The Time has Come for Evangelicals to Consider and Use Lawsuits Against Corrupt Ministries and Churches

As evangelical scandals continue to unfold the problems are causing more pain and hardship. Using the Willow Creek Community Church scandal, this blog explains why survivors of Bill Hybels should file a massive lawsuit against the well known evangelical pastor and his former church. This post explains how a lawsuit can be good for Willow Creek Community Church.

“Work hard for what you want because it won’t come to you without a fight. You have to be strong and courageous and know that you can do anything you put your mind to. If somebody puts you down or criticizes you, just keep on believing in yourself and turn it into something positive.”

Leah LaBelle 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”

Sun Tzu 

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

Psalm 119:114 NIV 

In August of 2018 a deeply disturbing article appeared in the New York Times. In it one learns of the way Willow Creek pastor Bill Hybels preyed on Pat Baranowski and even once allegedly committing sexual assault because of how the Hybels abused his position. In the article one learns as to how this sexual harassment and misconduct by a celebrity pastor in evangelicalism harmed and hurt Pat deeply. The spiritual abuse and more brought pain, trauma and incredible hardship to Bill Hybel’s former executive assistant. Meanwhile in the Chicago Tribune another troubling story was reported by that newspaper that dealt with Bill Hybels. In that article one learns about the sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct Bill Hybels did to Vonda Dyer. In the process the Willow Creek pastor put Dyer in uncomfortable and difficult positions on a foreign trip to Sweden. This blog believes that stories like this are really but the tip of the iceberg. No doubt, more exists below the surface but its highly likely that more people are afraid to come forward publicly.  Despite these troubling stories Willow Creek Community Church wants to move forward. 


A Deeply Flawed Repentance Service at Willow Creek

On July 23, 2019 Willow Creek had a repentance service that was aimed at moving the church forward. The service was led by Willow Creek’s elders. The church allegedly is following the Desmond Tutu’s guide to reconciliation that was used in South Africa. That process includes telling the story, naming the hurts, granting forgiveness and renewing or releasing the relationship. The church decided that it will not be defined by the trauma and that it will move forward. What was deeply troubling about the reconciliation service is that at no point were the actual allegations against individuals like Vonda, Pat and others addressed. Willow Creek did not call out Bill Hybels and address the pain that he caused. But Willow Creek would like to move forward and yet many people are stuck or remain hurt. 


Deeply Disturbing Scandals in Evangelicalism Keep Happening

It seems as if a new day in evangelicalism means another scandal. Over the last decade I can’t believe some of what has transpired and the scandals that came forward. There was Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Seattle. There was Driscoll’s abuse of power, his crass demeaning of women, talking about how blow jobs bring someone to Jesus and calling women penis homes. And there was the Mars Hill Global Fund with people thinking they were giving money to church plants in Africa and the money not getting to its intended location. Then you had C.J. Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries here in the Washington, D.C. area. In a deeply corrupt ministry stories of sexual abuse cover-up poured out of the organization. Then there was the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal in Chicago. James MacDonald’s extravagance and luxury living, child sex abuse allegations being covered up and allegations of abuse. These scandals keep happening repeatedly and its hard to see them play out like this regularly. Its almost as if this is the new normal for evangelicalism. 


Why this Blog Hopes Pat Baranoski, Vonda Dyer and Other Bill Hybel Survivors File a $40 Million Dollar Lawsuit Against Willow Creek Community Church

In both Mars Hill and Sovereign Grace former members employed a lawsuit against both organizations but ran into challenges. A few years back I wrote about how evangelical attitudes toward lawsuits was changing. You can read that in, ““…Someone Needs to Sue These Bastards.” Are Evangelical Christians Reaching a Tipping Point When it Comes to Lawsuits and Legal Action?” In the situation at Willow Creek Community Church there is one way to change the situation and help the diseased and sick organization. It is this blog’s hope that individuals like Pat Barabnoski, Vonda Dyer and the many other survivors of Bill Hybel file a lawsuit against Willow Creek. Recently a lawsuit against Matt Chandler’s The Village Church recently commenced and it looks deeply promising. You can read about that in, “Christi Bragg Sues Matt Chandler’s The Village Church for $1 Million in Damages Related to Child Sex Abuse.” In the case of Willow Creek the lawsuit needs to be much bigger than $1 million. It needs to be large, challenging and one that drives the point across to the church leadership and the congregation that the abuse that took place is not to be accepted and tolerated. Such a lawsuit can bring out other people and you might learn of more sexual abuse or more that can be learned about in discovery. One point I want to emphasize if a lawsuit is to be considered the sooner the better. In some cases you might have to deal with statute of limitations laws. There are ways of working around it but it takes time to put these kind of actions together. 


