Point of Contact

Since my first post on Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian on August 10, 2018 at least three additional women (primary witnesses) have spoken up claiming first-hand experiences with sexual misconduct and harassment from DrB. Many other individuals have also spoke up with second-hand knowledge (secondary witnesses) of events regarding DrB’s sexual misconduct and harassment toward women.

Currently, all four women who are primary witnesses are claiming anonymity. I don’t blame them. The environment in which they speak up has proven itself hostile toward [some of] these women.

Patterns are revealing themselves. Both primary and secondary witness accounts detail similar sexual misconduct from DrB and Bill Hybels. Accounts also point to some overlap in time. Meaning, similar sexual misconduct from both men occurred around the same time. Coincidence? Only Bill and DrB can answer that.

A third pattern has revealed itself: the pattern of the cover-ups that have enabled these men to continue their sexual misconduct with immunity. Bill is linked to one major Christian institution, Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC). Since March 2018, the public has become aware of how WCCC has for years covered up for Bill. DrB is linked to not one but three major Christian institutions. Primary and secondary witness accounts detail how all three of these institutions have for years covered up for DrB’s sexual misconduct toward women.

One institution dismissed DrB’s female accuser as a temptress. Another gave DrB a slap on the hand by dismissing him of his responsibilities for a short period time, for about 5 months. The third institution dismissed his actions with, “Oh, DrB is just being DrB. He’s just being himself. He’s just being French.” When those excuses were not used, references to his age and senility were used instead.

Women, both primary (women/people who directly received sexual misconduct or other type of abuse) and secondary (people who heard about DrB’s behavior from others) witnesses, have been met with verbally hostile attacks for speaking up against DrB. It is difficult to discern who is a safe person to speak to. Recent events reveal that there are some individuals who are seeking accountability for Bill but because of their affection for and personal friendship with DrB are either silent or are verbally hostile toward women who speak up against DrB. The double standard is shameful for the movement that seeks accountability for abusive leaders and abusive structures at WCCC.

I’ve been asked if Willow Creek has reached out to me, ESMartin, if WCCC has asked for my help to connect them with the two primary witnesses linked to my blog. No. No one from Willow Creek has reached out to me. Willow claims to be reaching out to the victims of Bill. Even though Willow is aware of my blog posts regarding DrB, they have not reached out to me.

Sarah Carter has co-founded a group to assist women who have been abused by clergy. She has not reached out to me. Steve Carter, who has an idolatrous following of individuals who recently referred to him, while he was still on staff at Willow, as “savior” and “redeemer”, has not reached out to me. Even though Steve is no longer on staff at Willow, his idolatrous following continues. And still, this super “hero” has not reached out to me. Steve did contact me two years ago to demand—in his typical passive-aggressive, bully, manipulative, and tantrum-throwing ways—that I remove my posts about him. Sound familiar? This is typical character of Willow Creek leaders. No, I did not remove my posts about him; they are still available on my blog.

I did receive an email from Wheaton College regarding my posts about DrB. Wheaton College stated to me that they take allegations seriously and have asked for my assistance in connecting them to primary witnesses—specifically, women who have experienced sexual misconduct from DrB.

When Wheaton College contacted me, I took the opportunity to ask Wheaton College to verify if and when did Wheaton remove DrB from his teaching responsibilities for one semester as a form of reprimand for his sexual misconduct toward women—as my intel (secondary witness) informs me. I also asked Wheaton College if they intend to hold DrB accountable for his actions. Wheaton did not respond to my inquiry. I didn’t expect Wheaton College to respond to my inquiry; but, I still had to ask. For now, I consider Wheaton College’s lack of response as a confirmation of the “time out” from teaching they imposed on DrB—until I hear otherwise from Wheaton College.

Also, during DrB’s tenure at Wheaton College, his sexual misconduct toward female students was common knowledge among the female and male student body—as my intel (secondary witness) informs me.

Wheaton College responded to my inquiry by re-iterating to me that they want to “hear” the allegations against the “retired” professor, DrB. I greatly appreciate Wheaton College opening up an inquiry to “hear” the allegations against “retired” DrB. Only time will tell how Wheaton College will respond to the current inquiry. I hope they do more than “hear” from the primary witnesses. Unfortunately, precedence does not allow me to have much hope.

I have sent the contact information of Wheaton College to the two primary witnesses linked to my blog, as Wheaton asked of me. With this post, I invite primary witnesses, or their representatives, to email me if they wish for me to provide to them the contact information of the person leading the inquiry on behalf of Wheaton College.

DrB is aware of the public allegations now circulating on the internet and on Facebook via my blog, ESMartin. As his way of reaching out to bring this “turmoil to an honorable end”, he is making a few requests: 1) That ESMartin “pull down the personally offensive blogs and FB page”, 2) that “ESMartin retract the allegations as fictive material”, and that 3) “ESMartin express a general apology for whoever suffered harm”. DrB stated that members of his family are very upset, not because of any sexual misconduct on his part, but because of the public allegations of the woman/women. Meaning, it’s the fault of the whistle blower[s], not the fault of DrB, that his family is upset. Also, DrB is accusing the woman/women of speaking out of resentment and retaliation against him for loss of [her] ministry opportunities at WCCC. Does all of this sound familiar? Bill/Willow Creek responded with the same and practically identical accusations and attacks against Bill’s accusers. Another pattern reveals itself.

My intel (secondary witness who heard it directly from DrB) informs me that DrB has advised Bill to own up to whatever he needs to own up to. Based on the preliminary response from DrB, DrB does not intend to follow his own advice.

Instead of succumbing to DrB’s requests, I am going to do something else…and I need your help.

