Willow Creek Responds to Abuse Allegations: “We Believe Dr. B Engaged in Inappropriate Behavior”

By Julie Roys

Willow Creek acting senior pastor, Steve Gillen, today sent an email to all church staff stating that the church believes that its co-founder, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, or Dr. B, “engaged in inappropriate behavior, and the harm he caused was inexcusable.” 

Gillen added, “While there are circumstances of the case that should have been handled differently, I believe our staff has taken these allegations seriously.” He said the church is “committed to learning from the missteps that were made in the process” and urged staff to pray for the victim and her family. 

The email comes in response to allegations this weekend from longtime Willow Creek member, Ann Lindberg, that Bilezikian repeatedly assaulted her sexually over a period of several years while he was in leadership at the church. Lindberg also alleged that she reported this sexual misconduct to the church in early 2010, but staff told her that “since it didn’t go to sex, it didn’t need to go any further.”  Lindberg further alleged that as a result of coming forward, she was “quietly criticized, rejected in leadership, accused falsely of wrong-doing” and also had “one of the security guards watching me while at church.”

I reached out yesterday to the Willow Creek elders for comment, but they have not responded. I also reached out to some of the church staff named in Lindberg’s account, but have not received any comment from them yet either. Dr. Bilezikian and I have corresponded by email and he has agreed to an interview tomorrow. 

test-edited

 

UPDATE: I just received the following email from Dr. Bilezikian, cancelling our interview Tuesday morning:

 
Gilbert Bilezikian  Mon, Jan 27, 2020 at 8:28 PM
Hello again,
After some reflection, I will bend to the advice of my support group and ask for a postponement of our meeting planned for tomorrow morning.  They want to know what I am doing and I agree with them heartily.  They helped me find my way in similar circumstances and they will do it again.  I’ll be back in town again after February 26.  So, I suggest we hold everything as is until that time and confer again about the way to go.
Thanks for your understanding.
  gB
 
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26 thoughts on “Willow Creek Responds to Abuse Allegations: “We Believe Dr. B Engaged in Inappropriate Behavior””

    1. BS on Ann Lindberg

      Question: 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. In this case, the victim/accuser made an accusation not of forcible rape, but rather of using his position as clergy/spiritual authority to induce the woman into a relationship she otherwise would not have considered. That is entirely compatible with her being emotionally/sexually drawn to him and “hovering” around him, especially given that due to Bilezikian’s married status, she could not be seen at his side.

        Congratulations. You just provided evidence against Bilezikian. Given that the church decided the allegations were credible and true, not a huge deal–it almost seems like Bilezikian confessed his part in the relationship, and the woman’s written record of the relationship speaks to this as well–but yes, if what you say is true, you’ve ironically just buttressed Mrs. Lindberg’s story.

  1. The disgusting pervert protectors in that other thread owe the victim (and all victims) an apology. The only thing worse than a sexual predator is the enablers, defenders, and protectors who shout victims down.. They disgust me as much as the predator.

    1. I agree Carla! Their comments about what Ann shared is completely ignorant and abusive itself. What will they say next? It’s Ann’s fault. Obviously Dr.B and all these other jerks who abuse people have perfected their tactics. May God bring healing to Ann and all the others who have suffered. So awful to see these comments from people who try to make her the victim.

  2. New scandal. Same old Willow!

    If this is what it looks like to take seriously the allegations of a woman who met repeatedly with Willow leaders to have this addressed for 9 YEARS and she disclosed the facts rather than Willow, WCCC may still be the global leader in shamelessness and hubris.

  3. Yet another typical business-speak filled communication from WC.
    To speak of “missteps” and “circumstances that should have been handled differently.” Sheesh! This is a person who was spiritually/sexually abused by Dr. B and then given years of run around by WC leaders.
    One thing I can agree with, WC’s staff did take this allegation of misconduct seriously. So much so they shredded the damning evidence.
    Anything to protect the organization…..

    1. And all done in the name of our Lord and Savior! Think again you evil, perverted devils! The abusers should be in an orange or striped jumpsuit for starters!

  4. While the topic is WCCC, the problem is deeply rooted within North American Christianity. What I am referring to is an embedded belief that having accountability partners guarantees a successful Christian walk. If we were to consider an elder board as accountability partners then why are stories like this so prevalent? So many men are so quick to state that they are not naive about something right under their nose, but the truth of the matter is that we really don’t believe scripture that says the heart is desperately wicked and resist probing a dark alley because we have already determined that the pastoral staff is above censure. We don’t have to look very far into the past to be reminded that but for the grace of God, there go I.

  5. Steve Gillen: Scott Vaudrey and Chris Hurts didn’t make missteps they were blatant liars. If they continue to be on Willow’s staff, they need to be fired immediately and the entire Willow Congregation including all of the regionals need to be notified this Sunday by you personally on Stage at Willow SB. It’s time for the Elder Board who inherited this mess to man and woman up and have every woman who has been abused and wants to, be allowed to share their Stories before the entire congregation not at some “family Meeting” so it can be more hush-hush!
    The IAG committee was pretty much a sham ( saying look what we’re doing to fix things. The recommendations were vague and shallow. I haven’t heard of any changes to governance to date. I’ve held my thoughts to myself for almost a year, waiting to see what Willow would do to change a very toxic environment. This can’t be pushed under the carpet and as one Elder said we are going to move on! Nothing visible seems to have been done to honor the abused! It can’t all be done behind closed doors ( that is power and image management just like the past. Someone needs to publicly before the congregation with women present confess the sins of the past leadership . We all know that isn’t going to be Bill. He’s way to much of a power broker, and too proud to do that ! God has a lot more work to do before we witness that day.

