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A Warning For Willow Chicago: Public Letter

“And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  “And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.”
(Matt 18:15-17 NAS)

You can find updates here.

You can download this entire Public Letter here.
You can find the “Elders Letter” I sent to Bill Hybils five months prior to going public here.

 

 

Hello all,

I write you today with an incredible amount of anxiety, fear and concern in my heart. These are feelings being tangibly soothed by the Holy Spirit as I embark on writing you this letter. I write this letter at the request of my Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. A request that He’s made of me in order to protect and warn Christ’s church and His sheep. A request that I’ve prayed for months now would be lifted from me. A request that has caused my wife and I more heart ache and soul searching then any new Christians should ever have to endure. But a request that I’m willing to fulfill because my wife and I owe everything we have to Jesus Christ, and we’re both submissive servants to the Holy Spirit.

I write you this letter in the face of inevitable opposition from people who hold their church and pastor as their idols. People who’ll defend those same entities more aggressively then they’ve ever defended Christ or His Word. People who’ll choose not to see the deceptive, subtle and deliberate ways in which Jon Klinepeter has mislead his congregation in order to push his own agenda and interpretation of scripture. People who’ll misunderstand our motives and heart in writing this letter regardless of the genuine love, concern and pain we express for the LGBT community. People who’ll choose to ignore the clarity in which the Bible speaks on the issue of homosexuality, and the dire threat it poses to the very core of society, the family, Christianity and the church.

However, there will also be people who’ll see this for what it is. Which is a husband and wife disappointingly going it alone to follow these Biblical commands, Matthew 18:15, Timothy 5:19, I John 4:1, Romans 16:17, Titus 1:13, II Thessalonians 3:6 and Titus 3:10. A husband and wife who have a heart for their church, and the congregation they worship with every weekend. A husband and wife who feel compelled to bring this to light in order to affirm everyone who’s butted heads with Willow Creek and came out feeling defeated and without a church, especially ex board members. A husband and wife who live several blocks from Boys Town, and have been loving, accepting and compassionate towards gay people their entire lives. A husband and wife who write this letter on one hand to obey God, but also to speak the truth lovingly to the gay community in the hopes that they’ll experience the love Christ has for all of them.

This public letter is the culmination of a six-month ordeal that started in March of 2013 when I became friends with Jon Klinepeter on Facebook. This is a letter that I intended to keep short, but soon realized that God didn’t care how many people read all of my words. But rather He would warn the people He chose to warn, by leading those individuals to this letter.

In March of 2013, my wife and I had a great relationship with Jon. I was pleased to see that my pastor had a public Facebook page and that he accepted my friend request. However my excitement soon turned to disappointment and disbelief as I scrolled through his page and found post after post condoning, normalizing and affirming homosexuality and same-sex marriage. You can see digital proof (screen shots) of his posts and personal comments in this letter (Elder’s Letter), which I sent to Bill Hybels via his assistant three months ago.

These articles were posted in the face of what is still a powerful and public effort to normalize homosexuality in the church. My spirit was in chaos; I hoped there was an explanation. So I started reading the sentiments Jon wrote in reference to the articles and videos, and they were more alarming then the posts themselves. Worse yet, the subtle and subversive way in which the comments were worded exposed Jon’s motive and heart on the issue. This was no accident, Jon had his talking points down perfectly, and he knew how to word things just right to avoid blatant conflict with the Willow Creek Elders Statement and the Bible.

Now I could feel the Holy Spirit telling me this isn’t right. I wanted to let it go, but God wouldn’t let me forget what I saw. I felt a strong prompting to take screen shots of the material in the hope that irrefutable, digital proof would be enough to get Jon, Bill Hybels, or the elders of Willow Creek to take action. After I finished collecting the proof, the Holy Spirit’s promptings to take screen shots were affirmed independently by one of my closest Christian friends.

After much prayer and counsel from many members of Willow Chicago, my wife and I decided we needed to follow the Matthew 18:15 process, which started by meeting with Jon. This began the long painful journey that has culminated in the writing of this letter. A journey which I hope to describe to all of you in order to follow Timothy 5:19 which states, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.”