Seeking accountability for DrB’s actions is proving itself to be a much more daunting task than seeking accountability for Bill. DrB is linked to not one but to three major Christian institutions which have covered up for him for decades. Additionally, some, not all, individuals who are seeking accountability for Bill and WCCC have a close friendship with DrB; so, they are either silent about DrB or extremely hostile toward the women raising allegations against DrB. Also, the women can’t go to DrB. DrB has already revealed his defense which is to deny and attack and try to invalidate his accuser(s). Where may the women go to raise allegations against DrB and seek accountability for his actions?

I extend my gratitude to those of you who have contributed with your comments on my blog posts to the effort of exposing DrB and seeking accountability for his actions. With this post, and as my response to DrB’s requests, I am expanding the purpose of my blog.

  1. I am inviting primary and secondary witnesses to email me with your accounts for the purpose of exposing DrB and seeking accountability via safe and appropriate and, of course, government-protected venues. Your identity will be kept confidential and shared only with your prior permission
  2. I am inviting primary and secondary witnesses to email me with your accounts for the purpose of exposing and seeking accountability for the three major Christian institutions who have covered up for DrB and covered up for themselves regarding DrB’s sexual misconduct, and who have done so for decades.Your identity will be kept confidential and shared only with your prior permission.
  3. And third, I am inviting primary and secondary witnesses to email me with your accounts regarding pertinent abusive behavior from DrB against women. Accounts are starting to surface from primary witnesses indicating that coupled with sexual misconduct, DrB directed abusive behavior toward women in the form of emotional, intellectual, psychological, moral, and spiritual abuse.Your identity will be kept confidential and shared only with your prior permission.

I look forward to hearing from you and to connect you with the group of individuals who are currently in the process of gathering data in order to expose DrB and seek accountability for his actions and the actions of his enablers.

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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.

 

 

 

Steve Carter and Patriarchal Gender Essentialism at Willow Creek

As stated in previous articles in this website, I will be writing extensively on Steve Carter’s patriarchal teachings and modeling. Steve Carter is Willow Creek’s Teaching Pastor and appears to be first in line to take the Senior Pastor position after Bill Hybels retires.

In this article I will address gender essentialism as taught by Steve Carter during weekend messages on September 27 & 28, 2014 titled The God I Wish You Knew Guides Us. I have two reasons for choosing this weekend message for my first article that describes Steve’s patriarchal teachings.

First, Steve has been on staff at Willow Creek since Fall 2012. On numerous occasions he has taught and modeled patriarchalism and even though he has corrected many of his teachings in subsequent messages—under the instruction and correction of his supervisor(s)—he continues to teach and model patriarchalism. Either, he is subvert-ly and continually teaching patriarchalism, or he doesn’t know he is teaching patriarchalism which is why he continues to teach and model it and why he continues to be corrected.

Second, during this weekend’s message Steve taught a clear and obvious form of gender essentialism common among patriarchalists.

What is gender essentialism?

Gender essentialism ascribes differing aspects and traits of God to men and women. That is, men and women reflect the image and character of God differently. In patriarchal doctrine, the character and image traits ascribed respectively to men and women are generally exclusive. Meaning, men reflect certain aspects of God that women do not and women reflect certain aspects of God that men do not.

The aspects of God reflected differently and respectively or exclusively by men and women lead patriarchalists to assign gender roles appropriate for the respective image and character traits for men and women. As an example, patriarchalists ascribe traits of God’s righteousness to men, therefore men are better suited to be leaders since they are better fit to reflect God’s attributes of righteousness. Another example, women reflect the nurturing aspect of God, therefore they are more suitable to raise and nurture children and are the appropriate parent to stay at home and care for the children.

These two examples of patriarchal gender essentialism and gender roles are common among patriarchalists. Many other examples exist and the assigning of character traits and gender roles between men and women varies among patriarchal communities. What is common among all patriarchalists is that they use their own version of gender essentialism to place men in the leader and decision-making role and place women in the subordinate and inferior role. Gender essentialism becomes the tool patriarchalists use to subordinate women. The benevolent patriarchalists—or hierarchical-complementarians who prefer to call themselves ‘complementarians’—make great effort, and in good faith, to value their women in their subordinate and inferior roles. Unfortunately, that effort turns into insulting, degrading, and patronizing of their women—in the near future I plan to write on that subject and how that occurs at Willow Creek.

Other examples of gender essentialism at Willow Creek

Gender essentialism has been taught at Willow Creek before and continues to be promoted by Willow’s marriage ministry. Dan Allender, after speaking on marriage and intimacy at a weekend service on February 6, 2011, was invited to teach a one-day conference also on marriage and intimacy in January of 2012 titled Intimate Mystery Conference (the recording might still be available at Willow’s Seeds bookstore, a similar conference recording is available directly from Dan Allender). Currently, Willow’s marriage ministry promotes two of Allender’s books on marriage.

Allender’s psychology and theology of gender is based on patriarchal gender essentialism. Allender teaches in Intimate Mystery Conference that “men, more than women, reflect the heart of righteousness of God.” He also teaches (in Willow’s weekend message of February 2011 and in Intimate Mystery Conference of January 2012) that women, not men, suffer from the problem of control. Meaning, women—not men—seek to control other people. On several occasions in Intimate Mystery Conference Allender made reference to “controlling mothers” as a problem needing to be addressed. He never mentioned “controlling fathers”; that’s because “controlling fathers” don’t exist in his psychology and theology of patriarchal gender essentialism.

