Longtime Willow Creek Member Accuses Bill Hybel’s Mentor, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, of Clergy Sexual Abuse

By Julie Roys

Today, Ann Lindberg, a longtime member of Willow Creek Community Church, posted the following account on Facebook, accusing Bill Hybel’s mentor, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, of clergy sexual abuse. Bilezikian, often referred to as “Dr. B,” was a co-founder of Willow Creek. A Christianity Today article in 2000 referred to Bilezikian as “the man behind the megachurch” and asserted that without him, “there would be no Willow Creek–no small, groups, no women in leadership, no passion for service.” Bilezikian also was a Bible professor at Wheaton College for 20 years. (I actually had him for a class when I attended Wheaton in the 1980s.) And he helped found Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization created “to eliminate the power imbalance between men and women resulting from theological patriarchy.” Here is Ann’s story. (I am reaching out to those whom she’s named for their response and will add that if/when they respond.):

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 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.

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian & Bill Hybels

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.

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.

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 2 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 3rd 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.

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.

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 sexual 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.”

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.

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 they had asked for 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.

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. 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, to 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.

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 . . .

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.

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61 thoughts on “Longtime Willow Creek Member Accuses Bill Hybel’s Mentor, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, of Clergy Sexual Abuse”

  1. Julie, it would be helpful if you could provide an article, perhaps from Wade Mullen, explaining how a sexually inappropriate relationship with someone in spiritual authority is always the fault of the one in authority who is misusing their power. Even if it occurs between two adults. People are clearly uninformed and do not understand the dynamics at play. Victim blaming and claims of “shared responsibility” are part of the reason people do not come forward!

  2. If you were a “victim” at the hands of a senior leader at Willow Creek church would you draw attention to yourself every-time you were attending a weekend service? Would you run into the auditorium before service to get the closes seat possible to the stage? Would you present yourself at the Saturday night service, in the front row, closes to the stage in outfits and large hats for the purpose of making heads turn and receive comments from people? I am calling out Ann Lindberg on her BS. A security person was not assigned to Ann Lindberg, security watches EVERYONE near the front of the stage. There is no need for a call of “healing” for Ann Lindberg, her need for “attention” healing is coming from all of the “oh, I am so sorry” post. If you really knew Ann Lindberg, you would of had the same nauseated feeling when you saw her name as a “victim”. There is no doubt she was a wiling participant in her friendship with Dr. Bilezikian. There is no doubt she loved the attention and friendship from a person with status like Dr. B. And I think her keeping and sharing the letters and postcard is irrelevant and a little bit creepy.

    To be clear. I am in no way defending Dr. Bilezikian for pretending to be a spiritual leader all the while, being flirtatious with other women, and young female students. Shame on him! The true victim is Dr. B’s wife and the other young women, not Ann Lindberg who LOVED the attention and participated with a married man willingly.

    Will the drama at our Church every end?

    Recently it was Paul JVR cheating on his wife with another Willow Creek spiritual leader, while he was in Jerusalem teaching other Willow Creek leaders about spirituality and healing. Then Bill Hybels exposed as a serious creep. I am not talking about the long-extended hugs, I am referring to his first assistant and her story that was beyond creepy. Now we have the creep factor of Dr. Bilezikian pausing and staring at young female students at a Bible college and talking long walks with Ann Lindberg, instead of his wife. Next on deck is the accusations from two young women in the young adults ministry at Willow Creek, that Steve Carter was overly flirtatious and inappropriate on several occasions, so bad that they left the church.

    Can the church put a end date for accusations of PAST Willow staff so we as a church can move forward and do what the church is supposed to do?

    Sincerely,

    I am tired of the BS

    1. I couldn’t agree more!! Willing participants shouldn’t be able to cry victim years later. I’m not saying Dr. B was innocent in this just that she isn’t a victim. Ladies…If a man makes advances, and you don’t like it, tell them!! Don’t go on walks with them, don’t have lunch with them, don’t go to their hotel rooms. Tell them NO and then go and report it ASAP.

  3. Chuck maybe take a look at who Warren might have on his staff before defending him. I don’t think you understand how far reaching this crisis is.

  4. Wow! I appreciate your fierceness, Debra, but your judgement is predicated on the assumption that all women had your upbringing and/or possess your personality and that all contexts are equal.

    I have worked in a corporate environment for the last 35 years and, I’m sorry, but things were not the same then as they are now. There was WAY more freedom in the ’80’s for unchecked inappropriate behavior from men. There is much more empowerment for women to speak up these days than there was 35 years ago but that doesn’t even matter here.

    We are not all the same. A predator can spot a vulnerable person very easily. You were not in Ann’s head or body when this took place. You don’t know her upbringing, her back story or how she felt about herself at the time.

    I’m happy for you if you can see your life experiences crystal clear in the moment but, for many of us, it’s a process. I’ve been divorced for 10 yrs and am just now understanding why I entered into that marriage in the first place. There were deep-seated issues that have taken me years to uncover. When you are a new Christian, you think everyone knows God better than you and you are in awe of that knowledge. I can see how such attention from a Biblical scholar would be intoxicating. I don’t know Ann but assuming she was in her 20’s when this happened, it’s expecting an awful lot for a vulnerable young woman to make sense of what was happening in the moment.

    You don’t have to believe Ann’s story or her timing but please, especially as a woman, don’t shame her. It’s this sort of judgement that keeps women from talking about these experiences. Somehow, they always get blamed.

    1. Debra Szemplinski

      Hi Renee! You and I sound about the same age. And you are right, the 80’s were a hey day for men, especially wielding the decade’s new wealth and associative power. Thankfully, I attended a college program largely run by a number of older, military ‘Battle-Axes’. And I thank God for these no-nonsense women who cherished their young students like a mother hen and chicks. In retrospect, given this abuse happened so long ago, I can sympathize for those less ‘fierce’ and/or fiercely fostered.

      Yet my issue lies in the fact that 30+ yrs later, despite the fact no actual ‘sex’ or abusive physical behavior was involved, and the fact that an actual ‘friendship’ seemed to exist, she insists on her ‘victimization’, the word ‘victimized being in the first narrative sentence. Women do other women a disservice longing for the days of helpless, faultless damsel. If women want to work in the world of men, they need to toughen up and learn to fight like a man. Why? Because it works. Secondly, I’ve seen powerful women chase/abuse ‘vulnerable’ men as well. I have yet to publicly hear of this brand of ‘victimization’. Thirdly, women can be vicious with each other and there’s no audience for the trite and obvious.

      It is going to come down to women being excluded from the workforce given the liability they pose to corporate structure and its success. All this said applies to the secular world. When story after story comes forth from the ‘Christian’ arena (a sadly apropos word for today’s corp. circus, ahem, church), it’s not just women who suffer, it is the world.

      When the Christian church allows for the worship/idolization of man by the creation of patently hierarchical corp. structure, wealth aggregation in top-down fashion, every manner of secular discord should be expected. Christ was/is the anti-archetype. He called all men to do the opposite of everything mankind had ever heard until His arrival on earth; love your enemy, like me – pick up and carry your cross, take joy in hardship, blessed be the poor.

      I say this because like many, I have become disillusioned with the Evangelical church, given there seems to be no difference between it and any secular corporation. And like a growing number, I have left it for more traditional worship. Perhaps we are witnessing the death pangs of a beast of man’s own making, brought down by Satan’s flamed arrows because holy shields and spiritual armor were never properly worn or even earnestly sought.

      Anyway, please forgive my pontificating.

  5. Ann, I am deeply sad to read your story. No women, especially a young women should have her beauty and innocence exploited by a perpetrator. There is no excuse for this kind of grooming and abuse. I pray for your broken heart to be healed.

    I was also deeply saddened by you account of interactions with Scott Vaudrey and Chris Hurta. I realize this is your story, but I wanted to share my story with you. Our family experienced a tragedy in 2016. We lost a baby and Chris Hurta was our pastor and the face, arms, hands of Jesus in a very difficult time. His presence and kindness meant the world to us.

    My husband and I had the opportunity to work with Scott in the Restore ministry. Scott is a high energy, bold personality. Personally, he reminds me a lot of my dad and so I had to stop and check my judgments for accuracy. When my husband approached Scott about a offense, Scott listened and owned the offense. I can tell you this was refreshing to see.I know Scott attended the Allender School on Trauma and Abuse. I hope to believe that he would handle your trauma with more care.

    My hope is that some day you might have the opportunity to talk to Scott and Chris to make amends. We all serve the same God. He wants unity in His body. This is my pray for you.

    In closing, I want to leave you with this encouragement.
    Hebrews 4:14-15
    Therefore since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not serve a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are-yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

    Blessing,
    Barb

  6. Disgusted and sick and tired of Me2 nonsense!

    I really wish Willow wouldn’t have issued an apology for this! It takes two people to have an “affair.” I’m sorry, but if some man threw me up against a wall, grabbed my breast, and stuck his tongue down my throat without me wanting him to, he’d be missing his tongue. Why did you take walks with a man who was making unwanted advances at you?? Why didn’t you say no, knock it off?? Why didn’t you report him early on?? Why didn’t you contact his wife?? None of the reasons you gave are valid imo. I consider this to be a consensual affair. I wish Willow would have as well. How is a man supposed to know you don’t like what he’s doing unless you make it very clear you don’t??? I hope you lose in court. I see very clearly that this is where this ends. Very, very sad!

