Video: Hybels’ Victim & Her Husband Tell of Trauma & Urge Church to Help Abuse Victims

By Julie Roys

When Vonda Dyer came forward in 2018 and publicly disclosed how her former pastor, Bill Hybels, had come on to her in a hotel room in Sweden, she had no idea how it would change her life.

“I had no idea that the church that I loved would not believe me and the nine other women as claims mounted.” Dyer said. “I did not imagine that they would assassinate my character publicly. I was naïve and could not imagine being persecuted, slandered, lied about and continually bullied by the church on a global scale for reasons I may never fully know.”

Similarly, her husband, Scott Dyer, a pastor at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship outside Dallas, said he had no idea how his wife’s decision to come forward would affect both her and him.

“They (Willow Creek Community Church and the Global Leadership Network) believed him (Hybels) and called my wife a liar in front of the church we loved and had given our lives to help build,” Scott said. “And then they told the entire global church community that she was a liar. My wife—who has done nothing but love and serve and sacrifice herself for the church, and live her life with the utmost integrity—had a cloud of suspicion placed over her that was incredibly unfair, unwarranted, and untrue and unkind. And by connection, that cloud was placed over me, as well.”

The Dyers recently told their powerful and moving stories at the No More Silence conference, sponsored by the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. Videos of their talks are posted below.

“I did not imagine that they would assassinate my character publicly. I was naïve and could not imagine being persecuted, slandered, lied about and continually bullied by the church on a global scale for reasons I may never fully know.”

Also posted is a message by Mitch Little, an attorney and elder board chair at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship. Having represented several of the women who brought allegations of sexual harassment and abuse against Hybels, Little has gotten what amounts to a crash course in handling abuse allegations within the church. And he offers excellent assessment of the current church crisis.

“Why is it that the corporate world seems to have responded in a healthier way to the #MeToo situation than the church has?” Little asked and then answered: “Corporations are more afraid of their shareholders than churches are. The church has only one shareholder. And it’s a fear of the Lord problem.”

Little also gives valuable advice for church leaders on how to handle allegations of abuse in the church, yet admits, “If your leadership lacks the requisite character and experience, no manual will help you. If you have the appropriate level of character and experience, no manual is necessary.”

Little’s, as well as Scott and Vonda Dyers’ messages are sobering, yet helpful and important for anyone wanting to understand the dynamics of abuse and coverup in the church and how to guard against it. I wish every church leader and church member would watch these videos.

I also hope those who are associated with Willow Creek or the Global Leadership Network will watch these videos, as well.  Willow Creek members need to hear from victims like Vonda, and Scott, so they can understand why the church’s initial response to victims was so devastating. Also, according to these women, the church has never adequately named the abuse nor apologized for what happened.

“If your leadership lacks the requisite character and experience, no manual will help you. If you have the appropriate level of character and experience, no manual is necessary.”

Similarly, the Global Leadership Network (GLN)—the leadership organization that Hybels founded—reportedly sent sales representatives to host churches when Hybels’ victims initially came forward, alleging that the women had lied because they had a vendetta against Hybels. According to Dyer, the GLN has never retracted these defamatory statements, nor has it publicly apologized to  her or Hybels’ other victims.

Yet GLN continues to host training events for other churches. Just last week, the GLN hosted a conference at Willow Creek promising to teach “pace-setting best practices in all aspects of local church ministry,” including “governance.” This is stunning, given the GLN’s abhorrent actions in the past, which have never been fully owned.

Also remarkable is the fact that four of the conference’s 10 speakers were Willow Creek employees.  We now know that the scandal at Willow Creek was not confined to Hybels. It was systemic and included an enabling elder board, high-level employees who looked the other way, and lawyers who intimidated would-be whistleblowers into silence with non-disclosure agreements. Willow nurtured a toxic culture of leadership, so why would others look to Willow to train others in how to lead?

So much more needs to be done to make things right at Willow and GLN, and to stem the epidemic of abuse in the church. The No More Silence conference was a step in the right direction. But I pray victims and their advocates continue to speak out. And I pray that the church increasingly listens to these victims, supports them, and takes their messages to heart.  

