The First Time…

After posting my article this past Friday, I was notified that on this past Saturday morning, yesterday, another woman spoke up with practically an identical experience. Exposing this particular founding elder will be difficult for many to comprehend and even more difficult to accept and extremely difficult to deal with the after-math. I respectfully extend my gratitude to those who have left comments of support for the voices now speaking up.

To continue on this very difficult task, below is a follow-up account from Anonymous Woman–the same woman from my previous post. I publish the following with her permission.

The first time he did something perverted to me was in-front of a storefront. I picked him up at his home and drove out for lunch. He took me to a restaurant he recommended in his neighborhood of Wheaton. I am not from Wheaton and am not familiar with the area. It is however, his neighborhood. I drove but he navigated. He directed me where to park and as a way to introduce me to his neighborhood, he gave me a round-about tour of the block on our way to the restaurant.

As we were approaching the restaurant and had gone around the block, we were walking on the sidewalk approaching the storefront in reference. He tenderly took my arm and we walked with locked arms. I was surprised and a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t make a big deal of it, and interpreted his action only as he extending friendly affection.

Up ahead I could see a poster displayed behind the glass of the storefront. It was a naked man, wearing only a Speedo with his legs wide open for everyone to see his frontal package tightly packed-in by the Speedo. I was mortified! I was also very embarrassed that he and we had to see this thing.

As we approached the poster, the idea quickly popped into my head to cross the street in order to avoid the poster. Instead, I hurried up my step and I looked away toward the street as I talked trying to recalibrate myself and re-focus on the conversation. When we were about one step past the poster, I began to feel relief that it was all over. That’s when it happened.

While our arms were locked, he stops us and starts to walk backwards telling me, “Look, look! I want you to see this.” My heart was pounding in horror. I was hoping he was referring to something else, not the poster. I didn’t know what to do. I did know I didn’t want to go back there no matter what it was he wanted me to see. I pressed forward and told him, “Come on. Let’s keep walking.”

But, we were in locked arms and he pulled me back saying, “Look, look!” I turned to look at him. He had that gloating grin, the same one I described in my previous post. He was pointing at the poster with his other hand but his eyes were fixed on my eyes. Again and again, I pressed forward telling him, “Come on let’s go!” But he would not let me go. By this time, we were no longer locked in arms, but he had his hand firmly on my elbow, holding me back and pulling me back, preventing me from walking forward, and forcing me to look at the poster.

As he was looking at me and searching for my eyes, I was looking away, looking at the sky, the sidewalk, the street, everywhere but that darn poster or his eyes. He wouldn’t let go of me. I finally looked and said, “There, I looked, now let’s go!”

He burst out laughing and forced me to look at his eyes after I looked at the poster. Finally, he loosened his grip on my elbow and we were able to keep walking.

I have many disturbing accounts that I need to share to hold this man and Willow Creek accountable. I have chosen to share this particular account at this time because of what I have been reading lately regarding the pattern of obsession over nudity and [neo-] pornography and indecent exposure among sexual predators and among Willow Creek senior leaders. And this account fits the pattern.

I didn’t make the connection then. Now, after the scandal broke, so many pieces are falling into place. Then, I had too much respect for him. Now, I am repulsed at the mere thought of him or mention of his name.

I thank you all in advance for your patience and for your support as I navigate this very difficult situation. Speaking up about a man I have looked up to, a man so many of us have looked up to, carries a heavy burden…a burden I have chosen to carry and have chosen to carry alone. I stand on my own integrity. I stand on my own word.

I will continue to share my experiences and will continue to seek accountability over this man. This man needs to be stopped and many more, not one or two or three more, but many more current senior leaders, staffers, and volunteers need to resign if Willow Creek is to have a real chance of a redemptive fresh start.

The founding elder I am speaking up about is Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, a.k.a. Dr. B, founding elder and co-founder of Willow Creek, and mentor and advisor to Bill Hybels and many other past and current senior leaders, staffers, volunteers and members at Willow Creek.

