ABUSE & VIOLENCE IN THE CHURCH, Bill Hybels, Clergy Misconduct, Egalitarianism, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Authority, Willow Creek Church/Willow Creek Association, Women and the Church

Bill Hybels’ Mentor, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, Accused of Clergy Sexual Misconduct: A Personal Story

“Right here,” says Bilezikian, standing in the middle of his lawn. There [Bill] Hybels, then no more famous than any other recent college grad, roared up on his bike and said, “Dr. B., you and I are going to start a church.”

Note from Julie Anne: Just a bit ago, I checked my Twitter account and noticed a private message. It was from Ann Lindberg. She directed me to a link and said she told her story. I asked if I could post her story here and she said, “Please do!”

I just scrolled through my Twitter private messages from Ann and found our first private Twitter conversation was in September of 2018. However, after reading that first message on Twitter, it’s clear we were in contact earlier – probably by email. I’m too lazy to look it up, but suffice it to say, I’ve known about this personal account for quite some time. I had asked Ann if she wanted me to share her story back then, but it wasn’t the right time. That is something very important to me – that survivors share their personal accounts on their own timing, when they are ready. Sharing publicly is a big deal. It’s very scary. Using your real name is even scarier. But now is the time for Ann. I’m so proud of her. Perhaps others now will feel free to come forward, too.

Let me give a little background on Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian. He was the mentor to Willow Creek’s former long-time pastor, Bill Hybels. Isn’t that interesting? Bill Hybels also was accused of clergy sexual misconduct by multiple women. I wonder if Bill knew about Dr. Bilezikian’s sexual predatory behavior? Curious minds would like to know.

Take note at how influential Gil was to Bill Hybels from this Christianity Today article from 2000: “Bilezikian’s influence at the huge seeker-sensitive church cannot be overestimated. “There would be no Willow Creek without Gilbert Bilezikian,” Hybels says.”

His bio at Wheaton College’s website includes a description of his work there: “Gil came to Wheaton in 1966 as a professor of New Testament but then took a leave of absence to be the president of Haigazian College in Beirut, Lebanon for three years. After teaching two years at Trinity College, Deerfield, IL, he returned to Wheaton College for eighteen years winning numerous teaching awards.”

Dr. Bilezikian was highly respected by egalitarians. Wheaton’s bio further notes, “Gil’s writing always provoked new thinking in his field. Beyond Sex Roles (1985) was one of the first academically compelling evangelical affirmations of women in ministry and leadership.”

Now that you are acquainted with Dr. Bilezikian, let’s go on to Ann’s personal account.

From Ann’s private collection of postcards and notes.

By Ann Lindberg

I’m writing to tell the story of my victimization by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, who was Bill Hybels’ professor and mentor, and was very influential in the development of Willow Creek Community Church. This is a story I take no pleasure in telling. I have waited a very long time and been in numerous private meetings with Willow leadership and others since 2010 and accomplished very little to date. It is my hope it is not too late for Willow, that the die is not yet cast with no hope for rebirth. So many truths are still concealed. My goal is for Willow leadership to finally be ready to repent, apologize specifically to the survivors from the Willow stage, and to make sweeping structural change within to prevent this from ever happening again.

I mention many names throughout this post, and I realize that I am telling my story, my truth, about my experience without the covering of a lawyer. This is a risk that opens me up to hate letters and perhaps the threats that other Willow victims have gotten, and yet it is still the right thing to do. It seems impossible to keep this short, as I have 35 years of journals, postcards and emails, like an octopus with many different tentacles and sources, spanning from 1984-2019 at Willow Creek Community Church. For that reason, I will summarize but can supply more details to those who request it.

I started attending Willow in 1984 vulnerable and heartbroken new believer, and grew to become a weekly attender involved in various volunteer and leadership programs.

From Ann’s private collection of postcards and notes.

From October 1984 to 1988, Dr. Bilezikian pursued an inappropriate relationship with me. It began with subtle flirtations after weekend services, and grew to include hand holding, emotional sharing and intimacy, kissing and fondling, and pressure to have sex. Dr. Bilezikian confided about his unhappy marriage, his lack of joy, and desire for a better partnership. He told me I was the type of woman he wished he had married instead of his wife, Maria. I was young in my faith, new to church, and hungry for someone to invest spiritually in me. He made me feel special, and he was a spiritual authority in a large church, and I did not feel like I could say no to him, even when my gut was telling me this was not appropriate.

