Willow Creek, Your Time Is Now

August 10, 2018
Posted in Blog
August 10, 2018 Editor

Willow Creek, Your Time Is Now

Please click on audio of post. NOTE: only main text read; no links, text markings, images, videos, footnotes, etc. read aloud.

August 6, 2018 by Scot McKnight

68 Comments

photo above: Pat Baranowski was the executive assistant to the Rev. Bill Hybels at the Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., one of the largest megachurches in the country. CreditAlyssa Schukar for The New York Times

WN: What can one add — that is not obvious already?:

  • a leader granted for decades enormous star power, in the day for instance with a personal phone line to George W. Bush;
  • a megapastor with vast numbers of imitators across the world sitting at his feet to learn of his kind of churchianity…;
  • women crying #MeToo, and their cries repeatedly unheard, their persons vilified, their pleadings for justice ignored or silenced;
  • powerful church leaders circling the wagons to protect the decades-long recidivistic male megapastor;
  • the days, weeks, months and years of denial by the powerful;
  • the untold harm done to the victims, re-traumatized every time they were not believed, were called liars;
  • the continued state of denial of the lead pastor, lost in his own personally chosen hell;
  • leaders who eventually tried to excuse themselves, to suck up to the women, to let themselves off the hook for backing the wrong horse — for creating years of hell for the victims;
  • onlookers such as senior pastor Brian Tome of Crossroad Church, who purports to draw wise morals and give sage advice about lessons from the fall of Bill Hybels, yet remains fully blind to the abusive horrors of his own country and Israel; sponsoring “Arie’s Teachings” in his own church, a man we’re told on the website who is “Veteran of five Israeli wars”… — as one credential for his authoritative Bible teaching: veteran of the army in Israel, an evil Empire matching the United States in kind, if not in scope, in its 70 years of massive human rights abuses against, and brutal Nazi-like occupation and oppression of,  Palestine/Palestinians. This is death-and-destruction-dealing abuse on a grand scale that makes Hybels by comparison look like a Sunday School teacher (or whatever).;
  • etc.

Perhaps all that can be added is: “Lord, have mercy”… on us all who would pick up the first stone… We could also say, “There but for the grace of God go I”

The rest is appropriate others’ business and God’s…

excerpts:

With the candid and courageous account of Pat Baranowski in the NYTimes, the previous courageous stories of Vonda Dyer, Nancy Beach, Nancy Ortberg, Julia Williams, and Moe Girkins (and others) are now undeniable. Willow is now at a crossroad.

These women represent the hundreds of noble Christians filled with goodness. They have served and toiled for the sake of the gospel through Willow. They are the ones who have made Willow what Willow is. They are the ones who gave up other jobs to join the ministry. They are the ones praying and reading the Bible and attending small groups and supporting the many ministries of this amazing church.

But that congregation of goodness has been violated by the actions of the leaders.

Sunday the NYTimes told a new story. It ended the Who’s telling the truth? discussion. Willow’s “the women are liars” narrative can no longer hold. The women told the truth. The narrative was the lie.

I weep for Pat Baranowski, for the life she has experienced as we weep for the women who have been sexually harrassed and abused by Willow’s pastor and shoved around and threatened by the process of trying to silence them. The story in the NYTimes is a tragedy, and it is beyond sad that a church leader and the church could do such things while accomplishing so many great things.

What is connected to this story is a history of mismanagement, powermongering, threatening, and offering money for silence (NDA: non disclosure agreements). In seminaries in the years ahead these themes will become central to church leadership discussions.

Willow will never be the old Willow. It can become a different Willow, but it will never be the same.

What I mean is that those who created and sustained and continued that narrative — a narrative that both denied the truth of the women’s stories and the pastor’s sexual inappropriateness — forfeited their ability to lead Willow Creek Community Church and Willow Creek Association. Their time is up.

It is time to form an independent council of wisdom — leaders chosen by wise, non-Willow evangelical leaders — that can pastor what’s left of WCCC and the WCA, to investigate the governance of Willow and how it was able to be so thoroughly wrong, to work out a new governance and find new leaders.

The present leadership — from Heather Larson to the elders to the Human Resources and beyond — cannot lead Willow forward. They have failed miserably for four years.

It is time now to find the truth, to be transparent, to investigate the governance, and to tell that truth honestly.

The women told the truth. The Willow narrative is a false and deceptive narrative.

Why was it so easy for the journalists at Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today to find stories from women but Willow’s so-called investigation turned up nothing?

The time is now. Willow, your time is now. Time to find the truth, tell the truth, and live into that truth.

There is no forward til the truth is found and embraced. There is no forward until the Vonda Dyers and Pat Baranowskis are believed.

Who within Willow Creek Community Church or within the Willow Creek Association will have the courage to work for that truth?

Why now?

Because of truth. Because of the gospel. Because of the grace of God.

Because of the women who have been wrongly maligned, unjustly accused, and publicly wounded.

Because of the structures that have been established that led to the protection of a leader rather than compassion for the women and care of the congregation.

Why now?

Because of Willow Creek’s hundreds of ministry workers; because of the faithfulness of Willow Creek’s congregation. That’s why: hundreds have given up other jobs to work for less at Willow; hundreds are now doing the noble work of evangelism, compassion, ministry and it goes on and on. Thousands have given buckets of money to support the many wonderful ministries of Willow. They have made Willow what Willow is. The goodness of Willow can remain and create a new future for Willow.

