On May 26 , 2021 a meeting took place at Willowcreek. A question about Bill Hybels brought a response by Shawn Williams that is disturbing. Dave Dummitt fist bumped and said “Wow” to Shawn’s teaching. And with that Willowcreek held up an abuser and also showed that neither Dave Dummitt or Shawn Williams understand Christianity. Willowcreek is broken and can not be repaired at all. Willowcreek is more lost than any atheist, gays in a gay bar or people drinking away in a bar in the northside of Chicago. Anyone who calls Willowcreek home at this point is profoundly lost.
“Broken vows are like broken mirrors. They leave those who held to them bleeding and staring at fractured images of themselves.“
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 ESV
Praising an abuser and showing they are lost.
This blog has not spent too much time on the Willowcreek situation. Part of the reason is because this blog threw its efforts into writing about James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel. But another reason is a lack of time and being a blog that is writing about the Evangelical Free Church of America. But Willowcreek is probably one of the most important mega churches in the United States. As I heard in my days of Campus Crusade, Willowcreek is the gold standard and for many churches the model of how Christianity should be lived. When I was involved in Crusade in Milwaukee, Wisconsin form 2000 until 2002 I recall my Crusade director Eric Lettner referencing Bill Hybels and his character and his reading, “Who You Are When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise.”
Then of course came the scandal, the issues raised by The Chicago Tribune over Bill Hybels behavior. They related to his misconduct allegations which he denied. You can read about that in, “After years of inquiries, Willow Creek pastor denies misconduct allegations.” Then there was the bombshell by the New York Times on August 5, 2018 when the paper told the story of Pat Baranowski. Bill Hybels had abused his former executive assistant. You can read that in, “He’s a Superstar Pastor. She Worked for Him and Says He Groped Her Repeatedly.” Eventually Bill Hybels left and Steve Carter and Heather Larson also departed the organization. During this time many at Willowcreek attacked the victims and made them the problem. Bill Hybels and Willowcreek were not the issue, instead they were. In the course of time Willowcreek selected a new senior pastor Dave Dummitt. And Shawn Williams became the South Barrington Pastor. And then to add insult to injury something happened at Willowcreek in late May that even got my attention and was stunning.
Praising an Abuser at the May 26, 2021 Willowcreek Meeting
They had a meeting at Willowcreek on May 26, 2021. At the meeting someone asked a question, why is Bill Hybels is rarely mentioned. And in a disturbing response both Dave Dummitt and Shawn Williams stepped on a landmine. Watch the video up above and see how they respond. Shawn Williams starts to answer the question in how this is a difficult topic and that he does not know what to say. He goes on and says that it is polarizing for the congregation and that people will respond differently. Shawn goes on to say that he does not know Bill Hybels but that both times deeply impacted his faith. He also called him a once in a generation leader and that God accomplished a lot through him. As he continues he can’t think of another example around the globe tat has done what Bill Hybels has done. And its beautiful and that we are hesitant to celebrate what Bill Hybels achieved. Shawn praised the leadership of Bill Hybels. And then at the same time there is a shadow to Bill Hybels, but is possible to hold both. The good and the bad side of Bill Hybels. He quoted Rick Warren in saying that in the garden of God’s grace broken trees bear a lot of fruit. And Shawn says that statement is applicable to Willowcreek. And both hold true and its okay to believe in both. And he asked if this makes any sense and people clap. And then Shawn turns to Dave and asks if he wants to add anything to what he said. Dave just goes, “WOW Shawn!” Dave then says he needs to teach what he said one weekend. Dave said that he can’t improve upon what Shawn said and that he needs to fall in line and support what he stated. Dave agreed with everything that Shawn said. Then the Willowcreek Senior Pastor said that we need to celebrate Willowcreek’s history and acknowledge Bill Hybels in its history. Open wounds need to scar over and Willowcreek needs to move on. He ended it by saying what Shawn said is beautiful and that it needs to be taught more. And people clapped at Willowcreek signaling their approval. But go ahead and watch the video.
