In an email sent to his son with instructions to “forward at will,” Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church and professor of New Testament Emeritus at Wheaton College, is asserting that recently publicized allegations that he sexually abused a church member are false.
The allegations by longtime church member Ann Lindberg were posted on Facebook last month and then confirmed by Willow Creek elders. Soon afterwards, two former Wheaton college co-eds came forward with additional allegations of sexual harassment and/or abuse by Bilezikian.
“The allegations about me made by Ann Lindberg are as false today as they were in 2010 when she first made them,” Bilezikian wrote. “I must make this affirmation: I did not engage in any inappropriate behavior with Ann Lindberg or with any person who has made such claims. I categorically deny such claims.”
Bilezikian also wrote that the “slanderous claims” were investigated by both Willow Creek and Wheaton College and that “neither institution substantiated these accusations.”
He added, “Had my conduct been questionable, it is inconceivable that Willow Creek Community Church would have staged an enthusiastic celebration of me as their ‘Dr. B Our Living Legend’ at the United Center for their 40th anniversary, just five years ago.” (video of celebration at end of post)
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Bilezikian also noted that in 1981 and in 1992, he was recognized as “Senior Teacher of the Year” by Wheaton College. “These recognitions would have never been granted had my behavior been questioned during my years of service to the college.”
In their statement released last month, the elders of Willow Creek said that when Lindberg first reported the alleged abuse to the church’s Elder Response Team (ERT) in 2010, the “team believed the woman’s claim that Dr. Bilezikian engaged in inappropriate touching and sending overly personal communication.” The elders added that the ERT then restricted Bilezikian from serving and teaching at the church but had failed to enforce the restriction.
Wheaton College has not responded to my request for comment on the allegations against Bilezikian, stating that the college does “not publicly share information on personnel matters.”
However, according to an article in The Wheaton Record, President Philip Ryken sent a message to faculty and staff on January 29, stating that a previously closed investigation into Bilezikian’s behavior was being reopened. Ryken added, “It saddens us deeply that a long-serving member of our community would be found to have engaged in such misconduct.”
According to a letter Wheaton sent to Bilezikian last year, the college began an inquiry into Bilezikian’s alleged misconduct in August 2018 and closed it in September 2019. Wheaton also reinstated Bilezikian’s faculty profile page at that time, which remains posted on the college’s website.
In his letter, Bilezikian directly confronts both Ryken and the elders at Willow Creek for publicizing the accusations against him “without providing me with an opportunity to respond.” In each case, Bilezikian said he was informed of the accusations “second-hand from one of my family members or by reading my emails.”
“What is different today, and clearly a sign of the times,” Bilezikian wrote, “was that 10 years ago I was given a chance to respond directly to the allegations without the irresponsible public disclosure of the harmful accusations that occurred most recently. But we live in a much different world now, where one can be judged and condemned without concern for veracity.”
I have repeatedly reached out to Bilezikian for comment on the accusations against him. Initially, he agreed to an interview, but then canceled saying that “after some reflection, I will bend to the advice of my support group and ask for a postponement of our meeting.” Bilezikian said he was going out of town, but would be back on February 26 and would then would “confer again about the way to go.”
I sent Bilezikian emails last night and today seeking comment, but have not yet heard back.
I also have contacted both Willow Creek and Wheaton College for a response to Bilezikian’s letter but have not heard back. If I do, I will add their response.
Bilezikian’s Complete Letter:Dr. B Letter 2-22-2022 (1)
Willow Creek Honoring Dr. Bilezikian at 40th Anniversary:
27 thoughts on “Willow Creek Co-Founder Breaks Silence, Denies Sex Abuse Allegations”
Exactly what else could the professor say? The mantra in evangelicalism is simple: deny – deny – deny. Nothing unusual to see here church, move along, move along.
Such an arrogant response from such an arrogant man. What a creep whose blasphemous book, Beyond Sex Roles and the rubbish it espouses is woven into the very fabric of Willow’s DNA. Just one of many troubling aspects about Willow originating all the way back to its earliest days.