Vonda Dyer at No More Silence:

Scott Dyer at No More Silence:

Mitch Little at No More Silence:

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32 thoughts on “Video: Hybels’ Victim & Her Husband Tell of Trauma & Urge Church to Help Abuse Victims”

  1. I alao have been deeply wounded by The Church. So much so, that I had slid into the background and never want to serve in a church again. It’s sad. Christians are the first to kill their wounded.

  2. Julie, my church has strict rules regarding pastors doing ANYTHING with a woman alone, including driving one mile to get lunch where we would meet other people. Why would a married woman go alone to a pastor’s hotel room late at night, have some wine, and LET a man kiss her? Yes, let. Surely, Vonda was naive at best and extremely foolish. Vonda, has a fist, and she could have used it that night. I can hardly get a kiss from my wife unless she wants me to kiss her. In the end, I still hold Bill totally responsible; there is NO EXCUSE for a pastor (or any other man) touching a woman inappropriately. At the same time, women have to get mean and tough if any man tries to touch them in inappropriate places or tries to kiss them. I doubt if Vonda would have been in any danger if she had hit Bill in the face. With strangers, I can understand that a woman would be afraid to strike a man. BTW, if a pastor in our church were to even get in a car with a woman alone, he would be in trouble. If he did it twice, I would move to have him fired. We’ve made that clear to our pastors AND to the men of our church. Any man caught misbehaving with a woman, even his wife, would be severely disciplined. If the offense was serious enough, there wouldn’t be a second chance.

        1. Dave J–I’m quite happy to let it stand as it is. I reckon Vonda Dyer has at least 4 orders of magnitude more courage than your anonymous self. #bicbw

      1. I was kissed by a 40 year old man when I was 16 years old. He caught me off guard and forced himself on me. I wanted to punch him in the face and kick him in his junk but it’s not just fight or flight…people forget that freeze is very much a thing. While my brain was saying fight and run my body was completely paralyzed. Sorry but you are victim blaming for her not to fight back when she was probably in shock.

        1. KYLIE…It happened to me. EVERY SINGLE INCIDENT.
          And I FROZE. My hands didn’t lift to hit and my legs couldnt lift to kick. I FROZE.

    1. Pastor Dave J, I would say your church has the fear of God in it then. I don’t know our churches policy but our pastors are careful to not be alone with a lady. It’s just wise.

    2. Vonda stopped him and confronted him the next morning. She did what she should have done to protect our marriage and herself. Your insinuation that Vonda wanted Bill to kiss her is offensive. For you to think she let him kiss her and that she should have hit him is equally offensive and shows ignorance to the power dynamics involved. It is a form of victim blaming. The blame falls 100% on Bill and to suggest anything otherwise is just wrong.

      1. I 100% agree Scott. Thank you for your response. And Pastor Dave–sexual predators don’t ask for permission; they take what they want. Shame on YOU, PASTOR.

      2. I’m sorry because I didn’t mean any offense. I just think in today’s atmosphere we need to teach women to be far more aggressive and wise. And Scott, I cannot imagine letting my wife go to a man’s hotel room by herself, especially if I knew that he was belittling me to her on other occasions. Did I get the sequence wrong. If not, what were you thinking? I don’t think for a minute that Vonda wanted Bill to kiss her, but she should have smacked him the face for trying, or even suggesting! And, you know I said that Bill was without excuse because there is no excuse for such behavior, or even such kind of conversation.

        1. Susan Vonder Heide

          Uninformed Monday morning quarterbacking that in effect blames the victim and loved ones of the victim is not helpful to say the least. Sin is the fault of the perpetrator, not of the direct victim or of any auxiliary victims.

    3. Pastor Dave – I am appalled at you victim shaming Vonda. Have you no idea or comprehension of the dynamic going on here??? Vonda is an employee to Senior Pastor Bill Hybels so to think that she would punch him in the face is absurd. Pastor Dave if you are a real pastor, I would highly recommend that you get some education on sexual abuse – perhaps see a sexual abuse counselor to understand the situation better. Maybe that way you could become a better pastor to your flock.

    4. Thanks for your response Pastor DaveJ. It should be held up as Exhibit A for every state to make ANY form of sexual contact between clergy & a flock member a class 2 sexual assault regardless of any action taken by the victim.

      Texas had to do this in the early aughts after learning the hard way that too many clerics think exactly like you do, sir. They willfully refuse to understand and acknowledge the power dynamics, the power differential and the extraordinary control that comes with ultimate spiritual authority.