For any woman out there who has experienced any form of sexual perversion from Dr. B or any man out there who has witnessed or been influenced by his sexual perversion, please seek a safe place to communicate your story and to make it public. Since multiple private efforts to hold him accountable have not worked, it is time to go public as Scripture demands, Matthew 18:17.

There are many more stories out there that need to be heard. For exposing Dr. B, the negative ramifications on various Christian institutions are great. But the church can no longer afford to protect him in order to protect all the good he has done. We as Christians should never have to make the decision to protect a sexual predator in order to protect the good he has done. And women should never ever have to pay the price for that decision.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I moderate the comments, so if you would like to make a private comment, simply state so and I will not make your comment public.

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Systemic Sexual Perversion in the Foundation of Willow Creek Commmunity Church

On March 23, 2018, along with the rest of the world, I found out about the allegations against Bill Hybels regarding sexual misconduct and abuse of power. Like so many others—and because of my gratitude and respect for Bill and Lynne and their family—I also hoped it was all one big misunderstanding and that it wasn’t true. However, I quickly stepped into my egalitarian responsibilities, which includes—among many other egalitarian responsibilities—“listen to the witness of the women.” Jesus did. The New Testament church did. So must we.

I was shocked and saddened at the allegations against Bill. However, I was not surprised at how Willow Creek has mishandled the situation before and since March 2018. Nor was I surprised at the systemic problem of abuse of power and of sexual perversion.

Others have written on the abuse of power and on how the elders and senior leaders have mishandled the allegations before and since March 2018. Scott McKnight has written a comprehensive and well detailed summary, which I highly recommend reading, click here for his article. However, no one has tackled the systemic and prevalent problem of sexual perversion that goes back to the foundation of Willow Creek.

The women who have raised allegations against Bill have requested for Bill’s misconduct to be investigated and for the investigation to go back to Bill’s college years. To make such a request, these women must certainly know something that the rest of us don’t know. Additionally, during these last few months since the scandal made news, more and more stories are surfacing regarding the sexual misconduct and mishandling of inappropriate sexual behavior of several senior leaders dating back years.

Today, five months after the scandal broke, I still hear Willow Creek defenders dismiss the experiences of women. They accuse the women of exaggerating and making a big deal out of nothing. “There is nothing wrong with a hug.” “There is nothing wrong in a compliment for having toned fore-arms.” Here’s one that many of us recognize, “These women are a bunch of flirts!” Translation: they are “temptresses”, which is the typical and default patriarchal attack against women. These attacks come out of the lips of professed ‘egalitarians’ at Willow Creek.

Very few people are aware of the kind of “extended” or “awkward hug” women at Willow have survived. Such details have not been made public by the media—not that I’m aware of. Below is a detailed and highly graphic and very disturbing account of one such “awkward hug” from a founding elder at Willow Creek—not Bill Hybels. The witness chooses to remain anonymous and asks for privacy. I am publishing her personal account with her permission as detailed below.

I arrived at his home around lunch-time for one of our typical meetings. His wife was upstairs resting in her bedroom. When I entered the living room to greet him and give him a hug, he puts his left hand behind my back. I tried to give him my typical side hug which keeps my breasts from touching the person I hug. But that didn’t happen.

He instead pulls me firmly against him and my breasts are pressed up against his chest. I was taken by surprise and hurriedly tried to pull away. I did so briefly, but then he pulls me back in firmly. Again, I tried to pull away. Again, he pulls me back in. It happened at least three times and very quickly. He was bouncing my breasts up against his chest as if he was dribbling a basketball quickly and in short intervals. All the while, he had a gloating grin on his face, enjoying the bouncing of my breasts up against his chest. I finally was able to put both my hands between our chests and pry myself away from him. My elbows and forearms hurt due to the pressure I had to exert in order to finally be able to pry away.