I hate to draw more attention to Julie Roys and Ann Lindberg, because that’s exactly what they want, but this is the
the bottom line: Ann Lindberg contradicts her own “story”. Ann wrote on her 1/25/20 blog that the relationship with DrB began with “subtle flirtations after weekend services and grew to include hand holding, emotional sharing, intimacy, kissing and fondling, and pressure to have sex”. She never mentions ANYTHING about a violent sexual assault happening at their first meeting together at his Wheaton College office
HOWEVER, during her 1/30/20 podcast recorded with Julie Roys, Ann said: that after meeting DrB for the VERY FIRST TIME after a midweek service in Dec ’85, she accepted an invitation to his office that day in Dec ’85. (Julie R says it was at Wheaton College, Ann never said where it was). According to Ann’s own words, while she was there, DrB told Ann that he couldn’t live without her, that he didn’t love his wife anymore and then he violently sexually assaulted her – THIS WAS THEIR VERY FIRST MEETING TOGETHER! Which is it? It can’t be both. It’s made up BS.
What would she gain by making all of this up? I believe her.
I am sorry, I do not believe her story, Do you really think that a college founded by Billy Graham would have hid this under the carpet?? And why would she have stayed at Willow for all these years if all this were true.
I do not know what her motive for all this is, maybe attention after the story surfaced about Bill Hybels .
Billy Graham isn’t a hedge against sin in an organization. A magazine founded by Billy Graham published an editorial by a pastor defending his unbiblical lawsuit as biblical. A Christian college like Wheaton has a lot to more to protect than a magazine.
Older people are in denial, because their foundation of belief in people is defective. Man is inherently wicked. But you just keep repeating: “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie.“ Wake Up!
Nancy, Billy Graham as founder of Wheaton College (WC) doesn’t mean that the institution will uphold to its original standards. To refresh your memory, WC football players humiliating and degrading hazing of a teammate or the WC professor who believes we all worship the same God. Or being Billy Graham’s grandson will protect you from two adulterous affairs. Has the school Dwight L. Moody founded uphold to the same standard that the school was built upon?
Wheaton College was not founded by Billy Graham. It was founded in 1860.
Were you a witness of such event, if it ever occurred? If you were in the first century when Jesus was falsely accused of wrongdoing (Pilate declared Jesus not guilty of the accusation, yet sentenced Him to death on the cross), would you be one of the people recorded in the New Testament yelling “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!!”? I am not trying to compare the professor to Jesus nor I am trying to defend him, but there’s such a thing as false accusation, which is a violation of one of the 10 Commandments. The statement “What would she gain by making all of this up?” Is an argument from silence, it is not proof the professor did anything wrong, again I am not defending him. The identity politics of today’s political climate cannot be used as a absolute reference point to “judge” whether a person accused of wrongdoing automatically makes him guilty. That is bending to emotional manipulation using political diatribe instead of Biblical reference. Food for thought
Uve, you are misusing the Biblical meaning of “witnesses” to the accusation of an elder. There are already multiple witnesses who *attest* to inappropriate sexual behavior by Dr. B, thus meeting this standard of Scripture.
There is no requirement that there be additional *observers* of the incidents to which the women have attested. Indeed, in the case of sexual misconduct, such a standard would create a case in which immoral private conduct could not be addressed, because no one else was in the room. That is clearly not the intent of the Scriptural admonitions regarding accountability.
It is inaccurate and inappropriate for you to say that Julie Roys and Ann Lindberg wishes to draw attention to themselves. I believe that the gift of prophesy has ceased unless you are a prophetess using other mediums at your beckoning.