Our Matthew 18 Process

As I said, this all started in March of 2013 when I became friends with Jon on Facebook. But to be perfectly accurate, the issue of homosexuality in relation to Willow Chicago was an issue the Lord had put on our hearts months before. At that time, Tara and I chose to ignore God’s promptings because of concerns for unity in the church, our love for Jon and LGBT individuals, and our reliance on Willow Chicago to run our ministry. We also hoped that God would change Jon’s heart, decisions and actions in regards to homosexuality, in the same way He saves LGBT individuals from same-sex attractions everyday all over the world.

After seeking counsel from several members of Willow Chicago, other pastors and Christian friends, it became clear we’d have to meet with Jon. Even though we had a great relationship with Jon, this wasn’t something we were looking forward to. The following is a brief timeline of our Matthew 18 process with Willow Chicago and Willow Creek Barrington (Willow Creek Barrington is the main campus of Willow Creek Community Church).

– April 3rd 2013: Emailing Jon To Request a Meeting.

I sent Jon the following email:

Hi Jon,

Tara and I were hoping to get an hour of your time to discuss gay marriage and how we and our church should feel about it. 

We have a lot of questions and confusion on the issue and have discussed it with our small group and many other members of the church and they’ve all suggested we talk to you since it seems to be a complicated issue. 

Let us know your thoughts. 

– April 9th 2013: Absent A Response, I Send a Follow Up.

Six days later, I had not received a response, so I followed up with a friendly reminder.Jon responded that same day and mentioned he was on vacation with his family. He told me that he forwarded the email to his assistant and she would be in touch to schedule something.

– April 14th 2013: Meeting With Jon Scheduled.

Five days later I received an email from his assistant offering us a dinner meeting on April 22nd 2013. Tara and I accepted and looked forward to Jon’s explanation and hopefully putting this matter behind us.

– April 21st 2013: Jon Cancels and Reschedules.

The day before our scheduled meeting, Jon sees us after church around 11am with some of our homeless friends, and tells us “you’re doing awesome work for the kingdom” followed by “see you tomorrow night”

At 3pm that same day (Sunday), I received an email from Jon’s assistant telling me the meeting would have to be rescheduled because of a meeting Jon needed to attend for his family schedule. She offered two new dates; the soonest of which was nine days away on April 30th, and the latter was May 6th.

Tara and I were really disappointed. It had been almost a month since we requested the meeting and now at the last second it was being canceled in lieu of a date nine days away.

It’s important to understand that the moment our initial email was sent to Jon on April 3rd, Tara and I were under intense pressure. Pressure we didn’t want. This postponement meant another nine days of having this on our heart.

We accepted the April 30th date and continued praying that God would remove this cup from us, and change Jon’s heart.

– April 30th 2013: The Meeting Between John, Tara and I.

Tara and I sat down with Jon for lunch. After an hour and half of optimistically asking Jon to clarify his position on homosexuality, same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption and justify or provide an explanation for his Facebook posts, he told us he would be more careful in the future, that he was sorry that we misinterpreted things and for the misunderstanding it caused.

Initially he said he had no position on same-sex marriage, but when faced with his posts as evidence he claimed, “Nothing in those posts was incongruent with the “Willow’s Elder Statement”. I’d told Jon earlier in the meeting that I had a copy of the Elder’s Statement with me. He boldly told me, “he helped write much of it”, which made no sense for someone who had “no position”.

When asked about same-sex adoption, Jon said, “it’s not an issue until all of the children that need homes have been adopted” and “look at all the abuse that goes on in traditional marriages”. When asked about same-sex marriage I had to hear about how broken traditional marriage is and the astronomical divorce rate among Christians. No matter how hopeful I phrased my questions, Jon couldn’t line up with the Bible. He simply wouldn’t state his position.

After realizing that we had accomplished nothing, and receiving an apology for our misunderstanding, I told Jon that we would be taking this to the Elders. A few days later I began to write the “Elder’s Letter” that we would send directly to Bill Hybels via his assistant.

The meeting between Jon, Tara and I is described in great detail in the Elders Letter found here Elder’s Letter.