One night, as we were walking to my car, he turned around in a hallway, pushed me hard against a wall, grabbed a breast and stuck his tongue down my throat. I pushed back, in complete disbelief, but he began skipping down the stairs like a child. Other times, we would meet during the day time and take walks down the Wheaton prairie paths or around Wheaton’s small downtown streets. He would warn me that no one could see us together, that it would ruin his reputation, yet in the next moment, he would shove me into the doorway of a storefront or behind a truck and begin wildly kissing me. I would push him away. When we walked down the prairie paths, he would reach for my hand, my waist, and other places.

He told me he was very depressed and that being with me gave him energy and hope. He told me that he felt he could help the church thrive because I made him happy. This put an enormous and confusing pressure on me to allow the “affair“ (clergy abuse) to continue, because I did not want to hurt the church or him. I would ask him to attend marital counseling, he would tell me it was too late; he was trapped and would never be able to divorce Maria and still preach. I would ask him to get into a men’s group. He said he didn’t like men. I would suggest he get individual counseling. He would refuse; it was too late; he was too old. I would ask him to talk with Bill Hybels. He said Bill would never understand. He told me I was the only one in the world he could really talk to, that everyone else had an agenda. He knew how to manipulate my weaknesses, and I honestly believed that I was the only one who could help him.

I didn’t know what to do. I felt trapped. I didn’t want to continue as things were, but wondered if this was my purpose in life, to support him so that he could keep Willow Creek alive and growing, as I had been told. I was too naïve to figure out there was no way God wanted that for me, no way to maintain the “friendship” in a godly way, and that that had never been Dr. Bilezikian’s intent. I believe we would have had sex if I had allowed it, but I think he was very good at reading people and knew just how far he could push me before I would stop having anything to do with him.

From Ann’s private collection of postcards and notes.

He said I was too analytical and should just let God take control of my life. This confused me, because my spiritual life felt like it was growing stronger all the time. I now think what he really meant was that he was frustrated he couldn’t get physically farther with me than he did, he would just like me to give into emotion and go with it. Things were on and off again for many years.

Then I met my husband, Mark. We were married in 2006. It wasn’t until 2010 that I felt strong enough to begin to confront the spiritual abuse I’d experienced so early in my faith. I was also worried that there were other women who had been harmed in similar ways over the years.

Mark and I went together to Willow to talk with two of the Elder’s Assistants, Scott Vaudrey and Chris Hurta about Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian and the abuse I’d experienced. Sadly, the result of those early 2010 meetings were disappointing. I did not feel taken terribly seriously and, quite the contrary, that Dr.B’s inappropriateness had been minimized.

They said that since it didn’t lead to physically having sex, the issue of concern didn’t need to go further than that meeting. I asked if they thought there could be more people out there who had been taken advantage of in a similar way, Scott said he was confident there were not. Dr. Bilezikian and I had agreed to meet for lunch so that I could talk with him about all that had occurred and where I was at with it. I needed to confront him in order for me to heal. But before we met, he initiated an email exchange that resulted in my expressing the transgressions to him. First, he said he had no recollection and had disgust for such people, would never have behaved like that. Then fragments of memory came back to him.

Bottom line was, no remorse, no repentance, no apology. He attempted to turn the tables on me by telling me the Biblical mandate for handling conflicts one on one, and he would not respond to any more emails unless I put “agreed to meet” in the subject line. That was the moment I saw clearly how predatory his behavior was.

My body began paying the price for so many years of stress, fear and abuse. I struggled to sleep, felt anxious and in pain most days, and was subsequently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, C-PTSD, GAD, and Depression. In 2011, Mark and I met again with Christ Hurta and the Elder Response Team and talked further about Dr. B. and his effect on my health, life and marriage. Nothing came of it, other than some vague threats if I were to discuss my experience publicly in order to be able to continue to serve and attend there. I could lose my positions of leadership in ministries I volunteered in, or could be asked not to attend altogether. They did not want me to become divisive.

From then up to 2016, I was constantly and quietly criticized, rejected in leadership, accused falsely of wrong-doing and even had one of the security guards watching me while I was at church. I feel stalked and pushed out and pressured. False stories were spread about me to others and there were warnings put in my file, (yes, they had a file they kept to document me.) They wanted me to go through a weekly “rehabilitation” to teach me to think more like Willow’s version of Christlikeness. I did not want to gossip and I was not ready to go public about Dr. B., so I suffered in silence and tears alone. I was removed from leadership in a ministry I loved. I was told that my husband could continue to serve and that they would “partner him with a suitable woman so they could serve together in my place.” My husband refused to do this and we both stepped out of that ministry.

In 2016, I felt like I’d exhausted all the streams of accountability that I could find within the structure of Willow. I called Steve Carter in desperation and told him the bare bones of what is going on with my being sidelined from leadership and serving. I left out the part about Dr. B, for now. Steve, in his kindness, set up a meeting with the people involved in the attacks on me. They told him I was never under any censure, that there was no probation. It was not the truth, but it presented as such. Steve had tried to find reconciliation for me and I appreciated his gesture and his support, but it didn’t change what continued to happen to me for the rest of the year. He had no authority in the church outside of preaching, a fact I did not realize at the time.

In 2017, Mark and I had another meeting with Chris Hurta and Scott Vaudrey. I was feeling at the end of my rope with so many things that have happened to me over the last few years, and I thought I needed some form of closure. I brought proof with me that time, three original postcards from Dr. B. and a letter he left in a book for me. I took photos of these, which I include below. I am very glad I did take those photos, because in the meeting I gave them to Scott, trusting that he would take them to the elders on my behalf. He took them.

From Ann’s private collection of postcards and notes.

In 2018, my husband and I again talked with Steve Carter. I told him everything this time. It felt like another burden off my shoulders, although it unfortunately left it on the shoulders of Steve, Heather, Bill and the Elders. Steve reacted with his characteristic kindness, concern, respect and alarm, which I appreciated. After we spoke, Steve immediately went to Scott Vaundrey to alert him to the emergency, assuming that no one knew yet. Surely, he later said, had they known I would have been pastored and cared for better. But Scott and Heather Larson responded by saying they already knew.

Soon after, Mark and I met with Steve Carter, Heather Larson, Scott Vaudrey, and Chirs Hurta. In the meeting, they told me it wasn’t my fault, that he (Dr.B.) was in a position of spiritual authority. I didn’t expect to hear that. They said Dr. B. felt remorseful he had hurt me. I didn’t know that, and the story had changed several times. Mark got to say how he felt. I asked them if I would still be welcome at Willow next week and they said we were more than welcome, they wanted us there. We hugged all around. I mistakenly thought Willow would handle the story honorably from here on.

Then, in April of 2018, the Chicago Tribune published the damning article sharing accounts of clergy and seual abuse by Bill Hybels. I cried through many of the following “family meetings and subsequent communication to the congregation by the Elders at the time. The next month Mark and I met with Missy Rasmussen, an Elder at the time, and Pam Orr, who had recently stepped down as Lead Elder, to follow-up on my prior meeting regarding Dr. B. I felt triggered after learning of Bill’s alleged behavior, and knew that they now had two male senior leaders who had been accused of sexual misconduct. We wanted to know what steps were being taken to investigate and protect the church from potential future leadership behavior. I expressed concern that the first time I had shared my experience, it wasn’t taken seriously. The Elders should have been notified much earlier in the process, and I should not at any point been told that “since it didn’t go to sex, it didn’t need to go any further.”

In May, the Elders put out a statement saying that “not all the allegations were untrue or the result of ‘colluding’ against Bill, and that he had made some poor choices.” Hearing that was both a validation and a trigger for me, because it meant that they believed he was not 100% innocent, and it made the misconduct committed against me by Dr. B feel all the more intense.

In August, an article came out in the New York Times that was quite specific about Bill Hybels’ abuse of his personal assistant of eight years woman who lived with them for awhile when they took in boarders. The whole revelation and the senior lead staff and Elders’ lack of response caused Steve Carter to immediately resign. He said in a published letter that he had offered his resignation many weeks ago, but hey had asked him to hold off making it public, “until it was a good time.” To me, their request of this felt like a familiar storyline of more church damage and image control.

Shortly after Steve resigned, Willow’s Elders and Heather Larson all stepped down/resigned. It was necessary, but surreal. They all addressed how Bill was out of control, that they hadn’t monitored or questioned or stood up against him sufficiently.

A few days later, Chris Hurta called me asking if I was E.S. Martin, someone who wrote a blog saying that in 2014, Dr. B. had exposed himself to her, pulling down his Depends, and then other details, like groping her, rubbing against her breasts. It felt at this moment like Chris had been sent to do damage control. I [told] him I wasn’t her but that clearly she was another one of his victims. Chris said there was no proof it was true and that there were lots of crazy people in the world. I said maybe, but the behavior sounded very much like what he did with and to me. Chris was silent.

From Ann’s private collection of postcards and notes.

I also asked Chris for the postcards and notes I had given all that time ago, as it was my understanding that they were to be passed to the Elders to support my allegations of abuse. He said of course I could have them back and that he and Scott would get them to me within a week. Later I found out that Scott had immediately shredded them, “as per common Willow policy with routine mail.” I realize now that Chris, Scott, and the Elders told me something close to a lie. I asked them if they had seen the postcards from Dr. B. and Pam Orr responded very carefully, “We have been told of the contents.” I didn’t like that answer and wondered why they hadn’t been given the originals long ago.

