I have sadly seen exhibited. People need to be aware what this symptom means.

    People that feel called to be pastors should be made aware of these traps before they start their journey perhaps in seminary. With this awareness and other items put into place hopefully they won’t succumb and will finish well. Thanks for sharing this.


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