These are the Benefits of a Lawsuit Against Willow Creek and how it Can Improve Evangelicalism

A lawsuit against Willow Creek would have many benefits to consider that could help the greater movement of evangelicalism. These are some of the many benefits that can come about. 

  1. Pat Baranowski, Vonda Dyer and others could find justice that has eluded them. The justice system can help give them closure. In the very end it can help bring them peace, closure and right a wrong. 
  2. Discovery can possibly lead to more information and other situations of abuse at Willow Creek being covered up. It can help expose the mess and bring it all out into the open. That is the only way that this mess can be resolved. 
  3. A lawsuit can teach a congregation and attenders about fighting for justice and that there are some issues you don’t settle for until the right course of action is taken. 
  4. Willow Creek is one of the most significant churches in evangelicalism. I myself have been involved in two churches that have been influenced by the Willow Creek model. A lawsuit can drive a message to other churches that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated or accepted. Think of how that can better people’s lives not just in Chicago and northern Illinois, but places like California, Texas, Virginia and Massachusetts. A lawsuit can force a discussion on abuse. 
  5. A lawsuit can prevent Bill Hybels from starting a new ministry. It can help hold him accountable for his alleged sexual harassment. 
  6. A lawsuit can help Willow Creek to become healthy in the end and adopt stronger policies to prevent such behavior from occurring. 
  7. A lawsuit can impress atheists and secular humansits. I can’t tell you how many blogs by atheists I have read where they talk about how evangelicals are corrupt and look the other way to abuse and other problems . A lawsuit can show those on the outside that you care enough to take the right course of action. 
  8. A lawsuit can spare other people from enduring what you endured. It can help other people by preventing them from being abused or hurt. 

These ideas are but some of the ones that could help a lawsuit to achieve its end goal. Willow Creek isn’t interested in doing the right thing, they are in damage control. They are not worried about the people Bill Hybels hurt, they are worried about their financial income and money being donated. 


3 thoughts on “The Time has Come for Evangelicals to Consider and Use Lawsuits Against Corrupt Ministries and Churches

  1. They are not worried about the people Bill Hybels hurt, they are worried about their financial income and money being donated.

    In the words of the prophet Pink Floyd:

    It’s the only language these MenaGAWD understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not too sure that the EVIL CIVIL COURTS (separation of church and state) will even involve themselves in such trivial matters.

    The judge might even say, DOTH NOT YOUR OWN SCRIPTURES STATE TO LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF? Get out of my courtroom, and don’t come back until you have evidence of a real crime.”

    The evidence that the court will use is the FREEDOM to LEAVE the church, not letting the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

    Oh, and you have the right to flip the bird to the pastor as you walk out.

    We had this discussion on Julie Anne’s blog about Pastor T regarding his “alleged” sexual misconduct against 4 women.

    There is NO SUCH LAW regarding Pastoral sexual abuse in THAT case, and why? In order for there to be a case, Pastors MUST be ACTIVELY counseling (wearing the counseling hat).

    Just because he’s a pastor, that does NOT mean that he is counseling anyone.

    My point, before you bring a lawsuit, make dog gone sure that it’s a crime to begin with in a court of law.

    Sexual harassment in church…it it even a crime? What ELEMENTS are required for it to be a crime? Are those elements legit? POWER is required by the perp over the victim.

    There i NO POWER DIFFERENTIAL between congregant and pastor, unless that counselor hat is on.

    Search the laws, and you will see. However, there are laws regarding RAPE/Molestation, etc. But again, you gotta have evidence. Calling 911 is a good FIRST STEP so that the cops can gather the evidence. If no evidence, NO CASE.

    Ed Chapman


  3. Pingback: It’s Time for the Ex-Harvest Community to Bring a Class Action Lawsuit Against James MacDonald | Wondering Eagle

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