Now I know that Scott Vaudrey had shredded them and didn’t give them to the Elders or notify Bill or the investigations team.

In January 2019, I met E.S. Martin, the author of the blog that detailed her abuse at the hands of Dr. B. She communicated that she wanted to do a class action lawsuit and notified me that she was talking with multiple Dr. B. victims on her blog. (Note: none of her alleged victims are willing to speak publicly. She was hoping I would be the one but at that point, I wasn’t ready.)

In March 2019 the “IAG” report on WCCC & WCA came out yesterday. It was very disappointing to me, as the apologies and findings were vaguely worded. The victims/survivors were not mentioned by name. It said the public had already decided Bill was guilty, so Bill was forced to retire ahead of time.

There was no transparency or call for repentance in specific ways. I longed for the truth to be exposed, and so deeply desired that the leadership would embrace vulnerability and make safe space for all victims to come forward without the threat of judgement, shame, and the risk of being ostracized. I wanted there to be a clear directive to the leadership to apologize publicly by name, Bill’s victims, Dr. B’s victims, and to credit Steve Carter with having the courage to speak up and apologize privately to victims immediately after finding out in 2018. I would still like for Steve to have a chance to tell his story to the congregation.

It has been over 35 years since Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian began watching/grooming me. It has been 9 years since I first began talking with leaders at Willow about the relationship I had with him. I have faced one seemingly unrelated attack after another at Willow. I have suffered one bout of loss of health after another. I have provided evidence that Willow shredded. I know Dr. B. was inappropriate during his involvement with the WCA, as he appeared at my house one day after teaching at one of the early pastor’s conferences. (Note: It is my belief he has had inappropriate relationships with women around the world, encompassing many organizations and churches, if his actions domestically are any clue.) The scope of his assaults is larger than any one organization, and yet none of them have the incentive to look at a larger picture, of how he fooled so many for so long.

I am still so scared to share my story, after all these years, but I have come to believe that the only way to real peace is through the truth. We have to be transparent and not withhold any part of ourselves from God. I love Willow with all my heart and I long for it to finally become free. I hope someday they will truly embrace the truth and trust that God’s grace will be enough to make all things new. May my stories help others and give them the chance to come out of the darkness. And may all these details I have written so far in my story help those who have not felt the trauma of Willow better understand the deep pain of those who have endured mistreatment and then been further attacked for talking about it. I pray for God’s will to be done. Amen.

37 thoughts on “Bill Hybels’ Mentor, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, Accused of Clergy Sexual Misconduct: A Personal Story”

  1. So tragic. As long as the institution is more valuable than the people it serves, the leaders will always choose to circle the wagons rather than provide safety and justice.


  2. Ann, I am so sorry for what happened to you, and what continues to happen as Willow Creek can’t seem to get its act together to take definitive action regarding the results of pastoral predation in its leadership. I pray you can tak steps towards healing and wholeness, and that Dr B will get the comeuppance he deserves. As you said, there is probably a much larger story to be told about the numbers of people he has hurt.


  3. This is a tough read. As bad as the behavior was, the cover up by the elders was worse.

    Some very telling points (there are many I’m not going to hi-lite all):

    Dr. Bilezikian was an early and highly respected egalitarian, publishing Beyond Sex Roles in 1985 affirming roles in ministry traditionally reserved for men.
    Nota Bene: Egalitarianism is by no means a guarantee of a relationship which is free of seual abuse. There is a certain mythos that “complementarianism” is abusive and “egalitarianism” is not abusive. Sin does not respect theological boundaries.
    I have a suspicion, in fact, that many people who are guilt of clergy abuse use and espouse “egalitarianism” to cloak their behavior. A parallel I have seen was a workplace bully who in his position intimidated multiple women he supervised, and suddenly became a champion of women in his organization once they were no longer with the company.
    The elders acted as a good ole boys network to defend their guy and their organization.
    There was clear misuse of the intent of Matthew 18. The goal is reconciliation, but the organization made it into a checklist. The problem is that like a lawyer operating lawfare style, there is always a “fault” that can be found, that someone is doing something “the wrong way”. At a minimum the elders should have been willing and able to provide healthy guidance through such a process. But reconciliation was not the goal.
    The church did not use a transparent, Biblical church discipline process. The purpose of church discipline is ultimately to restore a person spiritually and restore them in fellowship to the body of believers. However when churches do not want to follow a transparent process, the use a system of abusive – sinful and carnal – means of enforcing discipline:
    Implicit threats
    Elimination from leadership or ministry positions
    Being the target of gossip, whisper campaigns, slander, and all around sabotage of the person’s reputation
    Accusations of being “controversial” or “divisive”
    Being falsely accused of wrong-doing
    Being treated with suspicion
    Harassment by church security
    Maintaining a “file” on members
    Accepting evidence from her, and lying that the evidence would be returned . . .
    Destruction of evidence of inappropriate behavior – namely the shredding of several post cards that had been inappropriately mailed to her . . .
    Lying that they had properly notified the investigations team – when all indications are they gave a limited, incomplete, and factually wrong report.