– May 28th 2013: I Sent The “Elder’s Letter” To Bill Via His Assistant.

After almost a month of fervent prayer, counsel from other members of Willow Chicago, pastors and Christian friends and family, I finished the Elder’s Letter I initially intended to send to the Willow Creek Board of Elders. After more thought I decided to send it directly to Bill Hybels via his assistant, because I have the utmost respect for Bill, and I knew he could handle this unilaterally and minimize any damage to the church.

So on May 28th I sent the “Elder’s Letter” to Bill’s assistant.

– May 31st 2013: Absent a Response, I Send a Follow Up.

After not hearing anything from Bill’s assistant for three days, I sent a follow up email.  She responded immediately and confirmed receipt of the letter. She also noted that she put a copy on Bill’s desk, adding, “I’m sure you’ll be hearing from him soon”.

– June 23rd 2013: Three Weeks Pass, No Word.

After nearly a month of not hearing anything from anyone, I sent Bill’s assistant an email letting her know that we were not contacted. I also asked her to confirm that Bill was aware of our letter and the issues we raised.

Bill’s assistant responded immediately stating,” Bill did receive a copy of your letter, but he has not had a chance to respond yet.”

After waiting almost a month since we sent the letter, and nearly three months since this started, Tara and I were drained, confused, and disappointed. We couldn’t understand how such an intensely sincere and good-hearted man like Bill Hybels could allow this to take place in his church.

– June 29th 2013: Contacted By Scott Vaudry.

Six days later, on June 29th, we received an email from Scott Vaudry stating that he worked on the “Elders Response Team” and they would like to meet with Tara and I. I told Scott that it was such a relief to hear from someone, and we would like to meet as well. We exchanged some times and dates and settled on July 10th. The meeting would include myself, Tara, Scott, and another member of the Elders Response Team named Chris. Now the pressure was really on for Tara and I. We were nervous, scared and praying fervently that God would bring resolution to this matter.

– July 10th 2013: Meeting With Scott Vaudry and Chris.

Scott let us know in our initial email exchange that the Willow Creek Barrington campus was closed the week of July 1st as a reward from the executive team for such a successful run. With this in mind, we were grateful that Scott made our meeting happen so quickly.

On that morning, we drove nearly an hour to Willow Creek Barrington for our 11am meeting. After about ten minutes of sitting alone in the waiting room outside of Scott’s office, we were greeted by Scott and asked if we needed anything. Chris arrived soon after, and we all sat down and prayed before the meeting.

Both Scott and Chris were very kind, understanding, and considerate. They made it clear that they’d read the “Elder’s Letter”, and Scott asked if any of our sentiments had changed since we wrote it. We told him no, and in not so many words explained that the letter still spoke for itself.

After about a half an hour of healthy Christian dialogue, Scott began to ask me repeatedly in a very firm and direct way, “Where do you get your confidence from”, “What makes you so confident”, etc. I felt as though he was trying to make me question myself. I explained to him that I get my confidence first and foremost from the Holy Spirit, secondly from the Bible, thirdly from the face-to-face meeting with Jon, and finally from thirty-six years of life, which has equipped me to perceive when someone is being deceptive, evasive, dishonest and hypocritical. I also explained that Jon’s Facebook posts spoke for themselves.

Scott would follow up with comments about how the older he gets, the less sure he becomes about things. He talked about how scholars disagree on interpretations of the Bible, making a vague connection with the way different people view homosexuality in relation to the Bible, but then followed it up by saying that he and Chris were conservative on the issue.

It became clear that Scott was initiating the conversation and Chris was there to wisely listen and add in when necessary. Chris was a very mild mannered, thoughtful and genuine man. Tara and I both felt a warmth from him that made us feel like we could be vulnerable, and we were. There was several times in which Tara and I became emotional during the meeting.

Scott explained that while he thought Jon acted inappropriately and could’ve been more careful, he didn’t think Jon was being deceptive or had an agenda. He told us how people could take what Jon said and be confused by it, but he didn’t think Jon did it intentionally. Scott even admitted in our second meeting that what Jon did was “harmful” to the congregation, but didn’t think anything needed to be done to repair that damage.

