Following Bill Hybels’ announcement that he would be resigning from his position at Willow Creek months before his previously intended retirement date in October, Nancy Beach, one of the former leaders at Willow Creek who has accused Hybels of sexual misconduct, says despite Hybels’ announcement, the church (both “Willow and beyond”) is not ready to move on.
“The goal for me was never connected to Bill resigning. The goal is to usher in the truth, to reveal an abuse of power that spans over 30 years, with women who are scarred and in some cases, terrified to come forward,” Beach writes in a post on her blog titled “Why We Can’t Move On”.
Beach is one of two former leaders at Willow who came forward with accusations against Hybels. Beach and Vonda Dyer told their stories to the Chicago Tribune, which broke the story of a years-long investigation to the general public just last month. Now Beach and Dyer have both written about Willow Creek’s responses to the allegations becoming public on personal blogs.
Nancy Beach Responds
Beach emphasized the need for the church to continue hearing the truth. “There can be no healing until the truth is all brought into the light,” she writes. According to Beach, “there’s more to come,” and she admonishes those paying attention not to “ignore the voices of these women or they will be abused all over again.”
Beach takes issue with the way Hybels announced his resignation last night. “I heard no confession of deceit or admission of guilt for sexual misconduct. For the church and its leaders to move on there must be full ownership of what was sinful and flawed in the process. Only then can we hope for healing and restoration, for light to come from the darkness,” she writes.
Vonda Dyer Responds
On April 8, 2018, Dyer published a post to her blog in response to the Chicago Tribune article. She outlines in more detail the account she gave the Tribune reporters. Dyer also says, “In July of last year, I became aware for the first time that many of the situations I had encountered with Bill had also occurred with other women spanning more than 30 years.”
Dyer claims in addition to kissing her and making sexual comments about her, Hybels also displayed similar flirtatious behavior with other women on staff. She confronted Hybels about his flirtatious behavior with five women in particular in 2000. A couple years after the confrontation, Dyer says she was asked to move to a different department and then eventually fired. “I was given the opportunity to write a resignation letter that painted the situation as my choice to leave. I was required to have it approved by HR, which I did,” Dyer writes. She also claims a Willow Creek team member visited her in Texas a couple years after her firing and confessed she had been involved in “a plot to remove me [Dyer] from her position.”
John Ortberg Responds
Following the Tribune article, the leadership at Willow Creek held two “family meetings” to explain the situation to the congregation. The content of those meetings recapped the steps the elder board of the church took once they found out about the accusations roughly four years ago. Pam Orr, the head of the elder board, insists the elders took every step necessary to investigate the allegations and believe Hybels to be cleared of the accusations.
However, there are those who believe the investigation was mishandled. John Ortberg, who became aware of an alleged affair between Hybels and an unidentified woman, wrote about his concerns in a post to his blog. Essentially, Ortberg’s concerns rest on what he believes was not a truly independent investigation, which is what the elder board of Willow Creek claim to have facilitated through the use of a third party lawyer. Ortberg says the firm chosen to conduct the investigation was on retainer by the leadership of Willow Creek and cannot be considered “independent.” The unidentified woman who disclosed the alleged affair later retracted her story.
Betty Schmidt Responds
Betty Schmidt served as an elder at Willow Creek for over 30 years. She was on the elder board during the investigation period. On April 10, 2018, Schmidt published a blog post saying her words concerning Dyer’s accusations against Hybels have “been mishandled by the Willow Creek Elders in two ‘Family Meetings’ held on March 23 and April 2, 2018.” Schmidt points to an FAQ document Willow Creek published (which has since been taken down) about the investigation that she claims misquotes her testimony.
Schmidt includes the statement in question from Willow Creek’s FAQ page:
During the meeting, Betty Schmidt was asked if, over the course of her 30 years on the Elder Board, she had ever heard any allegations of this type brought against Bill. She replied “not an inkling.” She then remembered that one time a woman came forward and claimed to have kissed Bill, but Betty couldn’t recall the woman’s name. When the current Elders asked Betty if the previous Elder Board had discussed this claim with Bill at the time, Betty said no, that the woman was embarrassed for her actions and had asked that the issue not be discussed with Bill. However, recently Betty brought a different version of the story to the Chicago Tribune. She identified the woman as Vonda Dyer, a former Willow Creek staff member.”
Then she refutes five points of the statement in particular:
1. I did not say I never had an inkling about whether allegations of misconduct had ever been brought against Bill. It’s precisely because I had such concerns (which went beyond an ‘inkling’) that I wanted to meet with the elders in the first place.
2. I didn’t ‘suddenly’ remember Vonda’s story; that story was a primary reason I asked to talk with the elders. I didn’t say that I couldn’t recall the woman’s name. I knew it was Vonda Dyer. It is not credible to think I could have forgotten.
3. I did not say that the woman (Vonda) “claimed to have kissed Bill.” Vonda did not initiate the kiss. Bill did. This is what Vonda told me. This is what I told the elders.
4. I did not say that “the woman was embarrassed for her actions and had asked that the issue not be discussed with Bill.” I would never have said that because I knew the truth. The reason I did not bring it to the elder board at the time Vonda shared it with me is because she asked me not to, believing she had handled it according to Matthew 18:15 by discussing it with Bill directly the following morning. I agreed with her assessment and honored her request.
5. I did not change my story when interviewed by the Chicago Tribune. Vonda’s story as printed in the Tribune is fully consistent with how I heard it almost 20 years ago.
One thing is prevalent in the responses from Beach, Dyer, Ortberg and Schmidt, and that is the consensus that women’s voices need to be heard. Schmidt writes, “Women need to know that if they muster the courage to tell their stories, church leadership will listen with compassion and fairness. That has not happened here. Yet. I hope and pray it will.”
Further Reading on this subject can be found here: