100 signatures reached
To: Global Leadership Summit Host Sites and the Church
Apologize to those confronting the Willow Creek System whose motives and outcry were disbelieved.
We recognize that the conversations we had and the information we shared perpetuated a false narrative about the women who bravely told us the truth. Therefore our conscience demands that we apologize specifically for what we have done.
To the brave individuals who confronted the Willow Creek System,
When we first heard your claims, we did not believe you. We chose our love for Bill over our love for you. We discounted you. We decided that your words were not of value to us. We chose power and loyalty over truth and love. We were wrong.
We talked about you in ways that disparaged your character, accused you of collusion and assumed we understood your motives to be anything, but the revelation of truth. We were wrong.
We sat by silently while you tried to tell us the truth. We did not listen.
We continued to perpetuate the systematic silencing and questioning of women who were making allegations against those in power over them. We ignored the truth.
We failed to hold those who represented us to account for the way you were treated. We deflected our responsibility.
We failed to describe and label what happened to you as sexual harassment*, sexual assault* and sin. We failed to hear the harsh judgement on the failure of shepherds, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! ...my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, . . . I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them (Ezekiel 34:1-10).
We minimized the abuse. At first, we described them as misunderstandings. Then, we acted as if they were over-reactions. We blamed the victims.
We sinned against you.
We are sorry.
We state without equivocation that Bill Hybels sexually harassed*, sexually assaulted* and sinned against you. His choice, his sin, was the cause of these situations. You were not at fault. You did nothing wrong. We have always known that Bill was a sinner. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). We assumed he knew this also. We are angry with Bill’s continued silence. We are angry that he continues to maintain that he has done nothing wrong. We have seen grievous injury around the world. We have seen the heroic efforts toward systemic reconciliation, but each of these processes begins with the telling of truth, truth and then reconciliation.
We want you to know of our admiration for your steadfast determination against huge obstacles to bring the truth to light. While some wish that you would have stayed quiet, we believe that the “truth sets us free.”
We believe reconciliation is the fruit of repentance. We believe in the power of the Gospel to bring healing to the world therefore,
We call to Bill with Nathan’s voice, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). We plead with Bill like the father of the near country, “Come home” (Luke 15:11-2). We call the community of people who have loved and followed Bill to pray and reach out in love toward him "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently" (Galatians 6:1). We believe it is the kindness of God that leads people toward repentance. (Romans 2:4).
In addition, to the broader church community,
We believe that the best of the church is ahead and not behind us in a broken system dependent upon silencing truth tellers. For too long, the church has hidden behind kingdom goals to justify sacrificing innocent individuals. In the name of Jesus who died on the cross and associated himself with the voiceless, we call for the church to be the protector of the most marginalized and powerless.
Finally, we urge all churches and Christian organizations to adopt and publicize policies and procedures which protect those who are reporting abuse in faith communities.
*Sexual Harrassment: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as" Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment."
*Sexual Assault: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -Any type of sexual contact with someone who does not consent. https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/sexual-assault-and-rape/sexual-assault
Why is this important?
When the outcry was first heard broadly through the reporting of the Chicago Tribune many people turned to the Willow Creek Community Church and to the Willow Creek Association to understand and interpret the situation. Each initially presented an institutional centric response and not a victim centric response. The IAG report has made clear that those responses defended "the women are not credible" response, when in fact the "women are credible." Many people feel discouraged and disgusted that they chose to defend the institution instead of the individuals.
The women have called for further response in the area of lament, outrage and specific apologies. This corporate apology attempts to give voice to the large host of individuals that feel that these requests ought to drive us to action. For example see:
This petition seeks to give voice to many people who need to apologize to the women and in some sense to many other women because this pattern of defending the institution at all costs continues to undermine the outcry of victims.
Read more about the situation and one churches' journey to take responsibility for their own actions as part of the Willow Creek Assocaition in this detailed report. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_wWZKPBoF761apE48TL9Zcb62z7B7dvh/view?usp=sharing
How it will be delivered
This apology with the names attached to it will be printed and delivered to each of the named women and their advocates.