      You also willfully refuse to understand the severity of the response that would emanate from what Hybels would posit as a baseless accusation against his character had Vonda not agreed to obey her top spiritual advisor and meet with him:
      “How DARE anyone accuse me, the great Hybels of doing anything untoward! What is wrong with YOU?! I am godly man. You must repent of your unholy, filthy thoughts Vonda & Scott! You know I work 24/7 and so must my top lieutenants, because I have conditioned every staffer at Willow Creek for decades to understand this. I’m the only major mega pastor who treats women as equals because I thought you were up to the task. You know I meet with men at the time and place of my choosing because I NEVER stop working for the Kingdom. If you accuse me, for treating you like a man and asking for a meeting just like I did with three other male staffers tonight, then I will have to relegate you girls back to the secretary pool. You gals can’t run with the big dogs with your gonna pee like a pup. Do you really want to set back our global movement to promote women in ministry Vonda? Because this will be on you if that happens.”

      I clearly heard that message just based on the times a Hybels has spoken in Texas. And he was one of the only major mega-pastors to take women’s contributions to church leadership seriously and put them into high positions of power. Of course, now we know his ulterior motives for doing so.

      You also refuse to understand that men like Hybels groom BOTH the husbands and the wives for years before they moved in for the kill. In fact, you won’t even acknowledge any role that grooming played. Bill Hybels is one of the greatest master manipulators on earth. He had been honing his grooming skills for decades. He had a tenth degree black belt and you blame Vonda for being temporarily stunned when he made his strategic strike.

      That response, the paralysis that accompanies the utter disbelief that “this is happening”, is exactly what clergy predators rely on. That and other clerical leader responses like yours.

      You aid and abet the worst form of spiritual abuse with your ignorant beliefs. You need to take a sabbatical and learn about spiritual and clerical sexual abuse before you continue to do more harm to God’s children. Reread James 3:1 because that hour is approaching all clerics who victim shame on CSA.

      Readers, learn from PastorDaveJ’s response. Have the laws changed so men like this cannot continue to put the onus on victims when the power differential is so great. Hybels assaulting these women is no different than a doctor or psychologist abusing their position of power and control to do this.

      For the love of God, Dr Nassar digitally penetrated little girls right in front of their mothers! No one wanted to believe those in such positions of power, so popular among thousands of people, revered by so many, would do such a thing. I suppose Pastor DaveJ blames those hundreds of girls and their parents as well? We clearly cannot rely on clerics to manage this problem when they stand firmly behind the predator like DaveJ.

    5. I appreciate your commitment to pastors being held accountable. And is a link to provides the science behind Vonda’s experience and the experience of many, many women, caught off guard… explaining the science of what is going on in their minds and bodies… . And it is by a lady scientist who trains police officers so they will stop blaming the victim… http://www.nij.gov/multimedia/presenter/presenter-campbell/pages/presenter-campbell-transcript.aspx

      Accessed August 15, 2015

      Transcript “The Neurobiology of Sexual Assault”

      If we can understand the science and biology of chemical reactions in the body, under stress, under assault, we can have more compassion while also maintaining accountabilty for the abuser/boundary violator.

    1. I have wondered the same, Joe. She left a cryptic message on her social media that she couldn’t discuss the reasons. I’ve also wondered about Becky (last name?), who preceded Amaris and followed some other Willow people to Colorado, I believe.

  3. Amaris was not the woman that Vonda was speaking of. It was another woman, who was mentioned in the original Tribune article. We became aware of her situation and it is part of what caused Vonda to come forward, but that’s her story to tell. I can’t speak as to why Amaris or Becky left.

  4. I would first like to start by saying that I dont intentionally mean to insult anybody or come across like I have Christianity nailed down because I dont…that being said, I read alot of different “Christian ” blogs, and I believe that this is a very good one, but one thing bothers me… I hear alot of people talking about ,”My church”, “our church”, ” his church”, “that church”,”their church”….but the truth is there is only one Church made up of all true believers…it doesn’t matter what building that they go to every week,except for the fact that many of these buildings are run by people who who have watered down the Scriptures at best or twisted them at worst…..which explains why anyone who exposes the truth is usually attacked as ” Divisive or sinful or undisciplined….Jesus was attacked by the leaders of the only true Faith of his time,Judaism….”Indeed All who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus he WILL be persecuted”. 2nd Tm 3:12…..I’m not at all surprised that Vonda Dyer was pushed under “the bus”…..I challenge anyone to stand firmly for the truth in a worship center….and I say worship center because the Church is NOT a building that we attend, but a people who have been Redeemed….and use The Bible to back up what ever you stand for and I Guarantee YOU WILL BE PERSECUTED, Just like 2nd Tim 3:12 says.