    They had every opportunity to the right thing . . .

    . . . but they kept doing the wrong thing.


  4. “Shredded?” DAMN!!! That really pisses me off. Thank you Ann for sharing your story with honesty and braveness. The resolution you seek may never arrive to your satisfaction, or ours, but for now . .. . . I hear you. And others do too. Thank you so much.


  5. Ann,

    I read and benefited greatly from Dr. Bilezikian’s book “Beyond Sex Roles”, and used to highly recommend it on blogs such as this one and via Twitter, but I want you to know that I completely, unequivocally, without reservation believe you. It took a lot of courage to speak up and I thank you so much for it! It is my hope and prayer that more of Dr. B’s victims will be emboldened to come forward too. You have paved the way. Again, thank you!

    If I’ve learned anything over the past several years, it’s that predators are not limited to any political party, or denomination, Catholicism, Protestantism or for that matter nondenominational churches. Wolves hang out where the sheep are period. And in my opinion, the most insidious wolves are the ones that cloak themselves in advocacy whether it be gender advocacy in the case of Dr. B. or domestic abuse advocacy or sexual abuse survivor advocacy.

    It is so disheartening to see victims/advocates who invest their lives in supporting churches so quickly disbelieved and dismissed or even more insidious, believed and dismissed as what happened to you where they even destroyed the evidence! I’m so glad you took photos.

    I admire your courage. It’s hard enough to try to hold people accountable when they hold to oppressive theology (headship) that in my opinion grooms girls/women to be the perfect prey, but it’s a whole ‘nother level when the predator is an outspoken person supposedly on the same team.

    At that level, whistleblowers, not only take heat from regular parishioners as in any abuse situation, they also take heat from other victims/advocates. They are accused of being divisive, not remembering who the real enemy is (you may not have been accused of that, but I have seen it when wolves are exposed within advocacy).

    May this be a public service announcement to my fellow sheep/advocates, the enemy of our souls is not encumbered with a conscience that would prevent him from masking as a champion for women, domestic abuse survivors, and/or child sexual abuse survivors and may none of us be so conceited as to think we can’t possibly be fooled by a predator. May we not be so conceited to believe that Mr. or Ms. _____________ (fill in the blank) could not possibly have done that just because we thought highly of him/her.


  6. Shirley said: “There something I read that he said that made me feel that way, even though others were quoting him.”

    I would be very interested in seeing that quote from him, Shirley!


  7. I am so sorry you were not listened to and that Willow Creek were more interested in protecting themselves rather than you, a very clear victim.
    I visited the S.Barrington campus from the UK for Willows ‘Partnering to Prevail’ leadership traing conference in Nov 2012 and remembered it had a Cafe called “Dr B’s”. Having just now looked at their website I can see they have at least had the decency to change its name.
    Willow Creek achieved so much and no doubt will again, but I do hope the changes I’ve followed these last few years will settle into its DNA for their future.
    I hope and pray that you find peace through the pain of sharing. Thank you for being so brave.


  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Ann. I hope that you are able to move toward healing from all the pain you have already experienced. Things may continue to be challenging for a while as people will question why you are now telling your truth. Please make sure you are taking extra care of yourself.


  9. I was unaware of this person, but I am sorry to hear about this.

    Nota Bene: Egalitarianism is by no means a guarantee of a relationship which is free of seual abuse. There is a certain mythos that “complementarianism” is abusive and “egalitarianism” is not abusive. Sin does not respect theological boundaries.

    It’s certainly not a guarantee! I think there are aspects of complementarianism that are oppressive and abusive by default, particularly ‘hard’ comp, so it’s a larger problem. And dealing with it is a larger problem, but general power dynamics are going to be an issue regardless and if this man was in power that’s always kind of a hurdle. It takes strong and motivated people to try to get rid of someone at the top. And I can’t help but notice that although there were women involved at some levels, many of the primary people pushing this story down (and literally shredding proof!!!!) were men. You can talk at equality, but I’m not sure how much power the various women had at the end of the day. It’s a mess.

    I too would be very interested in hearing what Shirley thought was off about this particular person!


  10. Julie Anne, I just now read this. Thank you so much for your kindness, belief in me, and well written article. It means so much to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I went from being a supporter of Willow Creek to becoming very much more informed and now have just to be honest a strong antipathy towards this institution.