Allender teaches also that women reflect a “gentle strength”, a description of women commonly made among patriarchalists, a description of women I remember hearing often at the Calvary Chapel which is a gender-hierarchical church, a description of women I have heard from members and leaders at Willow Creek, and a description that has even been used in Willow email newsletter announcements to describe women speakers. Patriarchalists commonly use the word “gentle” as a description of women to remind women that they are to be sweet, nice, innocent, pure, soft-spoken, weak, quiet, non-threatening, submissive, subordinate, inferior, and non-authoritative in their demeanor, specifically when addressing men, and most importantly when exercising “strength” before and toward men—this is exactly how Allender made the illustration in his Intimate Mystery Conference. (see my previous article on women and emotiveness which includes links to pertinent research).

Steve’s teaching methodology of narrative

Before detailing Steve’s teaching and modeling of patriarchal gender essentialism we must first look at his teaching methodology of narrative. Steve teaches via narrative. He tells stories and gives examples to illustrate points, so when he teaches he doesn’t always articulate specifically and explicitly what his teaching is. Preachers often employ the narrative when teaching. In fact, Jesus often taught via narrative with his use of parables. The narrative format has become a subtle and subvert way for patriarchalists to teach and model patriarchal principles without being explicit. When Steve taught and modeled patriarchal gender essentialism during the weekend message of September 27 & 28 of 2014 he did so without using the term “gender essentialism” and without specifically stating that men and women are essentially different in how they reflect God’s character. Yet, that is exactly what he taught and modeled using the teaching tool of narrative or story-telling.

Steve and gender essentialism

During the weekend message of September 28, 2014, Steve spoke about his daughter and how he sees God thru her. The descriptions Steve verbalized in how his daughter reflects God are: “dancing”, “playing”, “purity”, “freedom”, and “innocence”. All five words are typical associated to women in the patriarchal theology of gender essentialism.

“Dancing”, “playing” and “freedom” are associated with women’s care-free way of life for not being in a place of responsibility and decision-making. While the men are working, leading, and stressing over their responsibilities, the women are care-free and able to enjoy life whether it be at the spa or studio in joyful fellowship with their female friends. In another occasion, during the weekend message of May 26, 2013, Steve’s association of women and “dancing” led him to insult, degrade, and patronize the leadership of Miriam by reducing* Miriam’s leadership to no more than a “dancing” cheerleader type of “girl”—and he actually used the word “girl” to describe Miriam who at the time would have been over 80 years old.

“Purity” is a buzz word for the patriarchal sexual purity movement that emphasizes sexual abstinence for girls before marriage, an emphasis of sexual purity that is not always emphasized for boys in patriarchal circles. As for “innocence” coupled with “purity”, a common fantasy, desire, and/or expectation for patriarchal men is to be sexually involved with the hot and sexy women but then settle down and form a family with the “innocent” and “pure” “girl” who the man can bring home to meet the parents. “Purity” and “innocence” are requirements for women looking to be married in patriarchal circles. Egalitarians don’t oppose women associated with dancing, playing, exercising freedom, purity, and innocence. The degradation occurs when these descriptions are used with the purpose to subjugate and incarcerate women into patriarchal gender roles.

To contrast, in the same weekend message Steve mentioned his son and pointed to his athletic aspect of “running”—as opposed to “dancing” used for his daughter. The most grievous contrast Steve made is when he described his son as reflecting God’s righteousness in the form of unconditional “love”, grace, and mercy. Steve did not mentioned any of these words specifically, except the word “love”, but he taught and modeled this association in narrative form by telling the story of his son expressing “love” for their dog, Bernie. “Love” is a prominent, if not the primary, attribute of God’s righteousness. Grace and mercy are also prominent aspects of God’s righteousness. As mentioned before, the attributes of God’s righteousness are commonly assigned to men in patriarchal gender essentialism and are used to qualify men for leadership while at the same time used to disqualify women for leadership since in their patriarchal understanding of gender essentialism women reflect little to no image of God’s righteousness.

What Steve taught and modeled using narratives about his daughter and son is a patriarchal gender essentialist association of

women with “dancing”, “playing”, “purity”, “freedom”, and “innocence”

and

men with God’s righteousness in the form of unconditional “love”, grace, and mercy

The evil of patriarchal gender essentialism

The attributes of God’s righteousness are considered the primary character traits of God, including but not limited to unconditional love, grace, mercy, compassion, and justice. The evil of patriarchal gender essentialism is to attribute God’s righteousness to primarily or only men and then use that association to acknowledge men as better image bearers of God and therefore elevate men as leaders and make women subordinate to men.

There is nothing inappropriate to associate women with dancing and purity and the like. Just like there is nothing inappropriate to associate men with God’s righteousness. The problem is gender association to the point of exclusivity and then use those associations to decide who is the leader and decision-maker and who is the subordinate. What about emphasizing purity and innocence to the men? Men as much as women need to practice purity and innocence. What about associating women with God’s righteousness and qualifying women for leadership and decision-making roles, inclusive of the area of church doctrine?

Steve mentioned a women’s prayer group, doesn’t that indicate his support of women in leadership?

Toward the end of the same weekend message of September 28, 2014, Steve mentioned the role a group of women part of a prayer ministry played in his decision to accept the invitation to be on staff at Willow Creek. At the time of that incident Steve was pastoring at Rock Harbor, a patriarchal church in Southern California. While considering a decision to move to Willow Creek he was challenged by a member in his small group at Rock Harbor to talk to the women in the prayer ministry. Steve spoke to a woman in the prayer group and received confirmation for him to accept Willow Creek’s invitation to be on staff to teach and oversee evangelism at Willow Creek.