  5. Vonda and Scott, thank you (and Julie) for posting/saying these things. I read all of Julie’s post, and I watched all 3 videos. Thanks to Mitch for all the wisdom in his talk. Vonda and Scott, you are heroes. I am so so sorry for the pain and anguish you have been through. Your courage, grace, and integrity shine through. I’m honored to know you. I cheer you on. I wish you strength, hope, love, support, and affirmation, for you and for your daughters. You have my heartfelt admiration — Tom Keefer

  6. Thank you Julie, Vonda, Scott and Mitch for such balanced and Spirit guided instructions on this difficult topic. I feel I can relate to so much of this in various ways. I cried some tears as Scott was speaking, thinking about the grace of God in my own life and how I was able to with the help of the Holy Spirit battle lies of the enemy and stay true to my vows. I was very naive as well and didn’t recognize some patterns of abuse in a church setting.

    I believe Scott’s point at the end is what the Holy Spirit has revealed to me as well, that the Lion of Judah is cleaning house. I do tremble at the thought of those who feel that they can keep their sins hidden, as there is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed at some point. It is the goodness and grace of God that brings darkness into the light. I appreciated the compassion you were showing for ministers who may still be ensnared in such sin. Our culture is hostile towards ministers who have been found to have fallen to sexual sin/abuse. Generally we see a cowardice response and extensive cover-ups by church leadership though. So many just go into hiding and do not take ownership of the choices that they have made. Maybe the response would be more merciful if a minister truly sought to repent before accusations were made? I cannot even think of one fallen pastor with the courage to admit their sins before being called out on them though, sadly, at least from all the stories I have heard.

    God bless you all! I pray this will help more victims of abuse find hope and healing and may the Spirit of God continue to clean His house and prepare His bride!

  7. Ruth-Ann McKellin

    Vonda, when I heard the names of the women speaking up, I realized that it was not a misunderstanding, it was not an innocent hug. Your life and the lives of the women I know–Nancy O., Nancy B.–made the unthinkable become apparent. I had been blessed and grown through Bill, and having been at WCCC since my days in Dr. B’s class, I had a thorough understanding of how WCCC was intended to be. I found it difficult to comprehend that we had moved so far from the target. And yet… your life is on-target. Nancy B’s life is on-target. Nancy O’s life is on-target. When multiple people I wholeheartedly trust and believe spoke the truth, I had to finally believe it was true and serious.
    I reached back to all the instances of people who were confronted, confessed, repented, lived through a time of healing, supported and held accountable by those entrusted with doctrine, and restored, with loving jubilation. It was how our church held public people accountable and called out sin and needed action. I thought nobody was “above the law.” And yet…your combined consistent stories coupled with your exemplary lives required I accept the unthinkable.
    Thank you for your faithful, Christ-iike life.
    Ruth-Ann
    P.S. I will always consider it an honor to have served at the Kongress with you in Germany.

  8. Pastor Dave, as someone who seems to draw strict boundaries, you have totally missed an important piece. There is an abuse of power at play here. Vonda is not at all responsible. Please read up on abuse of power. You and your staff could probably use some training on that particular topic and how it lends itself to abuse.

  9. no one of any consequence

    Thank you for this, even Pastor Dave. It helps my process.

    The sin of the abuse, the denial of it, and the rejection of the abused, all breed trauma. The abuse continues because the denial and lack of care continues. The abuse stays active until the repair comes. Abusers don’t really understand this concept, nor care about it. The Good Samaritan did.

    Because of that, the abuse continues at Willow, only the name has changed (PPT– ironic accuracy). Decisions are not made with the skill of a shepherd. Their sin is revealed in Ezekiel 34:4 (“The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.”).