    Until recently I did think that at least this outfit had avoided the leadership abuse of so many denominations. This has proved not to be the case. I wasn’t surprised on reflection as WC resembles a large secular corporation – a business, marketing – using worldly methods to ‘build the church’ even though I would like to believe they genuinely wanted to evangelise.

    A church riddled with pop psychology, mysticism, a massive over-emphasis on the love of God (which is said to be unconditional – a word not found in the bible), downplaying of sin. A feel good about yourself religion which in my opinion is to make up for the absence of the Holy Spirit, as is the targeting of a demographic of people who would naturally tend to get on with each other.

    The point is this: this institution has spread its doctrines and practices across the globe. Church after church who follow the WC model, obsessed devotees, and with the same consequences. The enablement of abuse. If sin is no big deal, God loves you regardless of what you do, if you build your self-esteem and indulge in self-love, what is so wrong with getting your own way with those of the opposite sex? Where is there restraint, let alone fear of a God who hates this? “Unmet needs” do not justify this kind of behaviour.

    Ann – thank you for being willing to speak up about this institution. It has spread its influence across the Pond to Europe, both UK and the continent, and enabled abuse that has affected my own family. I have disagreed with and disliked WC for years, but now more or less loathe it as an institution (not the people!) with ever fibre of my being.

    I appreciate in your own case the primary object is to get wrongs done to you put right if possible, but in doing so you are doing those of us who have watched the influence of this mega-‘church’ doing damage in other parts of the world a service as well.

    Maybe redemption of Willow Creek is yet possible, but I tend to think that, like the Communism of the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, you cannot reform it, it has to go lock stock and barrel.


  12. Dear Readers,

    Clergy sexual abuse is an anathema to all that is good in the world. While I do not believe it can be eradicated — I ardently believe it must be exposed. Thank-you each for the ways in which you have come alongside Ann, believed in her, and thereby restored her soul. Thank you for being outraged on her behalf.

    Dear Ann,

    You are one of the bravest women that I know. I ardently pray that in sharing his secret that the shame will waft away to the places prepared for it, that healing will come to every part of your body, soul, and spirit, that in saying your own word your whole personhood is restored. I love you madly. Brave is you.

    Also, Julie Anne, thank you for giving Ann a hearing.


    Liked by 1 person

  13. Maybe redemption of Willow Creek is yet possible, but I tend to think that, like the Communism of the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, you cannot reform it, it has to go lock stock and barrel.
    (quoted from above )

    EXACTLY, and the sooner we nuke them with massive exposure the sooner they force change of their CULTure ( by 100% leadership change) or finances crash and they go away. Real Christian people aren’t intentionally funding abusive, sexual perverts and criminals. Mark Driscoll’s little world imploded under the beam of exposure when giving took a serious dive.


  14. What do people think about the apology? I feel like it is a good start, although I have some concerns about some omissions. Specifically hurtful was their backstabbing and silencing. There is no mention of that, only of the failure to fully communicate their decision to exclude Dr. B. from ministry.

    The big problem with Hybels was denial, victim blaming and silencing by ostracism and isolation. Isolation, particularly, is a spiritually abusive tactic where the support mechanisms around a person are removed so that the person adopts the views and/or behaviors desired by the group. In this case, the “ERT” slandered and gossiped about the situation to control the narrative and isolate her from resources she needed to find healing and strength, meanwhile, refusing (they need to be HONEST about this) to speak the truth about Dr. B’s behavior so that he could see his need to repent.


  15. I put some more thought into it. This statement troubles me. “The team believed the woman’s claim that Dr. Bilezikian engaged in inappropriate behavior … The ERT did restrict him from serving, but the restriction was not adequately communicated, resulting in Dr. Bilezikian serving and teaching in various capacities over the years. This was wrong, and we are sorry.”

    When I was at college, a classmate was expelled for essentially being harshly and publicly critical of the administration. His picture was posted at campus security and multiple offices around campus saying that he was not allowed on campus. It was not a hard thing for them to communicate.

    That leads me to the following possibilities:
    1) They didn’t actually believe the woman’s story, but they don’t want to admit it.
    2) They did believe her, but were convinced to sweep it under the rug.
    3) They did believe her, but were not convinced that it was a serious enough offense to take action.

    I don’t really believe that they, as a disciplinary team, somehow just “forgot” to inform people that this dangerous sexual predator shouldn’t be in leadership positions. Would they really want this guy who “inappropriately touched” women at the church to have free access to the property, much less be serving and teaching?


  16. Mark, my take is that the apology addresses the offenses of Bilezikian, but not those involved in how the church initially responded (pretty much what you said, stated a different way). I also have the hope that going forward, the church will commit to asking the privilege of helping the victim become as whole as possible. Say if she’s got out of pocket counseling, pay that back with interest, etc..

