Willow Creek Community Church has just announced it has hired former Harvest Bible Chapel Chicago Cathedral Pastor Ed Ollie as the next pastor of Willow Creek North Shore. Ollie also will serve on Willow’s main teaching team.
Ollie replaces popular Willow Creek North Shore Pastor Amy Mikal, who resigned at the end of September.
Ollie said he realized during a “goal review” last August that his time at Harvest “was coming to an end.”
“I’m in a space where, while I’m excited, I’m also mourning because this is an amazing church,” Ollie said at the time.
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According to an email from Willow Creek Executive Pastor Tim Stevens to all church staff, Willow first had conversations with Ollie in July and August. At that time, however, “(W)e didn’t have any specific positions that would be a good fit for him.”
Stevens said that in the meantime, “unrelated to our conversations with him,” Ollie decided to step down from his position at Harvest. And over the last few weeks, Willow Creek staff and WCNS lay leaders have met with Ollie.
“(A)s each meeting took place, we become more convinced of Ed’s fit to pastor the North Shore congregation in this next season,” Stevens wrote.
Upheaval at North Shore Campus
Willow’s announcement comes during a period of major upheaval at Willow Creek North Shore.
Not only has Mikal recently resigned. Last month, Willow announced sweeping changes, which included the elimination of 92 jobs churchwide, including 13 at the North Shore campus.
Since then, an additional 14 WCNS staff have taken a buyout plan, leaving only five of the original 32 staff remaining at the campus.
The changes have incensed many members of the WCNS congregation and led to two very tense meetings between the congregation and Willow’s central leadership earlier this month. (The Roys Report will be publishing an article soon about the upheaval at WCNS.)
“I spent so many sleepless nights listening for God’s voice,” Mikal said. “And at the end, it broke my heart because it became clear God was turning the page on the chapter where I serve as the lead pastor at Willow Creek North Shore.”
In an FAQ Willow published on October 7, the church stated that Mikal had been asked to stay on at Willow in a different role. But Mikal, whose passion for “teaching and preaching” has grown, reportedly didn’t feel “the new job description fits her passions and strengths.”
The FAQ also responded to questions about whether Willow had moved Mikal out of a teaching role because Willow “no longer value(s) women in leadership.”
(Pastor Dave Dummit, who became Willow’s senior pastor in April, comes from a multi-site church in Michigan where all the campus pastors are male. Willow, on the other hand, has historically had women serving as both pastors and elders.)
The FAQ states, “Dave comes from a church where he moved them from a more conservative stance to a church that opened doors for women to preach on the weekends.” The document also notes that Dummit hired Megan Marshman to serve on Willow’s teaching team.
Additionally, in Stevens’ email to church staff today, he mentions that one of the reasons Ollie was “attracted to Willow is our high value for women leading at every level in the church.”
Stevens said Ollie will begin “easing into his role” in November and will be “fully engaged” by early December.
“Please be praying for Ed and his family as they join the North Shore family,” Stevens said. “Please also be praying for the North Shore staff and congregation as they continue to walk through significant change.”Update concerning North Shore_Redacted