It was becoming clear that while both Scott and Chris were very concerned, we didn’t agree on the double-mindedness Jon displayed and the severity of his actions. So we asked a couple questions to gain piece of mind and frame of reference. I asked if Bill had read our letter, and Scott responded that he didn’t know. We asked if Jon was aware of the letter, and they said, not that they know of.

We left that meeting with a promise from Scott that they would meet with Jon and get back in touch with us. Even though very little was sorted out in the meeting, we were hopeful that God would be glorified by Willow’s subsequent actions. We hoped that Jon’s meeting with them would create a repentant heart on Jon’s behalf, change Jon’s heart and mind and lead Jon to rectify the “harm” we talked about in our up coming second meeting with Scott and Chris.

– August 7th 2013: We Hear Nothing For 28 days.

After not hearing anything from anyone for twenty eight days, I sent Scott an email letting him know we’d be at “Big Willow” for the Global Leadership Summit the next day, and we were wondering if he could give us an update on their process. I explained that it had been a month since our meeting and this was still heavy on our hearts.

This is where things got really hurtful and weird for Tara and I. Scott responded with the following email:

Hello Justin. 

I typed out an email to you earlier in the week and judging from your email you did not receive it. 

I will check tomorrow and see where things got hung up. 

Chris and I have met with Jon and would like to reconnect with you and Tara. 

You should hear from me tomorrow. I am sorry for the delay. 

The next morning Scott emailed me and said, “OK, I can’t find the earlier email. I am sorry”.

Every thing in this saga had been reactionary from Willow’s standpoint, and now this? To hear someone who handles church concerns and issues for a living, tell me that he typed out an email, thought he sent it, but apparently something went wrong after a month of waiting to hear from him? I kept my feelings close to my chest and responded to him in a professional way as we shared emails working out the logistics for our second and final meeting.

– August 12th 2013: Second Meeting With Scott and Chris.

Tara and I woke up early to talk about the first meeting we had with Scott and Chris one month earlier and tried to get ready spiritually and mentally for this second stressful meeting.

We again drove an hour to Willow Creek Barrington for our 10am meeting with hopeful hearts. We’d prayed so hard that God would do a work in Jon, Scott, and Bill’s heart, and that we could finally be off the hook. We just wanted to move on with our lives and concentrate on our ministry. So we arrived at Scott’s office about fifteen minutes early, and sat with the lights off, alone, in the waiting room of his office.

A little before ten Scott turned the lights on, greeted us and asked if we needed anything. He mentioned that Chris had to work, so he might be late. Chris arrived right on time and we all sat down at the table. Scott immediately got up exclaiming, “I need to grab the file, I didn’t pull it out because I thought this meeting was tomorrow”.

Between the lights being off in the waiting room, Scott telling us that Chris had to work and might be late (but showing up right on time), and now boldly proclaiming, “he thought the meeting was tomorrow”, we quickly realized that Scott was trying to diminish us and these issues. The message was; you guys are making too much of this, Chris doesn’t even think enough of this to schedule things properly and be here on time, I didn’t even remember to turn the lights on or get the file out because this is so low on my list of priorities, I thought the meeting was tomorrow.

Again Tara and I acted as if none of this was happening. We hoped we were misreading the situation. But any hopes that Scott was being genuine quickly vanished ten minutes later as he pulled out a sticky noted, marked up copy of my letter, explaining how he’d been up the night before making notes and getting reacquainted with the letter in preparation for today’s meeting. Tara and I both knew what was going on, but again we just put our head down and hoped for resolution.

Scott asked us again if our sentiments had changed since the last meeting, and I told him that the letter still speaks for itself. Scott told us he wouldn’t be revealing much of what they talked about with Jon, but the meeting was extensive and they “dug deep”. Scott again started asking me where I get my confidence from and explaining how many people disagree with my view of scripture and this subject. He also explained the way in which I wrote my letter was self-righteous and dogmatic.