    That said, if we grade on the curve, it’s a good start.


  17. Mark – I read the apology. What struck me was it’s a bit late to start quoting scripture about how a church leadership should operate when the whole Willow Creek model has been based on unashamed worldliness in its leadership ethos – and pretty well everything else.

    Perhaps I should be grateful for small mercies that they just might be going in a better and ‘sounder’ direction, but they have been here before and it didn’t help. Might we finally get bibles instead of Hybels, or will they engage a firm of consultants on damage limitation.

    Sorry to be cynical, it’s something I usually try hard to avoid.


  18. KAS, since Evangelical denominations cannot agree on church polity and leadership authority/responsibility, I don’t think it fair to make the assumption that Willow Creek has somehow willfully rejected scripture. There are congregational churches, presbyterian churches, Episcopalian churches, and even within those there are various emphases on the empowerment of the pastor, elders and members. I was in a presbyterian church and changed to another, and their views are completely different.


  19. Willow Creek church is one of these churches that was founded on “leadership”, secular style leadership .. the idea being that one transfers the same marketing, leadership skills found in business, politics etc to the church and you call people with these skills pastors .. now we see the fruits of this .. godliness is less important than salesmanship for these churches, .. everything in these churches is geared around marketing .. it is more important to be a good CEO rather than a pastor filled with the spirit of God .. I remember this Gilbert Bilezikian coming up to my area (Montreal) about 15 years ago .. he did a thing to promote and sell his ideas on church marketing (in french) .. I am not sure how many people bought into his thing, some things he said were good, other things you would get in secular marketing seminars, but put in religious language .. they have peddled their philosophy around the world …

    I am sad for these leaders.. too bad that ambition, the same ambition that drives business, and sales got in the way of godly ambition and desires ..

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Bill Hybels = egalitarian
    Gilbert Bilezikian = egalitarian
    Bill Clinton = egalitarian
    Al Gore = egalitarian

    Then the argument; if only women were in charge.

    Willowcreek – female elders/leaders – failed to protect the vulnerable.

    The problem is NOT complementarianism nor reformed theology..
    The problem is the sin nature.

    There is nothing new under the sun.


  21. SenecaGriggs said,

    “Bill Hybels = egalitarian
    Gilbert Bilezikian = egalitarian
    Bill Clinton = egalitarian
    Al Gore = egalitarian

    Then the argument; if only women were in charge.

    Willowcreek – female elders/leaders – failed to protect the vulnerable.

    The problem is NOT complementarianism nor reformed theology..
    The problem is the sin nature.

    There is nothing new under the sun.”

    Sorry, no. Much more damage has been done by complementarian men and under complementarianism than via non-comp.

    Comp lends itself to abuse much more easily, as it says women should be subservient to men – and abusive men find it much easier to get away with prolonged abuse.

    Sometimes, it happens out openly, as in cases where teen girls are raped by a church member (you can google for this, happened at a Baptist church),
    become pregnant via the rape, then are demanded to stand in front of the comp church members and ask for forgiveness. You won’t see that sort of thing in egalitarianism.

    The men who claim egalitarianism (or other forms of non-comp) have to sneak around and use emotional manipulation when they prey on women, where as in the comp world, it’s much more out in the open.

    It’s kind of like liberal men who say they’re feminist, yet merely are using that label to gain naive women’s trust, so they can take advantage of them.

    Visit blogs such as “A Cry for Justice” where you can see numerous Christian women discuss how they had to divorce their Christian husbands for being abusive,
    and in every case I’ve ever seen there, the men and churches that endorsed, excused, and prolonged the abuse were complementarian.

    Also, various studies have shown that men with more traditional views on gender tend to be more sexist and also abusive towards women.
    You can google for those. Here is just one page about that.
    A Deadly Formula for Violence

    You can also google for this,
    “Correlation Between Domestic Violence and Calvinism” -from Jesus Creed blog

    Also, I was personally harmed due to gender complementarian teachings.
    I was not encouraged to be a passive doorman under feminism or egalitarianism, but under comp, which screwed over my self esteem and made me an easy and attractive target for abusive men (and abusive women).

    Lastly, this ain’t my blog, but you, Griggs, usually end up getting blocked or banned from about every site you are on, so I hope that the blog moderators here keep an eye on you.

    I’m not about to go back to complementarianism just because a small percentage of self professing egal men act like Harvey Weinstein – the complementarians are more rife with this garbage,
    and they will tell me crud like I am more easily deceived because I am a woman, and if I marry an abuser, I must stay married to him no matter what, etc,
    where-as the egals don’t teach that insulting, sexist garbage, at least.


