The problem at Willow is that they think that the whole crisis of Bill’s being accused of sexual improprieties is an event in time that with attrition will fade away. What the elders do not get is that the courageous exposure by the women of Bill’s behavior is a window into a much more systemic cancer that exists internally in the governance model of Willow. Time will not distance the fact that what remains is essentially a governance model that was created to give power to one elite leader and a group of elite elders who are accountable to no one. Now they might say that they are accountable to God, but if they are they cannot be hearing His voice. God would not essentially give a pass to a man who sinned against the dignity of women. A pass to a man who by his behavior disillusioned thousands of people who trusted him. A man who is not owning his own sin and yet claimed to believe in a God of grace and forgiveness. God would not allow leaders to craft a strategy to minimize the damage of a crisis situation by deflection, denial, and repression. So really, to whom are they accountable? BH crafted an almost untouchable governance model that is immune from culpability.
The elders should resign but they do not have the spiritual awareness that they have disqualified themselves due to a lack of wisdom. What is coming out, kind of pouring out of the seams of the church, are stories of repression and abuse. More and more people are feeling empowered to name what they experienced as the abuse of power from a powerful organization. We need to hear from many more people who have been traumatized by legal intimidation because they somehow did not fit the model of what Willow wanted to portray. We need to hear from more women who were propositioned or let go of because they did not cow tow to the demands of male leaders in the church. What is seeping out is a story that is not pretty, about a church that cared more about its public image than it did about it’s people. A church that employed people that labeled anyone who disagreed or questioned things in the church as suppressive. (Think Scientology, who called anyone who left a suppressive person).
What time will not heal is the systemic problems inherent in the church and from which behavior like BH’s grew. He thought he was untouchable. He thought no one would dare to expose or challenge him because he had won almost every other battle. Thank God for the women who stood up to the bully! It took so much courage to do this. Bill has so much influence in the evangelical world that they easily could have felt that this was career suicide for them. Thank God that they realized that they were not accountable to Bill or the elders but to God. And they have exposed the crack in the whole church foundation, which is not built upon the rock but on sand.
Those of us who love the church must have a sense of righteous anger that the church that Willow is presenting to the world is not the true church. The church that Willow is holding out to the world is one where image and programmatic superiority is more important than moral excellence. The true church confesses its systemic sins and models to the world that we are forgiven not perfect. It courageously enters into exposing its sins and shows how reconciliation follows a pattern of confession, and turning away from sin. But Willow has not confessed its systemic sins. It has not said to the Chicago Tribune that yes we failed, we sinned, and this is what we are going to do about it-truly seek forgiveness from those women that we called liars-really look at the ways we manage our church to root out all methods of repression of those who disagree with us-give people a voice and move away from an elitist, unaccountable leadership structure.
Those of us that see what has happened are like the prophets of old who wept for the people, for the church, and for its reputation as a reflector of God’s character. We are not putting ourselves out as superior but humbly seeking to avenge and protect the bride of Christ. We are not going away because the core problems that exist at Willow have not fundamentally changed. We love the church as it is clearly described in the New Testament and cannot abandon our voice in the wilderness call to the leaders to repent and turn away from what is evil in God’s sight.