That time is now.

Please click on: That Time Is Now

  1. [1]Please look at several articles as well on American/Western will to world domination by clicking on "Selected Articles: Western Aggression Backed by Western Media”. The series of articles is introduced thus:
    The Western allies never run dry of resources to support their global war of terror and aggression, ostensibly an integral part of their foreign policy. They dynamically legislate laws lest the people awaken. They have the unbending support of the corporate media, which skilfully distorts reality. When will they ever back down from their destructive quest for colonies? Read our selection below.
  2. [2]It continued:
    ‘For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands, killing scores of unarmed civilians – in some cases torturing and mutilating them - in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public,’ the newspaper said, at other points describing the killing of hundreds of unarmed civilians. ‘Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers,’ The Blade said. ‘Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”   The New York Times confirmed the claimed accuracy of the stories by contacting several of those interviewed.  It reported: “But they wanted to make another point: that Tiger Force had not been a ‘rogue’ unit. Its members had done only what they were told, and their superiors knew what they were doing. “Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground forces throughout Vietnam, they said. That contention is backed up by accounts of journalists, historians and disillusioned troops… ‘Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go,’ [one veteran] said in a recent telephone interview. ‘It was that kind of war, a frontless war of great frustration. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.’ Current likely Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry was also quoted giving evidence before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.  He reported that American soldiers in Vietnam had “raped, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. Nicholas Turse [later author of: Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam], a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, has been studying government archives and said they were filled with accounts of similar atrocities. ''I stumbled across the incidents The Blade reported,'' Mr. Turse said by telephone. ''I read through that case a year, year and a half ago, and it really didn't stand out. There was nothing that made it stand out from anything else. That's the scary thing. It was just one of hundreds.'' Yet there were few prosecutions.
  3. [3]Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:
    Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin's gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] ("The Cold War in Central America", pp. 216 - 221).
    What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary "City on A Hill" that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. "The Land of the Free" conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America's leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its eventual global reach.
  4. [5]
  5. [4] The highlighted article about renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world's) reality: "Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button". [5]He has since written The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Of it we read:
    Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist for the California Book Award in Nonfiction The San Francisco Chronicle's Best of 2017 List In These Times “Best Books of 2017” Huffington Post's Ten Excellent December Books List LitHub's “Five Books Making News This Week” From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America's Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day. Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America's nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization--and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration--threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.
  6. [6]A classic instance of this aligning with "just war" is the United States' "war on drugs" as subset of "war on crime", while at the same time the CIA was a major worldwide drug dealer in league with other drug cartels -- all done to enhance American Empire during the Cold War -- and continues to the present. The four-part series mentioned below connects American Empire drug dealing to the current War on Terror, in particular in Afghanistan. This of course is colossal hypocrisy as well. Worse: the series posits American federal government administrations over many decades as the Ultimate Drug Cartel, with Blacks, Latinos, and generally the poor directly being knowingly poisoned en masse. Then they have been primary targets of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and thereby become victims of America's too often savage prison system that oppresses and brutalizes them all over again... See: "The War on Drugs Is a Failure, So [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions Is All for It". A citation from the article reads:
    In June [2017], the History Channel aired a four-part documentary series called America’s War on Drugs.” The series asserts that the war on drugs was actually a war of drugs—and that the CIA was essentially a partner in spreading drugs and drug use. The series follows how the U.S. intelligence agency, in an obsession with fighting communism, allied itself with U.S. organized crime and foreign drug traffickers and includes firsthand accounts from many involved. In an interview with Truthdig columnist Sonali Kolhatkar on her radio program “Rising Up With Sonali,” the series’ executive producer, Anthony Lappé, explains why the CIA got involved:
    It’s actually a pretty mind-blowing story when you look at the extent to which the CIA was involved with drug traffickers and drug trafficking throughout the Cold War. … If you look at Cold War policy against the Soviet Union, we were locked in a global battle for supremacy, where we have lots of proxy wars going on. … We needed to team up with local allies, and often the local allies we were teaming up with were people who had access to guns, who had access to underground networks, to help us fight the perceived threat of communism. There are actually a lot of similarities between what drug traffickers do and what the CIA does.
    Lappé elaborates by saying the hypocrisy of the war on drugs has been evident from the start: Secret CIA experiments with LSD helped fuel the counterculture movement, leading to President Richard Nixon’s crackdown and declaration of the war on drugs. The series also explores the CIA’s role in the rise of crack cocaine in poor black communities and a secret island “cocaine base.” In addition the documentary makes the connection between the war on drugs, the war on terror and the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco state and contends that American intervention in Mexico helped give clout to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the super cartels, making it easier to send drugs across American borders. Watch Kolhatkar’s full interview with Lappé by clicking here. Please also see the now classic: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, by noted American historian Alfred McCoy. Of it we read:
    The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, The Politics of Heroin includes meticulous documentation of dishonesty and dirty dealings at the highest levels from the Cold War until today. Maintaining a global perspective, this groundbreaking study details the mechanics of drug trafficking in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South and Central America. New chapters detail U.S. involvement in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan before and after the fall of the Taliban, and how U.S. drug policy in Central America and Colombia has increased the global supply of illicit drugs.
    To be noted as well is Johann Hari's Chasing The Scream, which tells the tragic tale of America's long-standing offensive against drugs, and the way to end such a war worldwide -- that several nations are successfully embracing.
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Editor

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

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