  22. Would I be out of order in saying that this piece is about abuse of an individual by a leader, and is not the time for discussion, let alone point scoring, on the egalitarian/complementarian issue? It might just trivialise it (the abuse) a bit. Both ~isms stand or fall on the bible and how it is lived out.


  23. SenecaGriggs (under various handles) is a known troll.

    He used to troll Wartburg Watch under a couple of names, switching aliases when the heat got too much or he got blocked/banned.

    He’s now trolling Internet Monk as a variant of his handle here (“Seneca Griggs Yahoo”?), still the same Righteous self as always.


  24. Would I be out of order in saying that this piece is about abuse of an individual by a leader, and is not the time for discussion, let alone point scoring, on the egalitarian/complementarian issue?

    I feel like I’ve seen it used to slam egalitarians more than the reverse.

    Men in power who abuse that power is the through point here. Nothing about putting men in charge, just some more, is going to fix that.


  25. I agree with KAS – this is not about gender, as much as it is about “non-profit governance”. When a church becomes more of a 501c(3) than a church, then typical ideas of governance come in.

    For better or worse, was Willow Creek primarily a church, or was Willow Creek primarily a vehicle for the ministry of Bill Hybels. I’ve been involved in non-profit governance in an authoritarian model, and I can say that my experience is that the board is primarily people who are cheerleaders for the organizational leadership. It becomes a problem when the board needs to hold those leaders accountable, and that means hard decisions and hard conversations. I don’t believe many boards are up to that challenge. Consider The Masters’ College/Seminary. Those institutions are in crisis because the board is choosing to be cheerleaders for John MacArthur rather than being focused on the success of the organization and its mission and having the hard conversations with MacArthur.

    That said, Willow Creek issued an apology concerning Bill Hybels, and Dr. B. What has the comp. PCA issued regarding Tullian’s victims? “Our goal in doing this is to both protect the integrity of the Church from which his credentials were given while, at the same time, wrapping Tullian in the grace offered by Jesus Christ to all those who confess sin, pursue repentance and desire restoration.” – nothing about the many people he victimized, both financially and sexually. SEBTS’s firing of Paige Patterson said: “I join Dr. Bingham in his call for the SWBTS community to join the Body of Christ in praying for healing for all individuals affected by abuse.” – no apology for allowing systemic abuse on campus, just a “be warm and be filled”.

    Obviously, the question is the wrong question. We know that abuse will happen. We know that organizations will tend to protect their own rather than outsiders. The question is, which of these three organizations, Willow Creek, PCA or SWBTS, based on their own statements, is going to be the least likely to be covering up abusive behavior in the future, and which is the most likely to make the necessary changes to prevent future abuse?

    The PCA and SWBTS, both comp/authoritarian denominations did not express sorrow or express their own complicity in what happened. Willow Creek did.


  26. We had files kept on us (in the UK in a denomination not listed above) by the associates whom the clergyman brought in specially (it is not a usual procedure). Single women were looked down on most, according to extracts from the files we were regaled with, then married couples. As a single bloke they let me off lightly first because they wanted to cultivate me and then because I wasn’t “material” anyway. The clergyman told us his “fantasies about” a girl. Five years later his associates moved him 10,000 miles away. We were stupid and slow. The files was the bit that made me want to mention this.


  27. A very thoughtful presentation of a dark and difficult time in your life, Anne. I deeply appreciate the courage it took to share your story publicly and to be so transparent.

    Anne, I graduated from Wheaton. I was there from 1979- 1983. Just seeing Dr. B’s name and photo come up today made me feel uncomfortable. He was one of those profs I learned to steer clear of. I was very naive. So many of us were.

    There was a phrase spoken of him on campus, “Oh, that is just Dr. B. He’s French.” Now at 59 that phrase seems like a way to cover less than appropriate behavior.

    Sadly, as young woman at that time in history, sexual harassment was this odd undercurrent that society allowed. We blushed, felt uncomfortable, inwardly shocked and sickened that these men in authority were saying and doing things that would not be acceptable in 2020. It continued because people got good at turning a blind eye to it and it was kept a secret by woman too embarrassed or afraid to speak out publicly.

    So, sadly, your story does not surprise me at all. I’m very sorry you have this experience to contend with and these memories to wrestle unto peace. Obviously, I saw the seeds of his behavior a number of years before you went through your experiences with him. My guess would be a goodly number of female students at Wheaton did. Perhaps if the smaller flirtations, inappropriate gestures, words and veiled sexual innuendos had been stopped and held up to the standard God had set for him as a man entrusted with so much, this sin would not have found such a foothold in his life.

    May God surround you with His love and grace as you heal. Your sister in Christ.


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