Scott told us that what Jon had done was “harmful” and “confusing”, but he didn’t think Jon did it intentionally or that Jon was being deceptive or trying to push an agenda. I asked Scott how that damage would be repaired, and he told me that Willow had no intention of removing Jon or having Jon give a message from the pulpit in regards to homosexuality. He made it clear that Jon wouldn’t be posting any clarification or retraction to his Facebook page. But as you can read in the “Elder’s Letter”, Jon selectively and strategically removed some of the posts himself after our only meeting with him.

Scott told me that if Jon handled homosexuality the same way I did in my letter, Jon would be fired. I asked him to expand on that comment, and he explained, Jon’s job description is to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ. I explained to Scott that I was confused how a church could make up a job description for a pastor, especially one so counter Biblical, when the Bible is explicitly clear on a pastors job. And to think that anyone or any church turns irreligious people into “fully devoted followers of Christ” other then God is counter biblical in so many ways.

In the end, the only action Jon was willing to take, was to have people in leadership positions sign a “Lifestyle Agreement”, assuring the church that they’re beliefs and lifestyles were congruent with the Bible. We have seen no tangible change from the implementation of this “Lifestyle Agreement”. We believe the “Lifestyle Agreement” was put in place to show action on Jon’s part while making Jon unaccountable for the lifestyles of the leadership at his church. We also believe it allowed Jon to appear to take action, while also allowing Jon to keep this ordeal quite. One has to wonder if Jon has been transparent with his pastoral team and other leaders at Willow Chicago about the pressure he’s been under in regards to the issues we’ve raised, issues that you’ll read later made it all the way to Bill Hybels.

Scott explained that personally, Jon could only commit to being more careful in the future, no different then he exclaimed in our initial meeting with him.

There were several common threads or talking points Scott used in our two meetings. Two of these included asking me repeatedly where I get my confidence from, trying to make me question myself. Another was Scott describing me as self-righteous, which I explained can’t be true because I know any righteousness I have comes from God. He also described me as dogmatic and legalistic, many times asking me where my grace was. I explained, it’s hard to have grace when the person doesn’t think they did anything wrong and shows no humility. As far as being dogmatic, I doubt when I get to heaven Jesus is going to rebuke me for taking the Bible to seriously.

The new tactic employed at the end of the second meeting appeared to be Scott trying to play my wife and I against each other. It started out subtle with Scott downplaying my points or describing me as dogmatic, but slowly he was affirming everything Tara said, even when our comments were nearly identical. After the meeting, Tara and I discussed all the ploys and tactics Scott used, and we were very troubled. We realized at that point, God was still writing this story, and Scott’s ways of handling disputes, concerns and issues were to be brought to light for the glory of our Father and the affirmation of others who’ve gone down this same road.

As the meeting was winding down, I had some questions for Scott and Chris. I asked again if Bill was aware of the letter, and neither of them could confirm it, but Scott promised to sit down with Bill and get back with us. Scott added that it wouldn’t be for a couple weeks because Bill takes the two weeks off after the Global Leadership Summit. He finished with an assurance that Bill’s opinion on these issues were similar to his, but he would still sit down Bill and get back with us.

I then asked if the elders of either Willow Chicago or Willow Creek Barrington had been made aware of this issue, and Scott said no. Scott said it was the Elder Response Team’s job to handle these things, and their decision represented the board’s decision. He told us that the board doesn’t typically get involved in these types of matters.

We did everything in our power to bring the issues and comments contained in this letter personally to Bill, but that proved impossible.

So Tara and I were left with very few options. We’d followed Matthew 18 up until the last step, which is to bring it to the church. I knew of no other way to bring this to a church Willow’s size with out making it public. I also needed to follow Timothy 5:19, which as I quoted earlier directs Christians to reprove elders in front of everyone so that others can be warned. I was going to tell Scott about my plans to follow through on Matthew 18, but I was scared and not sure if I could or wanted to follow through on it. While I didn’t directly tell Scott that I’d be taking this public, I’ve made it clear every step of the way that we’d be following the Matthew 18 process.

– August 27th 2013: Did Scott Meet With Bill As Promised?

Before I made the decision to warn the church and make this public, I sent an email to Scott asking if he had a chance to sit down with Bill. Eight days later Scott responded with the following email:

Hello Justin,

Sorry for the delay.