They Can’t Call Bill Hybels an Abuser and You Can’t Have it Both Ways
In the entire video I am stunned that neither David Dummit or Shawn Williams can not call Bill Hybels an abuser. He abused and forced himself upon others. In the New York Times the paper wrote about how Bill forced his assistant to perform oral sex. But Willowcreek can’t call Bill Hybels an abuser. That is sick and twisted and it indicates that Willowcreek will never be able to come to terms with Hybels sexual abuse. But then there is another element that is also bothering me deeply. In the video up above Shawn wants to hold onto both. Yes there is a dark side to Bill Hybels but look at the church he created. This for me shows that Willowcreek is nothing but a business. Dave or Shawn for all intents and purposes can work in the business world as they know the business model down pat.
- This would be like saying of C.J Mahaney, yes he allegedly covered up sex abuse in Sovereign Grace but look at all the conferences he created and T4G in Louisville.
- This would be like saying of Mark Driscoll, yes he abused people and had anger problems but look at the church he built in Seattle. He was very successful in one of the most Godless cities in the United States.
- This would be like saying of James MacDonald, yes he was abusive. Yes he talked about planting child pornography and was abrasive. But look at how big Harvest Bible Chapel became and the reach of Walk in the Word.
If a person abuses they are an abuser. You can’t have it both ways. That is all there is to this situation.
The Congregation Clapping is Reminiscent of Highpoint Memphis Situation
How many remember the Andy Savage situation with Jules Woodson and Highpoint Church in Memphis? Andy Savage confessed to sexually abusing Jules Woodson on stage and the crowd responded by getting up and giving him a standing ovation. It was odd and disturbing. Confess sexual abuse of a minor and then get showered with praise. That clapping at Highpoint Memphis is haunting and troubling. Now stop and consider Willowcreek. Shawn and David either praise Bill Hybels and, Dave backs up Shawn Williams. And then there is the audience clapping away. The audience is becoming a tool in the cover up of Bill Hybels abuse. They white wash and stamp their approval by clapping away. In the end the audience is abusing Pat Baranowski by how they behave. This shows that Willowcreek in many ways is acting like Highpoint Memphis.
Dave Dummitt and Shawn Williams Do Not Know What Christianity Is
This video of both Dave Dummitt and Shawn Williams reveals a lot. Chief among it all is that neither of them knows what Christianity is about at all. They never call Bill Hybels out to repent. They never acknowledge the broken in this mess. They are all about the brand of Willowcreek and its preservation. The preservation and building of the brand is the focus. That for me is not what Christianity is about. If you were to ask many atheists what Christianity is about, as an outsider they could say much more than either Dave or Shawn. I mean all these years of Bible college and church leading and ministry and this is the best they can do? This is like a guy going from elementary to junior high and high school and college and then grad school and coming out illiterate and unable to read. Dave Dummitt and Shawn Williams are profoundly lost. Why any church would put them in a position of leadership is beyond me.
Willowcreek is Profoundly Lost and Can Not Be Fixed
To drive this point home there is a few things I want to say. Willowcreek is lost and it can not be fixed. From the leadership up top to those who attend Willowcreek all who are involved are profoundly lost. How lost? Consider the following. A gay man goes to a gay bar in Chicago’s Boystown to pick up a guy for sex. Willowcreek is more lost than then that situation I would claim. You have atheists walking around Evanston and Northwestern or Normal at Northern Illinois University. They reject faith, find it stupid and that there is no credibility to the outrageous claims of the Bible. Willowcreek is more lost than those atheists. Next imagine people going to the bar scene in Lincoln Park or Kilbourn Park and bringing home one night stands and coming home intoxicated. Willowcreek is more lost than any of those people. I say all this to drive home a point. Willowcreek can not be fixed at all. Those he think it can be are profound fools living in a world of ignorance.
This Should Bother Every Evangelical Pastor in the United States
In closing this post out let me write the following. That May 26 meeting at Willowcreek should bother every single evangelical pastor in this country. Will it? Will it result for some to lose sleep? Chances are not really. And that is a damning indictment on the failed model of American evangelicalism. As some people say, as so goes Willowcreek that is how other churches are. Maybe that is why evangelicalism is broken and just can not be fixed at all. The fire is burning and the people are inside naïve as hell as the roof is collapsing. That is evangelicalism in the United States.