I have been watching the responses to the allegations of misconduct by Bill Hybels, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, determining how best to address them…honoring my love of the Church and the people of Willow Creek. My account regarding Bill’s inappropriate behavior toward me has not changed in more than 20 years. I am simply recounting what happened to me. I have nothing to gain from bringing all of this to light. Until recently I thought that the inappropriate actions by Bill were isolated incidents, which is why I kept silent until now.
In July of last year, I became aware for the first time that many of the situations I had encountered with Bill had also occurred with other women spanning more than 30 years, and that there had been an investigation into the matter. These emerged as patterns-what I now believe to be classic behaviors of grooming, perpetration and abuse of power. And when I found out that the most recent allegations were only a few months old, I realized that women were still at risk.
For clarity, I am including more detailed facts of my story below.
In the mid 90’s Bill singled me out on one of my first international trips with the Willow Creek conference team in Australia. During the first leg of the trip, I was told by a leader that Bill liked how I looked and that I was his “type”. Later on that trip, we stopped at a resort to rest for a few days. Bill asked me to go on a bike ride with him. During that ride, he asked me if I thought I might have the spiritual gift of leadership. He told me to take a gifts assessment test and find out, mentioning that he recognized leadership qualities in me. He then told me that I should take good care of my body and stay thin and fit, because leaders are more respected when they are in shape.
At various times over the next months and years, Bill sent subtle and confusing messages.
The next morning, Bill and I were the first ones at breakfast in the hotel. He pulled me aside and asked me if anything had happened. “You know what happened!” I said, and then he asked me if I was going to tell the elders. I said, “Not this time, but if you ever do anything like this again, I will go to the elders.”
I told Scott shortly after I returned from Sweden, and a few months later I shared it with 3 of my closest friends, all of whom were senior leaders at Willow Creek, including an elder, Betty Schmidt (read Betty's statement here.) I shared it with another close friend and my mother in the months following. Several confirmed the story to the Tribune. Betty asked if they should take it to the larger elder team, and I told her no, that I had confronted Bill and that I warned him not to do it again. At the time, I thought it was simply a weak moment on his part and wanted to be forgiving. I told my friends and trusted leaders, so they would be aware, in case it happened again.
In 2000, I noticed Bill flirting with 5 female leaders that he was mentoring. The term for this behavior among leaders was Bill’s “flavor of the month”. I made an appointment to confront his behavior. I went into his office, sat across from his desk, looked him straight in the eye and listed the women by name (including Nancy Beach), counting on my fingers 1-5. I then said, “You need to knock it off!” He sat silently staring at me. Then I said, “Do you understand what I am saying to you?” He said, “Understood.” I then said, “OK?” and he said, “K”, and I got up and left his office, trembling.
In 2001, Scott and I were asked on a WCA trip to South Africa. Shortly before the trip, Bill called me to his office in the presence of two supervisors and told me, “You’re going. Scott’s staying home. You’re an ‘A Player’, Scott’s a ‘B Player.’” As the team leader, I had to go home and deliver the news to my husband.
I became pregnant and gave birth to my first daughter in December of 2002. In early 2003, while still on pregnancy leave, I was contacted by Willow Creek’s HR department and told that there was an issue. When I returned from my leave, I was told that there were 12-15 people who had issues with me, and that I was not allowed to talk with anyone in the department about it or ask anyone if I had offended them. I was moved to another department and eventually fired with severance. I was given the opportunity to write a resignation letter that painted the situation as my choice to leave. I was required to have it approved by HR, which I did. A couple of years later, a former vocal team member was visiting us in Texas, when she suddenly broke down and tearfully confessed that she had been a part of a plot to remove me from my position. She didn’t go into detail, and she was distraught and crying, so I didn’t press her on it, as I had moved on with my life.
This is what happened to me.
I believe the women who have come forward because our stories are so similar.
For the sake of the other women and for the sake of the church, I cannot stay silent.
“The worst kind of fear isn’t the thing that makes you scream, but the one that steals your voice and makes you silent.” -Abby Norman
We all feel it.
It follows with us wherever we go.
It hangs out in the depth of our depths, where words often fail. We all long for something.
Sometimes we’re reminded of it when we have nagging memory of dreams, or things or circumstances that never came to be–something that failed to come into being.
it appears out of nowhere; it is a thought, a deep cutting feeling that nudges at our silence and waits for the answer to come.
Let’s face it; we all find ourselves wanting for something to change, to move, to be different, to heal, to be restored, and we find ourselves longing for life to be a little better, a little more meaningful, and for things to work with a little more grease and a little less of the intangible.
Whether it’s injustice, our relationships, our jobs, our success, youth, our homes, our cars, our grades, our friends, our pocketbooks, our dreams, or even hopes for our kids to turn out all right, we still long for all kinds of things.
We find ourselves rating them in the mental tally of our minds, when situations feel fearful, unfixable, uncontrollable, broken, dead, or returned to us utterly unfulfilling and empty.
These thoughts come to us in the strangest of moments. They come and pull at the frayed edges of our mental sweaters when we are otherwise consumed with managing life as we know it.
There it sits.