    God’s response to leaders who choose to abuse the power He gave them over the choice of humble care for the flock is in vs.16 (“And I will destroy the powerful, fat shepherds; I will feed them, yes—feed them punishment.”). Whether the flock is a woman sexually abused by a pastor, or a volunteer emotionally tricked by a ministry leader, or a blatant sinner who deserved to pay their debt to society, but has been invited– yet is systematically prohibited from stepping foot on campus, Willow shows very little growth into the care, compassion, and stature of a shepherd. There is no noticeable change to date.

    In reality, no one with the power to effect change really cares about the flock whom they continue to harm, nor what the word of God has to say about it. I have received a pat on the head, a “so sorry for your pain,” and “we aren’t troubling ourselves to rethink how to clean up the sin we have inflicted on you. We are protecting our jobs and not concerned about your petty pain. You don’t matter to God nor us. How can we get you to fade away.”

    Ezekiel 34:10. “therefore, I am against the shepherds, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock—and take away their right to eat. I will save my flock from being taken for their food.”

    The message is clear. It seems selfish ambition can outweigh God’s call to a humble heart and to putting Christ first at all costs– even above insurance policies, legal excuses, financial payouts, and hassles. Humble hearts would give everyone a willingness to suffer for His sake. We could learn much from the persecuted church worldwide.

    The fatal MO of Willow is Institutional Thinking (we must conceal the problems, get people to agree (be quiet and line up) while everyone smiles at the camera) as well as Fear-Based Thinking (this could cost us so much money!). Instead, Biblical Thinking (we are in a battle, and each person is a treasure worth dying for) could be approached.

    Willow, please read, listen, act, and at the very least, discuss the epic fail of this MO for bringing glory to God.

    “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

  10. I think people should definitely confront the aggressor, first personally (with spouse), and then with other key church leaders. Nobody who is victimized should hide anything. I don’t understand why people keep on talking about how hard it is to tell the truth. I understand it is hard to confront the aggressor. But to expose evil is not a matter of choice – it is our duty to the church to keep her holy before Christ. I think this is secular thinking to think we excuse ourselves and just blame everything on how hard it is. I was abused as a child, and I told my mother but she rebuked me. Was it painful, hard, traumatic? Yes. But after I became a believer I still told people about it. However, unlike the “MeToo” moment, I never emphasized how incredibly hard it was for me, how I was so scared or how men are abusers of women. I did not tell it get people to stand on my side, to get people to hate that person – it is not even our place to judge them. As believers whose faith and trust is in Christ, we don’t need to appeal to public sympathy. I never felt the need to find myself a platform to get attention or sympathy, nor felt scared to tell the truth. What he did was clearly wrong and abusive, but my goal is to expose what happened to the people who could help me. But the secular generation is all about movements, drawing attention, earning pity and enforcing the cliche how hard it is for women. Behind all this is a tendency for love of the world and worldliness. And it’s irresponsible to cast doubt on those who superficially fall into the social standing or class of the alleged abuser. They now become viewed as potentially frightening simply because they are also pastors. This is a characteristic of divisive liberal moments – taking individual cases and projecting guilt and resentment onto another social group . So while I agree with the lady’s need to expose wrong, some of the way she addresses it is really off. Why are you quoting Nobel Prize winners – are they who justify you? If you do right, God will reward you. Everyone in the world gets harmed by sin in one way or another, despite male or female. There is no need to highlight the women being the victims. Let the facts speak for themselves – being harmed does not give us a place to judge or conclude what happens in society. We only speak for ourselves. There is no need to emphasize how hard for anyone to report crime. If I saw a murder take place I can find it hard to report it due to fear for my life. But this does not excuse me from the responsibility to report it. The issue is the murder, not how our emotions are. The church should not to latch on to the worldly “#MeToo” movement in which getting the public to “back you” is the only way you have courage to tell the truth. We have no excuse not to tell the truth. As a woman believer, I hope other female believers do not get deceived by making excuses. Just tell the truth because it is God’s command. When you do what is right, you do not need to seek the world’s backing. Were we not rebuked for seeking the world to settle Christian matters into the NT? If so, why are we here talking about some social movement as if the world is our savior or inspiration? Our strength is Christ. We should also not let our pain turn it into a public personal show of tragedy and hope in people’s agreement. God is the one who approves.

  11. Thank you for your Bible references~!!! I love that you have taught me from Ezekiel. So many things I am learning these days.

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