I was mistaken when I told you two weeks.  Bill’s return was this week.

I have sent him a note and will get back to you as soon as I hear something.

Thanks,

Scott 

Remember, Scott told us during our second meeting, that Bill took the following two weeks off after the leadership summit. Tara and I knew that wasn’t the case because on August 17th (5 days after our meeting) we attended the Next Level retreat at Willow Creek Barrington. The retreat concluded with everyone attending the Saturday service in which Bill spoke.

– September 13th 2013: Scott confirms that Bill Hybels and the Executive Team have reviewed the “Elder’s Letter”.

Sixteen days after my initial email, I received the following email from Scott confirming that not only has Bill reviewed the “Elder’s Letter” but so did the Willow Creek Executive Team. You can read that email below:

Hello Justin,

Thank you so much for your patience.

Your letter has been reviewed by the WCCC Executive Team (including Bill).

They are aligned with the process and conclusions of the Elder Response Team.

Again, I thank you for the passion and courage it took for you and Tara to communicate your concerns.

If you would like to pursue further meetings to facilitate reconciliation with Jon we would be happy to assist.

Blessings,

Scott

While this was extremely disappointing for Tara and I, it was also a blessing. See one of my biggest hesitations in making this public was the respect I have for Bill Hybels. That respect is what prompted me at every step to inquire about Bill’s knowledge of this issue, and urge the person to bring it to his attention. God answered my prayer asking Him to remove my concerns by confirming Bill’s awareness, which in turn lifted my final hesitation.

After meeting with Scott and Chris and reading the “Elder’s Letter” about his actions, Jon has not reached out to us in any way. Soon after our first meeting with Scott and Chris, Jon defriended me on Facebook, even though I have never interacted with him or his page on Facebook in any way.

Even if you don’t personally agree with me about Jon’s deceptive behavior, it’s clear from Willow’s exclusively reactionary approach, Scott confirming that what John did was “harmful” and Jon removing posts from his Facebook page, that they all found serious reasons for concern.

Conclusion

After almost a month had passed since our last meeting with Scott and Chris, A month filled with us praying for God to do a powerful work in Jon’s heart and bring him to repentance. After praying that God would take this from us. After praying every night that God would give us a sign if He wanted us to go public or not. Even though God lifted my final hesitation about going public (Bill’s confirmed awareness), I still had human fear and uncertainty.

That was until yesterday morning (I originally wrote this around the beginning of October 2013, and have had patience, grace and hopeful prayer until now) when I started to pray as I do every morning, and my mind was flooded with thoughts to put into this letter. I couldn’t write them down fast enough. They were clear, concise, and definitely not from me.

After the thoughts stopped, and I finally got to praying, I asked God for the hundredth time to give me direction on what he wanted me to do. Almost immediately, a clear thought popped into my head saying, “I’ve already told you to follow the Matthew 18 process, and you have one step left”. The silence I’d been hearing from God on this subject finally made sense. He’d already sent us down this path and given Willow, Jon, Scott and Bill every chance to act appropriately, and now He was left with no other option.

Chances that in addition to our efforts, included warning signs like the hundreds of emails described by Scott waiting for him in his inbox in regards to Willow Creeks handling of homosexuality. Chances that included God forcing Bill on stage at the 2011 Global Leadership Summit in order to make his church’s position on same-sex marriage clear (You can watch Bill’s comments here). A chance Bill wasted by taking the most politically correct position possible while still lining up with the Bible. A position that does considerable damage to the LGBT community and is the opposite of loving.

Combine that with the fact that you can’t learn Willow’s position on marriage without calling their office and requesting a copy of their Elders Statement. An Elder’s Statement that doesn’t mention homosexuality, and takes the most hands-off approach possible on such a destructive, confusing, current, clear and Biblical issue.

All this while the yearly series about stewarding your resources, walking across the room, or how to be more generous kicks off, same-sex marriage dominates our culture, headlines and courts and very few members of Willow Creek know how to react.

It’s hard to understand why a church would be so clear and accurate on parts of God’s Word, but be silent on others. All of God’s Word deserves equal attention and is equally important.

