More on Bill Hybels

Published today in the New York times, a new allegation is made against Bill Hybels.

That first back rub in 1986 led to multiple occasions over nearly two years in which he fondled her breasts and rubbed against her. The incidents later escalated to one occasion of oral sex. Ms. Baranowski said she was mortified and determined to stay silent.
— NY Times, 8/5/18
Ms. Baranowski said that during the years of harassment, Mr. Hybels never kissed her, and they never had intercourse. She was particularly ashamed about the oral sex. She grew increasingly wracked by guilt and tried to talk with him. One day in his office, she told him that it was unfair to his wife, that it was sin, and that she felt humiliated.

That night she recorded in her journal what he had said in response: “It’s not a big deal. Why can’t you just get over it? You didn’t tell anyone, did you?”

His attitude toward her slowly began to change, she said. She moved out of the house after two years. In the office, he began to suggest she was incompetent and unstable. He berated her work in front of others. She grew depressed and poured out her feelings to God, filling 20 spiral-bound journals.

On May 11, 1989, she wrote, “I feel like an abused wife.”
— NY Times, 8/5/18

This ongoing abuse changed the course of her life. She was never able to fully recover from the encounter with Bill Hybels.

The entanglement with Mr. Hybels “altered the trajectory of her life,” said Mr. Cousins, a well-known evangelical leader who worked at Willow for 17 years.

“She had been a very high-performing person, committed, high-caliber, responsible,” said Mr. Cousins, now a pastor in Orlando, Fla. “And the church was her life.”
— NY Times, 8/5/18




#ChurchToo an Abuse Reality

Hannah Paasch wrote an article on Huffington Post that talks about the #churchtoo hashtag and what it represents for women abused by the church. In, Sexual Abuse Happens In #ChurchToo — We’re Living Proof, she states: 

The deep cognitive dissonance of purity culture demands that women trust men as leaders, protectors and providers while blaming ourselves when our boundaries are inevitably crossed.
— Hannah Paasch, Huffington Post

For many women raised inside the conservative church, they have no understanding about what abused, discrimination, and bias look like. They may know that something is wrong, but don't have the ability to name it. And, on top of that, they often have no ownership over their own bodies, in that they were taught that their bodies ultimately belong to the men they will one day marry. Ignorance and bad theology create an environment where women, especially but not exclusively, are abused by the church.

ChurchToo is a platform not only where survivors can out their abusers — yes, names and all — but also where Christians, ex-evangelicals and agnostics alike can ask one another: How can we do better? What would a theology of consent and autonomy look like? How would we build a world in which that sort of church was not the exception?

The stories that have poured in through the hashtag prove to me that the evangelical church, in its current iteration, actively supports the confessing abuser over the victim and, in the name of “having no appearance of evil,” has managed to silence thousands of sexual and physical abuse allegations throughout the years.

We are saying “enough” now. There are decades-old stories with this hashtag. The rot has metastasized, and with #ChurchToo, we are digging it out. No rock shall remain unturned.
— Hannah Paasch, Huffington Post

Andy Savage

From Christianity Today: "Andy Savage, the pastor who disclosed his decades-old assault on a teen in his former youth group to an applauding congregation, stepped down from his position at a Memphis megachurch on Tuesday."

Woodson’s story reignited the conversation over how church leaders can better address abuse allegations by alerting the police and/or allowing outside firms to investigate.

“When people see churches trying to handle investigations of their own leaders internally, it leads many to doubt whether the church really desires to bring the truth to light,” wrote researcher Julie Zamzow. “Even if you think you can be objective, if the public views your actions as trying to sweep things under the rug, this does real damage, not only to your church but to the entire Christian community.”

In Savage’s case, Billy Graham Center for Evangelism executive director and CT blogger Ed Stetzer wrote, “so much damage is already done—most of all (and most importantly) to Jules, but (again) to the broader Christian witness.”
— Christianity Today

The need to listen to women in these situations is clear.

The backlash over Savage’s response and the ways other churches have mishandled abuse cases are reminders to listen to victims and to be mindful of language used to characterize rape, assault, and harassment when allegations arise.

Christian advocates have emphasized the importance of recognizing abuse as abuse, rather than using language to downplay what happened or to suggest that a sexual relationship between a youth pastor and a teen in a youth group could be consensual.
— Christianity Today

Bill Hybels

The Chicago Tribune ran the story around Bill Hybels. The well loved and highly influential pastor of Willowcreek is a name few evangelicals, or post evangelicals, can escape. Disappointment is thick around this story. It's just hard.

The Chicago Tribune

What much of the church didn’t know was that Hybels had been the subject of inquiries into claims that he ran afoul of church teachings by engaging in inappropriate behavior with women in his congregation — including employees — allegedly spanning decades. The inquiries had cleared Hybels, and church leaders said his exit had nothing to do with the allegations.

An investigation by the Chicago Tribune examined those allegations and other claims of inappropriate behavior by Hybels, documented through interviews with current and former church members, elders and employees, as well as hundreds of emails and internal records.

The alleged behavior included suggestive comments, extended hugs, an unwanted kiss and invitations to hotel rooms. It also included an allegation of a prolonged consensual affair with a married woman who later said her claim about the affair was not true, the Tribune found.
— The Chicago Tribune

A Response to Bill Hybels: Hey, Bill Hybels

So, Bill, it’s fair to say that, in this case, the fire has come—the Jesus kind of fire. I hope your intention in building powerful women was to build on the foundation of Jesus and not so that you could enjoy a position of power over them. I hope you will honor those who pursue justice and consider the importance of allowing an investigation to continue, so the church can be found blameless. I hope you will consider the different ways in which you interact with women and men. And, Bill, I hope you will remember your own meme-worthy words: “Your culture will only ever be as healthy as the senior leader wants it to be,” and always remember our senior leader is Jesus.
Anyone who may have been victimized by people in power needs to know that the church of Jesus is their refuge and champion. In this case, the tremendous courage of several women has been met with an inadequate process that has left them without a refuge and with no way to be assured of a fair hearing. Just one week after the Chicago Tribune reported claims of misconduct that had not been investigated by the church, by women willing to be named and by others as yet unwilling to be named, the church held “family meetings” presenting the senior pastor’s and elders’ position. It is clear they hope this will put all these matters to rest.

In a family, all voices should be heard, and every story should be told. This should happen in a setting where there is a balance of power and independent judgment can be made about their accounts.

The women cannot and must not be silenced.
— John Ortberg