It resides next to the parts of life we’d rather cut from the “subtext” of our daily lives and nestles up close to our loss, regret, disappointment, failure, and fear. It creeps into the unknown, and attaches itself to our deep wounds. It reminds us about our scarred and often failing humanity. The less hopeful version of us that we know so well.
Our longing bears the same weighty-ache that the earth was carrying on the night that “Hope” dropped down from the heaven-lies.
And like our weary hearts, the earth was cold, numb, and waiting for Jesus to come and breathe life into the foggy, chilly night air of a weary world.
And then, the Christ entered in and brought respite, reminding us that we are not left with the crumbs of our loss, and failure and longing.
The breath. It came and made an invitation to our deeper invitational belonging.
Christ came for us.
And with His breath came the beating inhale and exhale hope.
He still comes to us each day, in the mundane moments, where we wait and hope for a shift to crack the hardened parts of our hearts that have huddled in bunkers of self-protection. He comes when our souls ache and our hearts break and we wait for clouds to part and light to enter in.
The invitation comes in every single moment and pursues us, always and always. He is right there, with us and in us.
He pursues us again and again even as we wade through the mire of our souls groaning.
He is the reminder that we are not alone. We belong.
God with us.
Come, Lord Jesus, be our hope.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:23
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
The church is meant to be a living expression of a living gospel. The church was never meant to be a gathering of people gathered to consume truth and leave.
This "by standing gospel" reminds me of our fascination with online shopping, where we save God in our own little digital shopping cart and decide if we want to engage and be part of the greater experience of knowing Jesus, His fullness, His truth, His presence and His community, ...here on earth and in the moment.
The modern church has acquired a consuming mindset and a worship deficit. We cannot bring truth to bear in real life, if we are simply watching church, watching the singing and listening to teaching.
We have a crisis of worship.
Yes, we have a crisis of worship with our singing, our preferences, our well-meaning judgments, our by-standing, and our consumerism, but we also have a crisis of worship in our hearts. This crisis is not denominational, nor location specific, it is not online or in any particular room.
It is heart specific.
If we want to unleash the gospel in our churches then we must unleash our worship with the practical, living, singing, praying, weeping, rejoicing truth of the gospel. This cannot merely be spoken, it must be lived, spoken and sung, it must be alive and unbound. It must be beating in our hearts and running through our veins.
Glorifying Jesus in "all the things going on in our lives" is paramount to living our spoken gospel.
God is always activating transformation in us and among us.
He always brings things to life when he is present.
He is present in us.
This active gospel is so much more than a few songs, offering, announcements, the spoken word and maybe an ending song that we all hope we recognize from our past. It goes beyond atmosphere, lighting, age of our leaders, styles of our music and our modern box checking view of church.
If we are to change the culture, then our own hearts must break for the things of God to spring up in our hearts and manifest themselves in our relationships, behaviors, and lives.
We must be bold enough remove the "rules" that keep us bound in ritual and consumerism.
We must come to church with a transformed mindset.
We must come inviting the living Christ to be manifest through us, even though we come with our earthbound limitations.
Regardless, we come.
We come to worship whether hungry, broken, full, in need, at rest, restless, expectant, obedient, waiting, watching, listening, hoping, dreaming, but expectant and ready for anything that God wants to do.
There is a journey to wholeness in Christ. It looks like surrender and manifests itself in discipleship, invitation and replication.
It begins with surrendering our time to His timing, our talents to His mission, and our treasures to His kingdom.
These are the signposts of transformed people.
When we understand our identity in Christ, then we can embrace our sovereignly initiated vision to gather and unleash the power of God inside of us. This beckons us to glorify, magnify and lift high God's power and God's own sacrificial vision for the lost to be found, for the found to become unbound, and the unbound to become living worshipers on mission, wherever they are planted.
We gather to declare that we part of the divine invitation to freedom and life, no longer slaves.
We gather to be reminded that we are free.
We come to prophesy, which simply means that we declare what is to come.
We believe it and we declare it again and again.
Worship must be a priority.
It goes before and comes behind our beliefs and puts skin on the dry bones of our hearts.
13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath;prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lordhave spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
If you know anything about my life, you know that I love working with people. I also love the idea of living my own life in technicolor. I believe that every person has the option to live in grey monotony or technicolor fullness. It is a privilege to help people find their own version of "technicolor" in their work, art, and lives.
Listening more fully.
Much of the time, I get the privilege of just being a listening mirror in my job and in my work. Being a listening mirror gives people permission to simply ask the questions and say out "all the things" that they hold in the deep spaces of their hearts, minds, and organizations. I love "being with" people and helping them move the dial on things that matter to them: their work, their voice, their art, their dreams, and even their beliefs.
Your “thinks” have purpose.
These deeper "things” that we hold in our minds and hearts, are the "thinks" that make us unique and hold the secrets to the grander purpose of our own lives and work.
Finding your voice.
Listening is the first step in helping someone become courageous enough to hear what is already beating in their hearts and pulsing through their veins. This is what helps them learn to hear the sound of their own voice and helps them learn to speak more fully with their very lives.
The art of listening is what truly “seeing into someone” is all about.
Seeing and listening.
It looks like caring and even looks like loving.
It is sometimes called coaching and consulting.
#whatsonyourmind #liveonpurpose #artlistlife #listening #consulting