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?


Resource Bibliography on Willow Creek Church Situation – Part 2




  • WC or WCCC = Willow Creek Community Church.
  • WCA = Willow Creek Association (a related non-profit separate from WCCC).
  • GLS = Global Leadership Summit, an annual mega-conference with multiple remote sites, presented by WCA.

For Twitter links, please read their entire thread. These were selected for something important about its content, even if the initial tweet may not seem so relevant.

Links to articles on major developments will be added as time allows, along with links to select critical analysis and commentary from social media.

Posting here does not imply endorsement. Social media links especially are chosen for their different angles on unfolding developments.

Also, check out the list of links and related information from Andy Rowell’s blog post, List of articles from allegations to resignation of Bill Hybels. He notes that he originally posted this in April 2018, but has continued adding links regularly since then. Thanks, Andy!

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News Articles, Official Statements, Blog Posts

June 27, 2018. About Willow Creek: What Do I Think? by Scot McKnight. Jesus Creed. (This is included as it sparked significant interchanges on social media.)

June 29, 2018. An Apology, by Steve Carter, Steve Ryan Carter.

June 29, 2018. Willow Creek co-pastor issues public apology for mishandling allegations, by Manya Brachear Pashman, Chicago Tribune.

June 29, 2018. Thank You Steve Carter, by Scot McKnight.

June 30, 2018. Statements from Heather Larson, Steve Carter, and the Willow Creek Elders, Willow Creek Community Church.

June 30, 2018. Elders Acknowledge Bill Hybels’ Sin; Heather Larson Apologizes, by Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed.

June 30, 2018. Willow Creek leaders issue public apologies for mishandling allegations, by Manya Brachear Pashman, Chicago Tribune.

July 01, 2018. Chicago Tribune Highlights the Current Apologies at Willow Creek, by Dee Parsons, The Wartburg Watch. See especially this comment from Thomas055.

July 02, 2018. Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit carrying on without Hybels, by Eric Peterson, Daily Herald. The Willow Creek Association’s multi-site Global Leadership Summit is still scheduled for August 9-10. There have been efforts by abuse survivors and advocates, particularly by benjaminady (@tripleoxymoron), to confront remote-site hosts with the facts about abusive elements in the WCCC/WCA/GLS situation and encourage them to withdraw from the event. The critical analysis of this article includes these comments:

July 03, 2018. Open Letter to Willow Creek Association Board and Tom De Vries, by Andy Rowell, Church Leadership Conversations.

July 03, 2018. The First 100 Days of the Bill Hybels Crisis, by Rob Speight, Rob Sp8’s Blog. This includes a series of nine emails from April 5 through June 16, 2018, that track the unfolding events.

July 04, 2018. Trouble At The Global Leadership Summit: An Open Letter to Tom DeVries, by Rob Speight, Rob Sp8’s Blog.

July 09, 2018. Willow: Why The Women Went Public?, by Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed. See what struck various commenters on Twitter:


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Critical Analysis and Commentary Posts/Threads from Twitter

Continue reading

Theologian Scot McKnight Responds, “About Willow Creek: What Do I Think?”

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 …


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.

Bibliography Part 2 started with items starting June 29, 2018 — RESOURCE BIBLIOGRAPHY PART 2.

Also, check out the list of links and related information from Andy Rowell’s blog post, List of articles from allegations to resignation of Bill Hybels. He notes that he originally posted this in April 2018, but has continued adding links regularly since then. Thanks, Andy!

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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. Continue reading