There are some tempests in coffeecups that need to be examined closely. I think Willow Creek Community Church is doing good things for the cause of Christ. I think they have great ways of ministering to people and challenging Christians to be better people. But I am concerned that their stance on gays and lesbians will cost them in the end because it doesn’t reflect God’s stance, and because it hurts families, and ultimately hurts Christ’s message to the world. Below I go through the recent Leadership Summit situation and try to find some answers within Willow Creek’s response.
Things were going fine for Willow Creek Community Church as they were the sponsor and host for a Leadership Summit in 2011 that had on its list of speakers CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz. Then Change.org sponsored a petition that asked Mr. Schultz to cancel his speaking engagement at Willow Creek based on Willow Creek’s past association with Exodus International, which promotes ex-gay conversion therapy. Willow Creek had dissolved relationships with Exodus International years ago, but not on belief issues, but moreso based on where the church wanted to focus its activity. They got a lot of heat for that from evangelicals and other Christians on the far right who saw their dissolution with Exodus International a sign that they were going soft on gays. Still, the petition mentioned that Willow Creek still had anti-gay messages of its own. They wanted Starbucks not to associate itself with anti-gay anything.
So Schultz canceled his speaking engagement at the Leadership Summit.
The World, watching, reported and discussed Willow Creek Community Church in a negative light. So, Willow Creek started doing damage control. They came out with a statement that said they were not “anti-gay” nor were they “anti-anybody”. In fact, they touted the hundreds of people with “same-sex attraction” that attended their church on a regular basis as proof they weren’t anti-gay. Just ask them, Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek, seemed to say. They don’t feel unwelcome, he implied. He went on to say that his church challenges everyone to live up to the “sexual ethics” as presented in the Scriptures. And these are: “full sexual expression between men and women in the confines of marriage” and “sexual abstinence and purity for everyone else.”
The Video Response:
Of course, in the video statement below, he is on home field. He gets lots of hoots and hollers from supportive congregation members. It’s a safe place for Hybels to make that kind of statement. He gets to compliment them. He gets to tell them they are doing fine. He gets to re-brand them as the nice people they know they are. Who would question Hybels at WCCC? A whole room full of people who felt a bit stung by the media’s labeling them “anti-gay” give him clapping and happiness when they are re-labeled as not “anti-anything”, but welcoming of everyone–by the person who most needs to re-label the church, Bill Hybels, because of the bad PR he and his church are getting. It’s always nice to show your mother your artwork. You know she’ll love it. But she’s not the best critic.