    1. Scott Vaudrey resigned in disgrace from Willow back in 2018 as the victims he threatened started to go public with their stories. He’s now an “executive coach” as well as an author writing books on relationships. No joke.

  6. Mary Ellen Sherman

    As a victim of sexual harassment in the workforce, the last thing I would want to do is get up in front of an audience and tell of my abuse. I can’t imagine how that would promote healing. Time to do the work of Recovering..

    1. I agree Missy. As I share your past in sexual harassment and also sexual abuse, I have to add that healing and recovery have absolutely nothing to do with restitution, retaliation or repentance on your violators part. It’s an inside job and no amount of justice, etc is going to heal you. That takes Jesus and hard work!

    2. Probably depends on the person and the motivation. I had a “non-contact” incident as a preteen, and ~40 years later a Sunday School Grand Poo Bah at my church decided to share my story to illustrate the reality of this. I waffled each way, then finally thought “what the heck, I’ll do it”.

      You could have heard a pin drop. I don’t know whether I can call it “healing”–my response has never been like that, say, of the gymnasts molested by Larry Nassar–but if I can use my little story to help people realize how significant this stuff is, sign me up.

  7. I am so desperately sick of hearing these meaningless platitudes of how “seriously we are now taking these women’s story of sexual abuse, we made some bad mis-steps, he behaved inappropriately, things will now be different going forward, we are all saddened by this etc. etc. SO WHAT!!! HOW DOES SAYING WE’RE SORRY NOW GO AWAY DO ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING? This is criminal behavior and you can be assured that if I was a woman and this happened to me, my first and ONLY complaint would be at the police station. WHY IS THIS CREEP EVEN ALIVE AND STILL WALKING AROUND? Maybe some public executions by hanging or firing squad would be the way to go. Excuse me, I have to leave my computer now and run to the bathroom and vomit.

    1. Thank you Mary Ellen for your comments about sharing the sexual harassment issues. I’ve found that one cannot begin to recover without first addressing some of the details and facts regarding the wound. Certainly the women would not have to present all of the details but they should be given the opportunity to present their hurt!

    2. Sam: sounds like you and I are quite upset with Willow’s house cleaning program. I must remember that both Bill and Dr.B are humans and can be very subtly attacked by Satan. I know of what I speak because in my past, I travelled down some of those dark paths myself. I had three life savers. One God helped me withe my guilt so I had to face the consequences . For me it was the shame that made me tell myself I was just above pond scum. That required a group of men to help me with that. Psalm 51 was the other life saver which Megan Marshman just recently preached on. From personal experience, I can tell you that Bill was a good preacher and also from personal experience, I can tell you that Dr. B was a very good professor, especially in Church Doctrine.
      I grew up in the rednecked portion of an eastern state where shall we say situations were sometimes handled without the help of the law. I don’t think hangings and public executions will be helpful in these trying times.
      Now that I’ve said my piece(a couple of times in this article) I’m going to have to sit back wait and pray for God to get this mess cleaned up. God helped little old me , and I believe He can get Willow straightened around and He can work on the big guys when they’re open to Him.

      P.S. Steve Gillen and the new Elders walked straight into a giant firestorm. I do believe that he and they are diligently attempting to right the Willow ship. Unfortunately there is a seemingly never-ending stream of old baggage that keeps surfacing and weighing the ship down.
      For what it’s worth!

      1. Find-the-positive

        Thanks Lloyd for your common sense reply. The church is filled with sinners including Bill, Dr. B. and the many that wanted to badly to ride on their coat tails all the way to success. Churches are a hospital for the sick. Hopefully over time some get better, but will still be tempted and fallen. Jesus came to forgive and have grace. We should do the same and stop giving Julie lots of clicks making money off of tough church situations. None of this helps with God’s kingdom. Sure, many think that being judgmental and calling out the crusade on sinful pastors in churches will right the kingdom. It only makes Julie money and hurts all those who are trying to find a loving church and non-judgemental people. Tough to find unfortunately. I wish Bill and Dr. B. and you all didn’t sin…church would be a much better place:)

  8. Nancy Klintworth

    How convenient that Dr. B is out of town. Waiting to see if the firestorm goes out. I cannot support him or his ministry. Let alone Willow Creek.

  9. I am hoping that they change the name of the coffee shop at Willow as it is called Dr. B’s. 10 years we spent at Willow and my return to faith there feels creepy. Sick people preaching how to have mentors in life and praising Bill and Dr.B. As a father to 4 beautiful children I set the example that these men fail at. End the Willow dog and pony show.

  10. “They helped me find my way in similar circumstances and they will do it again.”

    Whoever counseled this guy to cancel the interview should have gone a step further and written his email to Julie for him.

    DR BEE
    Hey guys! Im being accused of sexual misconduct. What should I do? I have a chance to set the record straight.

    SUPPORT GROUP
    Did you do it?

    DR BEE
    ??????????

    SUPPORT GROUP
    Cancel the interview and keep your mouth shut will help you get through this like the other times.

  11. So we can no longer call an affair, an affair? Because there was a woman involved, she automatically is hailed as a hero and victim? Dr. B was absolutely in the wrong…but so was she. As a woman, I am offended that we are made out to be incapable of making a decision between right and wrong. Was she spineless 20 years ago but then suddenly got honest when she knew she wouldn’t be chastised as a willing participant in an affair? What a load of crap. The victim BS is being taken so far that women are being portrayed as complete idiots not responsible for anything that “happens to them”. I literally cannot. She was not a child. Both parties are guilty. I agree with the PP – the real victim is Dr. B’s wife.

  12. 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 that day, and while she was there, he told her he couldn’t live without her, that he didn’t love his wife and he violently sexually assaulted her. Which is it??

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