Benjamin Ady writes a brief guest post that deals with the ongoing Willow Creek Community Church scandal in Chicago. Benjmain recalls being invited to the Jewish holiday of Purim. Currently at Willow Creek there is an ongoing effort to silence the victims that Bill Hybels allegedly abused.
“The predator wants your silence. It feeds their power, entitlement, and they want it to feed your shame.”
On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. 2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.
Esther 5:1-3 NIV
Benjamin Ady wrote a post about the ongoing Willow Creek Community Church scandal which is still dragging on. For those still learning this issue both the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times broke the stories about Willow Creek. You can read the narrative about how Bill Hybels allegedly preyed on his executive assistant Pat Baranowski here. Having said that I will turn the rest of the post to Benjamin Ady.
Many years ago, my wife Megs and I had the amazing privilege of attending a Purim celebration at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth synagogue in Seattle. We were invited by dear family friends who are part of that synagogue. Everyone gathered in the main auditorium, and a young rabbi read the Jewish book of Esther aloud. My lovely Gentile wife, Meg, was selected as the Esther for the event and was in an Esther dress. I am told that later this caused a bit of a stir when our friends informed people that Meg and our family were goyim.
If you’ve not had the privilege, Purim is an annual Jewish holiday in which the Jewish people celebrate the miracle of the saving of the Jewish people, by Esther, from genocide planned by Haman, an official in the first Persian Empire, in approximately the 4th century BCE. The story of this miracle is told in the Jewish book of Esther. The entire congregation gathered, and there was a system of lights, up at the front of the auditorium. While the rabbi was reading the book of Esther, there was a light that came on a little before he was going to read Haman’s name, and another light that came on just as he began to read “Haman”. Those in the congregation had small mechanical noisemakers of various types, and each time Haman’s name was read, we used our voices and our noisemakers to raise a tremendous racket, so that one could not hear the rabbi reading “Haman”. We blotted his name out. This happens 54 times during the reading of Esther.
The Jewish people have been doing this for 2,000 years. Not only is it the case that God used a woman, Esther, an orphan, and a survivor of profound, systematic, and violent patriarchy, to thwart the genocide of the Jews by Haman. Not only is it the case that Haman was hanged. Not only is it the case that the bodies of Haman’s 10 sons were hanged, after they were killed fighting the Jews. It is also the case that Jews have celebrated Purim for two thousand years, and thereby systematically, intentionally, forever blotted Haman’s name out of existence.
I was recently reminded of this story by a tweet.
Bill Hybels was the senior and founding pastor and 42-year-leader of Willow Creek Community Church, arguably for many years the single most visible and influential church within American Evangelicalism. He was also the founder and 26-year-leader of Willow Creek Association, recently rebranded as Global Leadership Network, who have 13,000 churches in their network globally. In 2014, the leadership of both these organisations learned that their founder and leader, Bill Hybels, was a serial sexual predator. They covered up these facts from 2014-2018, when they became public knowledge, at which time the leadership of these two organisations globally, publicly slandered Hybels’ victims, calling them liars with a personal vendetta.
The leadership at these two organisations have continued to publicly ever so carefully curate the reputation of Bill Hybels, so that his image, quotations from him, and video of him remain extensively extant at the websites and on the social media of their affiliate organisations globally. They continue to sell video content from him in their web shop, as do their global affiliate organisations. In a word, despite the fact that this man did immeasurable psychological, financial, and spiritual harm to both their own organisations and to too many women, they’ve essentially done the opposite of what the Jews have done with Haman. They’ve utterly refused to even publicly name Hybels’ crimes, much less condemn them. Maybe they should take a lesson from the Jews and set about blotting the name of this still unrepentant predator out of existence.