The truth is we went into this process very uninformed. We just followed the Holy Spirit and trusted that God would make everything clear. Like so many, we blindly loved Willow Creek, and even now that we’re more informed, we still do. There are just some serious issues that need to be resolved in order for Christ’s church to fully flourish spiritually, not just in terms of money raised, members, or attendance.

One thing God did make clear throughout this process is that along with many member of the congregation, several Willow Chicago advisory board members left the church when Jon was hired. Apparently Willow Chicago had been looking for a new pastor for over a year, and had several amazing candidates in mind. The vetting process was tedious and thorough, until the idea of Jon being the pastor was introduced. From what I understand, many in the congregation were confused and upset. They had serious concerns regarding Jon being the pastor and agreed with the Bible that a unilateral decision on this matter was inappropriate.

I don’t know all the factors that have lead to the hands off approach Willow takes to homosexuality, but I can tell you that the situation Jon finds himself in today is the result of such a hands off policy. If Jon posted one of the eight counter Biblical items contained in the “Elders Letter” to his Facebook page while pastoring at the church’s of Dr. Erwin Lutzer (Moody Church), John MacArthur, Dr. David Jeramiah, or Alistair Begg, there would have been an immediate uproar. The contrast between Willow’s politically correct approach and these men’s bold, loving and public stance has always perplexed me. They all have large, spiritually healthy churches, but these men of God have found the Biblical way to lovingly tell the truth to the LGBT community.

Jon has been hung out to dry by his church’s selective approach to Biblical truth. And in turn Jon has left his congregation out to dry the same way Bill has left Willow as a whole to fend for itself as the wolves (radical homosexual activists) come in preaching tolerance for a lifestyle and behavior that is counter Biblical and destroying lives. While these same wolves (radical homosexual activists) call all Bible believing Christians bigots for standing up for Christ. While the wolves (radical homosexual activists) destroy our families. While the wolves (radical homosexual activists) exploit the involuntary sexual confusion all LGBT individuals experience, in order to turn them into pawns for the cause that normalizes the very thing that’s destroying their lives. While those same LGBT individuals are thirsty for truth, but the church, the only place they can get such truth, is too concerned about numbers and political correctness, to worry about their salvation.

People cavalierly ask Tara and I all the time, “why don’t you just leave Willow if we’re in such disagreement?” The reason we don’t leave Willow is because Willow isn’t Bill’s church, it’s not Jon’s church, it’s Christ’s church and we’re all told by God to protect His word and His church. We don’t leave Willow because we love Willow. We don’t leave Willow because of the amazing relationships we’ve formed there. We don’t leave Willow because we’re dependant on it for the ministry God has blessed us with. God lead Tara, myself and our ministry to Willow, and until He tells us to leave or someone makes the decision to force us to leave, we’re going to do everything we can to make Willow a better place.

All the issues in this letter can be boiled down to one thing. When you don’t take a repetitive, public and bold stance as a church, for all of God’s Word, there will be divine consequences. We serve a gentle God, and a God that has no doubt given Bill gentle nudge after gentle nudge in regards to all these issues.

When as a church you never mention the words gay, abortion, heresy, false teachers, hell, repentance, rapture and rarely mention words like sin, sanctification, rebuke, wrath and judgment there will be confusion and muddy waters. You’ll be forced to admit that the plan isn’t working, and people aren’t becoming fully devoted followers of Christ, as Willow did several years ago. That you’re going to try something different, when there is nothing different. The plan has been in the Bible for almost 2000 years. It’s time to give Willow’s congregation solid food. Grace is only half the story. Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. It’s time for Willow to stop worrying about numbers, donations, attendance, polls, metrics, marketing, how to make it easier to follow Christ and what might happen if they stop being politically correct, and start using its God given influence to preach the full gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sincerely,

Justin and Tara Obriecht.

P.S. Please pray for Jon, Bill, Scott, Chris, Willow, Tara, and myself. Pray that God would do an incredible work in our hearts that would leave all of us stronger and closer to Him. That the full Word of God would begin to be preached at Willow Creek and God would be glorified.

If you’d like to discuss this further you can reach me at justinobriecht@gmail.com

Update page here.

One Comment
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