In patriarchal churches prayer groups are primarily made up by women. It is not a ministry that carries authority; it is a ministry that serves primarily as support to the male leaders. Prayer ministry takes seriously the biblical mandate to pray for our leaders, and in patriarchal churches those leaders are men. When I was in the Calvary Chapel, a patriarchal church, I attended a prayer meeting led by a pastor’s wife and she spoke a prayer that went something like this, “Lord, we ask you to raise the men in our church to be leaders, to lead our ministries, and to lead our church with boldness and godly character.” There was no prayer for the women to be raised as leaders, the prayer for women went something like this, “…and help and guide us women and wives on how we can be of support to the men as they lead our church.” In patriarchal churches, women in prayer groups practice their patriarchal gender role of assistants, helpers, supporters, and cheerleaders to the men who are the leaders.

The illustration made by Steve during the said weekend message regarding the women in the prayer group fits this patriarchal gender role for women. An illustration that would have reflected a more egalitarian and mutual view of women as advisors or as decision-makers would have been an illustration of him and his wife discussing the pending decision to move to Willow Creek and together made the decision to move or not. But he didn’t present that illustration, in fact he never spoke about his wife nor her role, if she had any, regarding his decision to accept Willow’s invitation to be on staff. The absence of a dialogue with his wife in the decision-making process, especially for such a significant event, is reflective of a patriarchal marriage. Maybe that dialogue did take place, if it did, he didn’t mention it. At that time during the message, the point Steve was illustrating was how God guides us thru other people, and he chose to mention the women’s prayer group as a confirmation for his staff position at Willow Creek. Steve’s self-promoting and self-validating illustrations during his weekend messages have been occurring since his arrival 2.5 years ago. That is a subject that requires its own space. I will address it in detail in a future article.

To be clear, I am not devaluating prayer ministry; I have high regard for it. I am simply describing how in patriarchal communities the prayer ministry has been reduced* to a place where women practice their gender roles as assistants, helpers, supporters, and cheerleaders to men in leadership.

What’s next?

In this article I have addressed only Steve Carter’s teaching and modeling of patriarchal gender essentialism as image bearers of God. In future articles I will address Steve’s teaching and modeling of patriarchal gender roles and his insulting, degrading and patronizing view of women in leadership.

The corrective

I am committed to noting any correctives Steve gives to his teachings. During weekend service of May 24, 2015 Steve gave a short corrective to his patriarchal gender essentialism as detailed above for his weekend message of September 28, 2014. In the May 24, 2015 message he described a woman practicing “forgiveness” toward the man who killed her son. Forgiveness is an attribute of God’s righteousness which Steve associated with a woman. This is not the first time Steve has corrected himself. His more obvious corrections are for his patriarchal and patronizing portrayal of Miriam’s leadership, for his patriarchal blaming of Eve for the Fall, and for his reductionist* teaching on the Holy Spirit (this Midweek message is no longer available on the Willow Creek website). In the near future I plan to write on each of these three problematic messages in detail and note the correctives Steve gave for each.

*Reductionism/Reductionist is defined as the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it. – per Dictionary.com

Edited: 6.18.15

The Great Compromise – Is Willow Creek Community Church Still Egalitarian?

Since I will be writing extensively on the patriarchal elements of my church, Willow Creek, here I present a short summary and comparison of egalitarianism and patriarchy as it relates to my church.

“Willow Creeks says it’s egalitarian, but it doesn’t act like it.”

I had no idea at the time what the warning meant, a warning given to me by a fellow Chicagoan and CBEer (Christians for Biblical Equality). I decided to become a member of Willow Creek anyway; I was hoping the warning was misinformed. At the time I was looking for an egalitarian church and I placed my hope in Willow Creek’s egalitarian roots. I was also drawn by Bill Hybels’ teachings, he not only regularly spoke egalitarian principles and invited egalitarian men and women guests to preach, but he also spoke compassionately about immigrants, that is undocumented immigrants—a rarity among evangelicals. Bill and Lynne’s compassion toward the poor and vulnerable—including the undocumented immigrants in our neighborhoods and in our country—gave me comfort to make Willow Creek my home church. But, the warning still lingered in my mind. The year was 2007.

In time, I have come to find out for myself what the warning meant.

Willow Creek was founded as an egalitarian church—meaning both men and women are full participants in community and in all levels of church leadership. No leadership position was denied to a woman on the sole basis that she is a woman. We’ve had many women as Teaching Pastors, the most recent was Nancy Beach. Nancy is no longer Teaching Pastor nor member of Willow Creek.

Today, Willow still has egalitarian founding members leading the church. Our church has women in all levels of leadership, we have women elders and women in senior positions such as Executive Pastor. Women are always on stage, we have women speak and we have women participate and lead worship. We have women teachers and pastors. We have a strong ministry for local and international dis-empowered women that runs under the umbrella of our Compassion & Justice ministry. All of which communicate to our audience our strong pro-women value.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is the patriarchal core.

Patriarchalists differ in the role of women at home and in the church. Some patriarchalists have a more restrictive view, they don’t let women on stage at all nor allow women to hold any type of teaching position. Other patriarchalists have a more expansive view on women in leadership, the women are allowed to teach, lead worship, and hold senior leadership roles alongside the men—as long as the women are not ordained nor hold positions of authority; Tim Keller’s church falls under this type of patriarchal church.