To say that there are discrepancies in her stories; one must look at it in its fullest context. (1.) The grooming and sexual abused started in 1984; 35+ years ago. As well, she has gone through breast cancer, a stroke, nodule in her lung, vocal cord disorder, damage nerve endings and more. Both time, the physical ailments and mental stress takes a toll on one’s exact and detailed memory. (2.) In this continuous reporting; there are at least three other women who have accused Dr. B of immoral behavior – Ellen Maxwell Cowan, Donna Ray and Kristin Tremba. These other victims are not attention seekers; when as a group it substantiate and support her claims. (3.) Focus on the perpetrator; not the victim. As a Christian leader; he had sexual contact with other women outside his marriage which is not acceptable.
FIrst of all, a person that constantly wears different hats everywhere she goes and in every picture taken, wants to be noticed! I’m not cutting her down, just truth.
Secondly, I agree 100% with your words^: “she has gone through breast cancer, a stroke, nodule in her lung, vocal cord disorder, damage nerve endings and more. Both time, the physical ailments and mental stress takes a toll on one’s exact and detailed memory.”
I’m sure there is some truth to their friendship/mentoring relationship. But her saying that a violent sexual assault occurred, at his Wheaton College office, after the very first time they met, is just absolutely absurd, so can’t believe anything she says.
These stories about church leaders abusing women is breaking my heart. I was a member of Willow Creek for several years and became a born again Christian there. How can these men preach about the word of God and about sin and act in such a way. It makes me think, can all I’ve learned from them be true? Then I think, God’s word is true. I’ve shared my testimony with non-Christians and mention Willow Creek. I wonder if they think these people are hypocrites and not want to know about God more because of this.
Men honoring other men. What a pile of rubbish! Holding up a snake as a legend in his own time. It is more like a legend in his own mind. Look at the fruit that has come out as a result of what this man has done. According to Jesus, that is the litmus test. Anyone can lie and most who call themselves Christians unfortunately do…
Were you there when the event supposedly occurred? What were her words, his words? Is there a video recording of such an event? Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?”. If the professor is innocent of the accusation(s) (I am not defending him), what would make the accuser, including posting accusations by people that were not eyewitnesses of the event?. We can’t allow external cultural trends to influence our rational thinking. Not an excuse to exonerate possible abusers, but in the era of the so called “Me Too” movement, we have to be careful with what we said and post about issues we are NOT witnesses of. Food for thought.
I am a pastoral abuse victim. I didn’t say anything for years due to fear. I was afraid of the repercussions that the pastoral abuser promised and afraid of repercussions from people like you. I had many years of therapy and realized telling the truth about what happened to me, regardless of any unwanted & unwarranted backlash, was fair, just, needed and most importantly necessary for my healing. The truth matters. Jesus said so. I still cannot attend a Church. I have not been in one for over a decade. But, my faith is strong. Praise God.
What is very evident, reading through Dr. B’s letter, is the absence of objective truth, humility and any amount of reflection as to God’s Will in this situation.
– Use of subjective data: Listing the celebration to his honor, the Wheaton investigation and the years working at
Wheaton as a defense against the allegations. This is the same tactic used by the Catholic Church for years in
the defense of Priests. Just because one serves, gives or is honored in a very public fashion, does not mean
they are guiltless. History is full of these examples.
– The lack of scriptural truth: Not once was scripture used, not once was God, Christ or Jesus mentioned.
Instead, “my ministry”, “my reputation…I earned”, “my purpose” etc. The entirety of this letter has focused on
him, his loss and his suffering.
– Law over truth: “I have believed in the rule of law” – in our Western discipline of law, we do hold to the hope
that guilt only comes through due process. However, our legal system is deeply flawed. Guilty go free and
innocent are sent to jail (I personally have dealt with this). What we, as ones that hold to the Just Judgment of
God, should hold to a truth that extends beyond the courts of our land. In other words, his guilt or innocence
does not hinge on the outcome of a court but on truth itself.
– He has re-positioned himself as the victim: The entire letter is postured in a “see, look at the damage you are
doing to my life and ministry”. There is not even a small sense of humility, willingness to answer the questions
or desire to work through the process and let the truth be revealed.