I was furious! And when he saw my furious facial expression, his gloating grin changed to ‘concern’. He asked me, “What’s wrong? Are you in pain? Are your breasts tender from your period?”

I was not in pain, I was furious! After fondling my breasts up against his chest, he tried to divert the “awkward” moment and the conversation to his ‘concern’ for my tender breasts and my period.

Throughout the years I interacted with him, he said and did several sexually perverted things to me before and after the “awkward hug” incident. I would tell him and clearly communicate to him that I did not feel comfortable having intimate conversations with him about my sexuality. Yet, he would repeatedly try to engage me in such conversations and other sexually “awkward” incidents.

Since the beginning of that year, the year of the “awkward hug”, I had been growing weary of our friendship. His attitude toward me that year had been growing extremely hostile and I didn’t know why. Later that year, I made the decision to end our friendship after he exposed himself to me in his underwear (incontinence diapers). That was “the last straw” that led me to end our friendship. I have had little interaction with him since. The “awkward hug” incident took place in early/mid 2014.

What I didn’t know then, and I know this now from reading up on the current scandal, is that in early/mid 2014, the first investigation of Bill’s sexual misconduct was wrapping up. The accusers of Bill Hybels contacted this founding elder prior to the start of the first investigation to ask him for his advice. He advised the women to seek “two or three witnesses”, 1 Timothy 5:19, as Scripture requires in order to bring forth an allegation against a senior leader. From the investigation, the elders made the decision that Bill had not done anything inappropriate. Around the time the elders were acquitting Bill, this founding elder gave me the fondling “awkward hug.” Only recently did I put together these pieces of the perversion puzzle.

This founding elder did not mention to the women accusers, as far as I know, that the Old Testament accepts a woman’s account of sexual abuse as a stand-alone account and without the requirement of “two or three witnesses”. This scriptural passage, Deuteronomy 22:25-27, is a counterbalance to and a more pertinent passage to address sexual abuse than his advice to seek “two or three witnesses”. The founding elder would have been aware of the Old Testament passage and should have shared it with the women who approached him—considering he is a biblical scholar and a ‘friend’ to the women who approached him about Bill’s misconduct.

Things get worse. As founding elder, this man has served as mentor to Bill and other senior leaders at Willow throughout the years since the founding of Willow Creek.

Things get even worse. I recently found out that this founding elder and biblical scholar is currently mentoring and/or advising Heather Larson, Steve Carter and other senior leaders at Willow and is helping Willow navigate thru the current scandal of sexual misconduct surrounding Bill Hybels. I have been informed that he was very upset at Steve, Heather, and the elders for issuing apologies a few weeks ago. [Update: Steve, Heather, and the elders resigned earlier this week.]

I have never spoken publicly about the sexual perversion this founding elder has directed at me. However, I have shared privately my experiences with a few individuals. I have made attempts to share my experiences beyond my close friends. The difficulty I find when trying to expose this founding elder is that when I attempt to speak to someone who might be in a position to do something about this man—there seems to be none—and who is or might be also aware of his perverted side, I am met with excuses. “Oh, he is just being himself.” “That’s just how he is.” “He’s old and forgetful.”

I’m aghast at how easily others dismiss his perversion as no big deal and with disconnected excuses as “old and forgetful”. No one seems to be willing to expose him. No one. Which means, he will keep doing what he’s been doing for decades and he will keep enabling sexual perversion in other senior leaders as he has been doing for decades and by that make impossible any attempts to “clean up” Willow Creek.

Given the account of Anonymous Woman above, clearly, there is more to an extended or “awkward hug” than simply a woman feeling “uncomfortable”. Clearly, there is much more sexual perversion beyond Bill Hybels. The depth and extent of that sexual perversion will continue to be re-outlined by the personal accounts of women as their stores surface. And, their stories will continue to surface as long as Willow Creek continues to deny and prolong enacting real change to address their structural problems and moral deficiencies.