I don’t believe it is an understatement to observe that the revelation of sexual misconduct against evangelical megachurch pastor Bill Hybels has rocked the evangelical egalitarian community. It was a substantial article in last Thursday’s Chicago Tribune that broke the news to the world and to many unsuspecting egalitarians.
Women—including longtime female friends of Hybels—were doubling down on their desire for accountability and deeper communal discernment as the Tribune article detailed their stories. For me, perhaps the most shocking news was that one of those women happened to be Nancy Beach. She was passionately involved in Willow Creek in the early years serving not only as a teaching pastor but as a programming director for the church for over twenty years. She was one of the founding leaders.
Egalitarian evangelicals are suddenly reeling over credible accusations against one of the most respected megachurch leaders in the egalitarian community. In the article, Hybels flatly denies all accusations; he calls them all “lies.” To say that the Willow Creek egalitarian model has been foundational for so many evangelicals would be putting it mildly. More on that in a moment.
In the subsequent days after the article, Hybels and Willow Creek have taken a ferocious stand against #MeToo, #ChurchToo, and these accusers. He has also resisted requests from respected evangelical pastor John Ortberg and his wife Nancy Ortberg for a deeper independent investigation. In a follow-up article, the Tribune reports that Hybels received a standing ovation. The news of that hit me hard. This is not the time or place to give a standing ovation at this hour. Remember the ovation for Andy Savage?
But I also couldn’t help connecting Hybels’ defiant stance with Trump’s declarations that all his female accusers are liars. As an outsider, I am deeply grieving that Hybels is asserting that highly respected John and Nancy Ortberg, and pastor Nancy Beach are liars and colluding against him.
If you would have told me a year ago that both Bill Hybels with Donald Trump would similarly both call their female accusers liars, I would have never believed you. It was after all, Lynne Hybels and Willow Creek to come out and support the “silence is not spiritual,” and the #MeToo.
Where is a profound sense of humility?