  7. How is it not shared responsibility? She was an adult. I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I am completely capable of turning down someone’s unwanted advances. She wasn’t a child. So sick of the victim BS. They were both wrong. He was “more wrong” because he was in a place of spiritual authority but that doesn’t remove all blame from her. Women want equality with men but when it’s time for them to do the honorable thing (like turn down an affair with a married man) and they don’t do it, they can cry victim 20 years later and be called a hero. Sin is sin. How about we title the real victim appropriately – Dr. B’s wife.

    1. For this article and at this moment, “shared responsibility” is being used a diversion. It attempts to redirect blame towards Ann with the direct or indirect effect of shielding Willow Creek and/or Dr. B. To the extent that it is being used in this regard, this is abusive towards Ann and is being complicit with the actions of Dr. B along with the past behavior of Willow Creek.

      The article was written and published publicly to bring Dr. B and Willow Creek into account. Ann tried for many, many years through direct conversation with Dr. B and then through interactions with elders and pastors to deal with the fact that Dr. B and herself were *both* wrong for their prior relationship and actions. Stepping forward to have those conversations, Ann was directly admitting that the entire dynamic she and Dr. B had been involved in was wrong. She took her step in admitting to her portion of shared responsibility and attempted to quietly and directly have Dr. B admit to his part as well. He still hasn’t and until this article was published Willow Creek hadn’t taken any steps to admit their shortcomings either.

      The pattern is now a familiar one at Willow Creek. Accusations against Bill Hybels were covered up for years and those strong enough to confront him were, in some cases, forced out of the church. It took publishing the story in the newspaper to expose it all to the light of day. However, it then set in motion a wave of criticism against the accusers including statement from the church leadership all in an attempt to “protect” the church. It should be increasingly clear that their are real victims here.

      Speaking of victims, Dr. B’s wife is very clearly a victim because this appears to be a pattern of disrespect and unfaithfulness spanning decades. Ann, along with anyone else who was groomed/manipulated by Dr. B, is also a victim because he used his leadership positions at schools and church along with his egalitarian writings to prey on young women and lead them into actions that were sinful. Willow Creek along with its network of churches are also victims given the hypocrisy of Dr. B and Bill Hybels, the culture they created within the church and the besmirched reputation they are leaving the entire organization.

      If there is anyplace to focus right now, it should be on Dr. B and Bill Hybels who still haven’t taken responsibility for what they did.

  8. “Can the church put an end date for accusations of PAST Willow staff so we as a church can move forward and do what the church is supposed to do?”

    As long as the focus is on “moving forward”, doing damage control, blaming the victims or any other form of sweeping things under the rug, Willow Creek will likely continue to struggle because the attitude is exactly counter to where a church should be and how it should act.

  9. The bottom line: Ann L contradicts herself. She wrote on her 1/25/20 blog: The relationship with DrB 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.
    HOWEVER, during her 1/31/20 podcast with Julie R she said: after meeting DrB for the VERY FIRST TIME after a midweek service in Dec ’85, she accepted an invitation to his office and while she was there, he told her he couldn’t live without her, that he didn’t love his wife and then he violently sexually assaulted her. WHICH IS IT???

  10. No – Denial is not a biblical strategy, nor a legal, nor effective one. Perpetrators seek out empathatic, giving, somewhat naive victims they think they can control. Perps have a tried and true strategy, with intent from the first moment, knowing their targeted victims do not. When the same standards of review are applied, the perps details conflict at times. It is well documented that PTSD and shock experienced by victims can result in what seems to be conflicting data. ITS THE REASON WHY THE FIRST PERSON A VICTIM SHOULD SPEAK TO IS AN ATTORNEY

    Thank you for all the details and data in this and other WC abuse related articles. I left WC in 1999 after observing and/or experiencing similar non biblical behaviors (not sexual) in running the church and its ministries. Need clarity on: 1. why is a church/non profit, its leaders and elders above the law? Not held accountable? Given the current similar Harvey Weinstein situation why have no suits been filed to legally fully investigate? While sexual harassment is not a crime, forced sex in order to keep one’s employment along with forced silence from “corporate board leaders and authorities” can be. Where is the legal perspective? 2. The victims, elders and members worshiped the sanctity of the church above the sanctity of the Word and educated a culture to ensure such – where is accountability? Why are “Christians” still attending and tithing? Where is validation and proof of culture and process change at WC instead of just finally admitting the victims were correct all along, terminating leadership while accepting resignations? 3. Apology to the victims is not enough(despite not given) – new life in honor of those victims is a more important repentance and reconciliation – in the form of a new church with truly biblical processes and new leadership – however, should be whatever those victims deem. Have they been solicited? Have they shared?

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