The one restriction that all patriarchalists adhere to is that women cannot have any position of authority over men regarding doctrine. This translates to women denied positions of Senior Pastor, Elder, Teaching Pastor, or any other position that carries with it authority and decision-making responsibly of doctrine over the whole church. This core belief is non-negotiable for patriarchalists, this core belief is what defines modern day patriarchy, this core belief puts men over women in defining and settling disputes regarding scripture—in many cases, it puts men over women in settling any dispute what so ever. Defining and settling what scripture states and ultimately what God says and who God is on behalf of the community of believers, and respective biological families, becomes a decision made only by men.

The patriarchal core within Willow Creek

Despite our pro-women advocacy, Willow Creek has a patriarchal core in its leadership. We have no women Teaching Pastors. The women teachers are in children, women, care or financial ministries—all ministries which are acceptable to the patriarchalists who adhere to the expansive view. We have one woman in one of the satellite churches who teaches bible and doctrine to adult women and men, she has a master’s degree in biblical studies. However, she has no title and is a volunteer, she is not a paid staff member. At another satellite, and in the last year or so, a woman has been hired to oversee discipleship. However, her title is not “teacher” nor “pastor”. Her title is “director”, which is an acceptable title for expansive patriarchalists. The women who speak from the South Barrington stage speak only to give administrative announcements and to participate in drama and music ministries—all ministries acceptable to expansive patriarchalists. We have one or two women each year give a weekend message. For the last three years that Midweek bible teachings have been under the supervision of our new Teaching Pastor, Steve Carter who replaced Nancy Beach, and under his leadership we’ve had no women teachers at Midweek. However, he has brought to Midweek patriarchal guest teachers who lead patriarchal churches, some of which are his friends and one of them is scheduled to speak at the Global Leadership Summit in 2015.

Our Executive Pastor is a woman, but her responsibilities are administrative, not doctrinal—an acceptable role for expansive patriarchalists. We have women pastors in the Compassion & Justice ministry—also another ministry expansive patriarchalists are accepting of women in leadership since they categorize this ministry as a care ministry with no authority or decision-making responsibilities over the church’s doctrine.

The only women in our church who have doctrinal oversight are our women elders. However, their role is limited and weakened when “ensuring the church’s teachings and practices reflect accurate biblical theology“. The elder board runs as a governance/policy board and they “delegate to qualified others” many of their responsibilities, including doctrinal responsibility, to paid staff members. Expansive patriarchalists are accepting of women as advisors but not as decision-makers when it comes to doctrine; so, moving to a governance board appeals to expansive patriarchalists because it removes decision-making responsibilities from the elders, specifically women elders, and places those responsibilities on the paid senior staff members who currently are all men who address church doctrine. Even if the board were to not delegate it’s doctrinal responsibilities, the only woman elder who has the gift of teaching is someone whose experience in teaching is financial stewardship, not church doctrine. Based on the brief biographical portraits made public for each elder, it’s impossible to recognize which, if any, elder has the capability to address heresy, specifically heresy propagated by [some] patriarchalists such as the Heresy of [Christological] Subordinationism.

Patriarchalists infiltrating Willow Creek

For years we’ve had patriarchalists infiltrate our church in staff and even in senior leadership positions. I will be writing extensively on those senior leaders I know who teach and advocate patriarchalism and will provide public information by referencing sermons or documents on Willow Creek’s website. I will not disclose information given to me in confidence, which means I will not be writing about all the patriarchalists I am aware of, only of the ones I am able to publicly speak or write about. I have plenty of public information and personal experiences which I will write about that point to patriarchal aspects in our church’s leadership.

Shane Farmer, our former Director of Discipleship, was one of those who deceptively subverted our church’s egalitarian position and taught patriarchalism. Fortunately, he is no longer at Willow Creek; unfortunately, he is senior pastor of a church in Denver, Colorado. I will write a few observations of his subversive methodologies which he employed to teach and model patriarchalism; his methodologies are important to observe because they are actually common among patriarchalists who try to subvert-ly and deceptively infiltrate egalitarian institutions. I am aware of a few egalitarians who raised concerns over Shane’s patriarchal teachings and coupled with his disregard of corrective measures and lack of submission to his superior(s) no doubt played a role in his departure.

Starting with the departure of Shane Farmer and more so in recent months, I have observed that Willow Creek’s senior leadership is increasing its efforts to recognize and correct patriarchalism in our midst, starting from the top. Currently, patriarchalism and even forms of scriptural inaccuracies are traced to our current Teaching Pastor, Steve Carter. As stated previously, in the three years Steve has been at Willow Creek and overseeing Midweek teachings, he has not invited any women teachers but has invited several male patriarchalists to teach. And even though Steve has corrected many of his own patriarchal and inaccurate teachings—no doubt under instruction and correction of his supervisor(s)—he manages to continue to promote forms of patriarchalism in his messages. As Teaching Pastor he plays a significant role in the teaching of doctrine and appears to be first in line to take the senior pastorate after Bill Hybels retires. His position as Teaching Pastor, patriarchal tendencies and deficiencies in understanding scripture have made Steve Carter the primary person I will be writing about in this website.

If Willow Creek were perceived as a patriarchal church, then I would not be writing about Steve Carter nor any other patriarchal aspects at Willow. I would not even be a member of this church. It is because Willow Creek is perceived as an egalitarian church and because I became a member with the understanding that it still is an egalitarian church, despite the warning, that I will be writing extensively about Steve Carter and other patriarchal elements at Willow Creek.

We as egalitarians must come to terms that a church that is egalitarian in perception and on its cover but is patriarchal at its core, is a church that is not egalitarian, but patriarchal. It is a pro-woman and benevolent patriarchal church, at best; but not an egalitarian church.

By accident or by Choice?

Did the current patriarchal core at Willow Creek come about by accident or by choice? Both.