I go back, however to the lack of reflection or even mention of God, His Will or the God’s purpose. This, for me, is the brightest red flag! We have gone to far is celebrating people over Christ. I for one am guilty of this, quoting “So-N-Sos” and reading “So-n-Sos” books. As the church of the 21st Century, we have fallen far away of “our First love” and have replaced Him with men, ministry, reputation, money, power and personality.
In so many ways, the church of today is likened to that of Judah and Israel throughout the Old Testament. Like our brothers and sisters of old, we have grown blinded by own sins, building up for ourselves places of worship on the high places, images made by our own hands.
“Hope for More” very good observations that you have. We are just like ancient Israel and we are about to suffer the same kinds of fate. The refusal to take Jesus own words in Matt. 23 and apply them to ourselves and to our idols is our own undoing. There is plenty of evidence that this man is a womanizing louse. There are more then three accusations out there and when accusations such as this are found to be credible, and an internal investigation was found to be so, the scriptures tell us to rebuke the leader in the presence of all so the sheep might fear the consequences of sin. The commenters here wanting to dismiss these reports are just being disobedient to God and His Word. They will stand condemned for this on the last great day…
Well said, Hope for More. Well said.
Willow Creek leadership released a statement saying they believe Dr. B behaved inappropriately. Numerous other women (some have posted their stories in the comments on this blog) have said Dr. B was sexually inappropriate with them. So is it only Ann Lindberg the Dr. B. defenders don’t believe or all the women? The comments regarding wearing different hats and seeking attention seem like personal attacks. Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean they’re lying,
Is it appropriate for any Pastor, Staff Member, Elder, Senior Leader, Lay Leader, Congregant, etc. of a church to mail postcards, while traveling, to a member of the opposite sex (not to mention a single woman) signed, “Love, gB” “Fondly, gB,” as was done by Dr. B to Ann Lindberg? Similarly (as some of you may recall), was it appropriate for Bill Hybels to send a handwritten note to a female member of his church congregation (who also lived with his family at one time), signed by him with this post script, “p.s. You are a knockout!” We have seen physical evidence, in black and white, of these notes, handwritten by Dr. B and Bill Hybels. These for me, were the final “smoking gun” and last piece of evidence I needed to believe that inappropriate behaviors and abuse occurred at Willow Creek.
Regarding the notes, what kind of example does this set for others in the church and in our larger community? At the very minimum, and I do mean minimum, both Dr. B and Bill Hybels should acknowledge these correspondences as wrong, hypocritical (for I sat under both of their teachings for 25+ plus years), totally inappropriate, hurtful to their wives/families, hurtful to church members, etc.
(If my husband ever sent these types of correspondences to another woman, we would have major marital issues!)
The naivete and downright denial in some comments is astounding to me. I did not want to believe the Tribune article about BH when it came out but the pattern of behavior could not be ignored. It is not just one woman making claims against GB and BH but several from all time periods that they’ve been in ministry. We don’t want to believe it because we don’t want to face the fact that we have been groomed and duped ourselves. What was my first thought when I’d heard that a woman said BH gave her awkward hugs? “It can’t be true because he’s not a hugger!” How many times has he told us that? Then it occurred to me: we, the congregation, were being groomed ourselves for this very moment. Wake up, folks.
First, 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 – 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 leadership – however, should be whatever those victims deem. Have they been solicited? Have they shared?
I was Baptized by Dr. B in 1981 in the small pond near the original Main bldg…I feel dirty now. Came across this article and finding out he was a “dog” all this time, at WCCC and Wheaton…I can only imagine his time in Paris. Hybels mentor, that figures. Too much, too fast, too soon, too young thats what happened here with Hybels and to some degree Bilizekian. From the coffee house to the movie house to the Big House WCCC, grew too fast, made too much money and it went to these mere mortals heads…Sad neither of them can come clean or fall back on the Honesty mantra they constantly pushed on us all and the world. They’ll never come clean…have fund in the AfterlIfe with those lies. Heard Hybels hi tailed out of Illinois, said to be hiding in NYC…coward.
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