By accident, the lack of discernment and training among staff to distinguish between egalitarian and patriarchal, specifically hierarchical-complementarian, teachings and practices has allowed patriarchalism to infiltrate Willow Creek and even be accepted as ‘egalitarian’. Such is the deceptive aspect of benevolent patriarchy known as hierarchical-complementarianism as advocated by gender-hierarchicalists among the New Calvinists and also most recently among the emergent.

By choice, Willow Creek believes in the fellowship of egalitarians and patriarchalists to worship together as one church. However, to patriarchalists women in senior leadership who have authority and decision-making responsibilities regarding doctrine that affects adult males is a serious offence to their patriarchal doctrine. It’s an offense they are not willing to bend on. Having a patriarchal core at Willow Creek’s leadership is an appeal to patriarchalists as a way to avoid offending their patriarchal doctrine. But as stated earlier, an egalitarian church on the outside with a patriarchal core is not an egalitarian church, but a pro-woman and benevolent patriarchal church at best—and that is an ambiguous and deceptive concept.

Composing a patriarchal core in an egalitarian church in order to appeal to patriarchalists is what I refer to as “The Great Compromise” at Willow Creek.

This is the message, in my own words, that Willow Creek is sending to the women by us having a pro-women and benevolent look with a patriarchal core:

Girls, ladies, women,

We at Willow Creek love you. We love our wives, mothers, sisters, daughters. We know the pain and suffering you are going thru. The world has been violently cruel to you. You can find safety and encouragement in our church from the harsh reality of your everyday life. We seek to empower you and release you to do good works God has prepared for you in advance, here and abroad, for his kingdom and for his glory. And, we will do everything we can to teach the men to cover you and protect you.

However, none of you, not a single one of you, will ever be good enough, mature enough, righteous enough, knowledgeable enough, worthy enough to stand next to our men in a position of authority and decision-making over church doctrine. When it comes time to decide what the bible says, who God is, what God wants us to do as a body of believers, and to disseminate that information to the whole church, and your respective biological families, that decision will be made by only men. You women, not a single one of you, will be part of that decision-making process.

Edited: 6.17.15

“We women are too emotional, that’s why we can’t be leaders.”

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“We women are emotional, that’s why we can’t be leaders.”

According to the senior pastor’s wife at a Calvary Chapel (a gender-hierarchical church influenced by New Calvinism), “we women are emotional, that’s why we can’t be leaders.” This was in the 1990s, but today emotiveness is still used to disqualify women from leadership, even in egalitarian churches that have been heavily influenced by the gender-hierarchicalists and New Calvinists such as my church, Willow Creek Community Church.

At my church, emotiveness has been used to disqualify women from leadership, but not men. Egalitarians are known to be passionate about their mission to dismantle patriarchy and this passion is easily mistaken for bossiness, emotiveness, anger, bitterness and the like and are quickly dismissed for leadership. Passionate egalitarian women in my church have been advised to get mental health therapy.

We currently have a teaching pastor who has a strong and passionate voice projection. Many people are actually turned off by it because it is interpreted as scolding, demeaning and emotive. However, many more people are attracted to it because he sounds authoritative, not bossy, emotive, angry, or retaliatory, but strong and authoritative.

Many a person in my church who is turned off by a passionate egalitarian during a one-on-one conversation is drawn by a strong, loud voiced preacher from the stage. When an egalitarian principle is taught, the teacher is accused of pushing a political agenda. Ultimately, for the patriarchalists and pseudo- and neo-egalitarians the offense from the egalitarians is not in the voice projection, format, or medium of the message but the offense is in the message itself, in the message of mutuality and equality between men and women.

Back to the subject of women and emotiveness…

Gender-hierarchicalists encourage and even enforce women to be “gentle in spirit”, that is, gentle and soft spoken in word and attitude and personality—so they won’t be judged as emotive or bossy or incompetent or threatening. The hypocrisy and double standard of this belief is that at the same time, they encourage and value the strong authoritative voice of men, which they recognize as an essential trait of leadership and do not perceive as emotive, bossy, weak, or inferior. Therefore, women are disqualified from leadership because they are expected and required to be gentle and soft-spoken, which automatically prevents them from possessing the strong authoritative projection expected from a leader. Therefore, the requirement imposed on women to be gentle in spirit becomes a tool to keep them from leadership. (See article in Psychology Today on the “soft spoken” woman. See also article with endnote links, “Research Reveals How Stereotypes About Leadership Hold Women Back“)

There is one exception when [some] gender-hierarchicalists accept a woman with a strong voice—whether she’s preaching the gospel to the non-believer or running as a Republican vice-presidential nominee—when the woman PROVES HER SUBMISSION TO HER HUSBAND , or to her male authority figure, and she must do so prior to approval to speak by the [male] gender-hierarchicalists. At the Calvary Chapel I attended, I observed egalitarian women with a strong voice be categorized as non-submissive and even bossy. At the same time a gender-hierarchical woman with a strong voice was permitted to do ministry and even lead ministry as she pleased—that’s because she had proven her submission to men by verbally acknowledging that the men are the leaders who have authority and that she herself as a woman has no authority except the authority given to her by the male leaders. The egalitarian women had not made such a confession of the trickle down man-to-woman model of authority. Even though the egalitarian women believed in submission to authority and practiced it, because they didn’t confess to the trickle down man-to-woman model they were either barred or limited in their leadership involvement, in addition to being ostracized by the leadership team. During this season of events and due to the treatment of [some] egalitarian women, in solidarity over five egalitarian women and their families left the church. All of these women and most of their husbands who left had been in significant leadership roles.

To require a strong authoritative voice as a key trait of leadership disqualifies mature* women from leadership and enables churches to replace these qualified women with immature men who are not qualified to be leaders nor teachers.

*Mature/maturity is defined as the wise application of biblical knowledge and understanding; a person’s character that reflects the fruits of the Spirit and the aspects of righteousness of God, and builds up the church and facilitates life into the community so the church may fulfill its intended purpose set by God.

The following event took place at my church, Willow Creek—a church founded on strong egalitarian principles but in recent year has been strongly influenced by patriarchal infiltrations. The names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

Janet and Dana are both active members and volunteers at my church, Janet was telling me that Dana has the gift of teaching. At the time, I had not met Dana so I asked Janet to explain to me what it is that makes her say Dana has the gift of teaching. Janet never mentioned Dana’s understanding of scripture; she only described Dana’s strong voice projection. I immediately realized that Janet’s understanding of teaching and leadership requires a strong voice projection—a requirement many people expect from a leader to the extent that understanding of scripture is secondary or not required at all.

We shouldn’t be surprised at the current practice of placing a man with a strong authoritative voice in a position of leadership or teaching even though he consistently shows a high degree of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and misapplication of scripture that is hurtful and destructive to the life of the community. To require a strong authoritative voice as key trait of leadership disqualifies mature women from leadership and enables churches to replace these qualified women with immature men who are not qualified to be leaders nor teachers. Such a practice is extremely dangerous for Christian community and biblical understanding because such a practice enables immature leaders to create their own ‘gospel’ —which is no gospel at all.

The teaching pastor at my church once stated, “God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called.” Jesus had followers who were peasants without formal biblical education and he prepared them both on 1) scriptural understanding and application and in 2) God-ly character and he did so with his disciples in silence before his disciples were released as leaders to speak about Christ and the gospel. Later and still today, the Holy Spirit continues what Jesus started to help the believers understand and apply scripture and reflect God’s character. God does not place in leadership a person who is arrogant or weak in scriptural knowledge because these traits are clear biblical dis-“qualify”-cations for leadership and teaching. Sure God qualifies the called, but the called is not placed in a position of leadership until he or she has met in silence the qualifications required to be a leader who speaks about Christ and the gospel.

A called person in a place of leadership is someone who has already met qualifications on biblical understanding and application and God-ly character. Paul’s ministry trajectory is another example of learning in silence before being released to speak about Christ and the gospel. Even though Paul was a highly respected biblical scholar as a Pharisee, after he converted to Christianity he spent three to fourteen year in quietness before he was released as an apostle. Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, had to meet the biblical understanding and application and also the God-ly character requirements before he was released to speak about Christ and the gospel as a leader in the church. All leaders in the church have to meet those two requirements before appointed as leaders.

Mark Driscoll’s ministry trajectory is an example of the devastating effects a leader and his church has on the community when one or both of those requirements are not met. The subject of character, specifically in the form of arrogance and deceit, has been highlighted as the main reason for Driscoll’s fall in ministry. Unfortunately, his own elders didn’t consider Driscoll’s character flaws valid reasons to remove him from leadership. In many Christian circles arrogance is not considered a character flaw deserving the disqualification of a man from leadership, even though arrogance/pride is what made Lucifer and one third of the angels fall from heaven. Regarding Driscoll’s theology, his theology is patriarchal and misogynistic which provides the food and nourishment to his arrogant, prideful, and deceitful character. (See Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Corinth, 1 Corinthians, to read on how Paul addresses leadership, maturity, scriptural and gospel knowledge and aspects of character among the members and the leaders.)

Patriarchalists like to use Kind David as an example of a man weak in character who was used by God in a leadership capacity to show patience and acceptance of a man in church leadership who has flaws in character. What these patriarchalists fail to recognize is that King David would have failed Paul’s qualifications for ministry. King David’s 500 wives is one reason he would not have qualified to lead a church. We cannot point to the character of an Old Testament leader who has been highly influenced by the patriarchal practices of his neighbors and make that character the source for comparison or approval of church leaders with flawed character. The New Testament leadership qualifications have higher standards and are free of patriarchal influence, in many respects they correct Old Testament character flaws that infiltrated into the people of God when the people embraced the practices of their patriarchal neighbors. By the way, King David’s character flaws and the similar character flaws in his heir son, King Solomon, facilitated the breakup of the kingdom, so his character flaws eventually did have grievous consequences for the people of God.

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What are some ways that we can address leadership trait expectations among members of our congregations and leadership in order to expand the church’s embrace of mature women as leaders in all capacities and avoid the danger of placing immature men in leadership?

Edited: 6.15.2015

Smart, Not Smarter

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After a movie, two single friends, Robert and Elsa, are having dinner at a restaurant (their names have been changed to protect their identity):

Robert: Women today are so dense! I would very much like to meet someone with half a brain.

Elsa: Would you like to meet a woman with more than half a brain?

Robert: [puzzled by Elsa’s question] But, of course. I meant to say AT LEAST half a brain.

Elsa: How about a woman with a full brain?

Robert: [even more puzzled and unsure where Elsa was going with her line of questioning] Uhm, sure. I would like her to be smart, if that’s what you mean.

Elsa: How smart?

Robert: [casually shrugging his shoulders] However smart she is will be fine by me.

Elsa: How do you see the two of you interacting when an important decision would need to be made?

Robert: We would talk about it and together we would make a decision.

Elsa: If during the discussion she would make a suggestion about the final decision and you found her suggestion to be wise, then you would go along with it?

Robert: Oh sure, absolutely!

Elsa: What if you two found yourselves making more decisions based on her suggestions than on your suggestions? Would you be ok with that?

Robert: [pensive and after a few seconds] No. I wouldn’t.

Elsa: Why not?

Robert: Because that would undermine my role as the leader and it would emasculate me. As the leader, I need to be the one doing more of the decision-making for us.

Elsa: So, you would like to be with a smart woman, but she can’t be smarter than you?

Robert: [with a deeply pensive and sad and disappointed and shocked look on his face and facing downward toward the table] No. I guess not…

“So, [Robert] you would like to be with a smart woman, but she can’t be smarter than you?”

Elsa was able to get Robert to confess what so many people, men, pseudo-egalitarians, neo-egalitarians and even some egalitarians are not willing to acknowledge. A smart woman is preferred over a dense woman, just like a smart man is preferred over a dense man. The difference is that society places limits on women’s—but not on men’s—intellect in dating, marriage, and the church, both consciously and subconsciously. This limit is one that girls learn to “submit” to at an early age when they start to become interested in boys. A limit that women place on themselves as adults when they dumb themselves down in order to accommodate men like Robert. A limit in intelligence, wisdom, and giftedness advocated by gender-hierarchicalists who instruct women to “step-down” so the men can “step-up” both in the home and in the church.

A smart woman is preferred, but she cannot be smarter than the man.

In order for the woman to accomplish such a feat she must regularly monitor herself to not surpass the man who is the reference point of her limits. Sadly, far too many women find themselves in this predicament in dating, in marriage, and in the church. In fact, women carry this self-monitored debasement with them into the workforce and society at large. Not to mention, the media does a superb job in reminding women and setting expectations of their place as the inferior sex and serving as partner to the patriarchal church in debasing women so that men may rise and remain dominant.

At the time when Robert and Elsa had the above conversation they were attending a gender-hierarchical church, a Calvary Chapel in Los Angeles county, where the following event took place. A male member of the church, who was also an elder, just graduated from a well known university in Southern California where he received the honor of the top student in the school of engineering. The senior pastor dedicated a Sunday service to teach on the value of this man’s accomplishments and the significance of his witness and evangelism as Christians live out their faith before the world. The following year, the same honor of top engineering student from the same university was awarded to a member of their church. What are the odds of that?! Certainly, the senior pastor would have topped his sermon from the previous year now that two of their church members had received the top engineering student honor. However, there was no sermon. There was not even a mention from the senior pastor or from anyone on stage during the church service of the second student who had received the same scholastic honor. There was only a quiet celebration party for the second student at a nearby coffeehouse and the senior pastor and his wife showed up for a few minutes. Why the disparity?

The second award winner was a woman.

A double-standard of praise was clearly at work, and even research on the subject confirms that society’s patriarchal conditioning leads people to give praise to men and deny it to women even on identical accomplishments.

This gender-hierarchical church has a history of struggles with educated and intellectual members on many fronts. First, women could not be “smarter” than men because the men would feel “emasculated” and their authority would be at risk of being usurped by the women. Second, intellectual women could not be publicly praised because other women in the church, particularly stay at home wives and moms (many of whom had no education beyond high school—if that) would “feel bad about themselves”. Third, educated and intellectual men and women, were advised to not freely discuss their backgrounds when meeting new people because “people’s jobs do not define who they are”. This principle is a great point, but the underlying reason was to avoid making the non-educated members and visitors “feel bad about themselves.” Of course, this advice was selectively dismissed by the pastor when he publicly praised the male honor student, then chose to abide by it one year later when he kept silent about the female honor student.

Perhaps, the pastor did not intend to practice a double standard of praise and chose to not publicly praise the female honor student for numerous of valid reasons. Perhaps after his public praise of the male honor student he received negative feedback and was reminded of the principle to not make people “feel bad about themselves” on the subject of education and intellect. On the other hand, members in the church practiced various forms of double standards regarding education and intellect between men and women as already mentioned above, such as the requirement that the women could not be “smarter” than the men in order to avoid emasculating the men and avoid usurping the leadership of men, such were the concerns of Robert and he was not unique.

Consider this detail that indicates the senior pastor in most likelihood chose to practice a double standard of praise. In fact, this additional detail, to some extent, aligns the senior pastor with Robert. Both the senior pastor and his wife attended the quiet celebration party for the female honor student. The senior pastor’s wife showed up thrilled and her bright smile made it clear she was a proud ‘mama’ of the female honor student. She stayed for an extended amount of time in joyous fellowship with the party attendees. The senior pastor, on the other hand, did not have the same enthusiastic and proud smile. He greeted the attendees, congratulated the honor student, and remained in the party only a few minutes not interacting much—which was not his typical personality. Maybe he had other business to attend to? Maybe he felt guilty because he had not publicly praised the accomplishments of the female honor student as he did the prior year when he praised the accomplishments of the male honor student? Maybe, he felt awkward in comparison to such a brilliant woman? Actually, that is quite common among men particularly in gender-hierarchical churches, including male pastors in comparison to their female congregants. It is that awkwardness in men that drives women to debase themselves. It is that awkwardness in men that requires women to not be as ‘smart’ as men. By the way, the female honor student went on to perform even greater accomplishments in the field of science…and she no longer attends that church.

Now what?

People in marriages and churches frequently navigate educational and intellectual differences in a healthy way that does not create separation, division, or inferiority. Instead, they practice mutual praise, admiration, and support. Unfortunately, others do not navigate educational and intellectual differences well and as a result, division and even antagonism is fostered.

What are the key character traits that help us stay in loving community with people who are different from ourselves and allow us to foster an environment where everyone in the group is valued?

Edited: 6.15.2015