[News] Willow Creek Fallout

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#1
Acting Pastor and Board of Elders of Willow Creek Church in Illinois has stepped down.

The action is the latest to hit the church since it was revealed former senior pastor (and founder) Bill Hybels had been involved in numerous (up to ten as of present) cases of sexual misconduct.

I've only had some tangential knowledge of this church, which is your typical Middle America MegaChurch in the Chicago suburbs.

I'm a bit hesitant to open this up for discussion, but there's several on these boards who may realize the impact this has on mainstream Christianity.
 
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#2
Are megachurches mainstream anything? I thought those were pretty fringe, like faith healers.
 
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#3
Willow Creek was about a shade or two smaller than Joel Osteen's and Rick Warren's congregations. Willow Creek was pretty influential in most of the upper Midwest (WI-IL-IN). They were also one of those rare churches that weathered the 80's "moral majority" stuff.
 

figmentPez

Staff member
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#4
Are megachurches mainstream anything? I thought those were pretty fringe, like faith healers.
They're in a very strange spot. Kind of a mix of mainstream and fringe. Take Joel Osteen for instance, because I know the most about him, most of what he "teaches" is just feel-good self-help stuff. He mostly makes people feel better about themselves, without actually saying much specific about anything. This allows his "church" to have a broad appeal; not just to people who actually attend, but to people in other churches who might buy his books, or otherwise pay attention to what he's selling. Osteen has a huge influence on a lot of people. Similar to how Trump says stuff and lets his audience fill in their own version of the truth, Osteen does some very similar things when speaking. People hear what they want to hear when Osteen speaks, because most of the time he avoids saying anything but general positivity. He's like the generic happy feelgood version of Trump's generic vitriol. Speak vaguely enough with conviction, and a fanatical audience will fill in the gaps to suit their own preferred narrative.

But when he actually does say something that's not just fluff, or you look at the pastors he's most closely linked to (like T.D. Jakes), that's when you start getting into fringe stuff. Although, the prosperity gospel stuff that Jakes preaches would be mainstream if you could lump all prosperity gospel teachers into one group, that mostly doesn't happen because they differ a lot in specifics, and no one trying to scam their followers like that is willing to share if they can help it. Osteen's "church" really is about making money, and promising a better life to those who follow him (usually with a heavy implication that it will be a materially better life, and fast).

I think you could liken Megachurches' mix of mainstream and fringe to fad diets. The South Beach Diet, Atkins, juice fasts, etc. They're all fringe, and sometimes even denounced by mainstream medical opinions, but nearly everyone has heard of them, and even people who don't follow them are often influenced by what they've heard. They have a broad appeal, and good media coverage, so they seem like a higher percentage of the population is following them than is really the case.
 
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#6
I'm a bit hesitant to open this up for discussion, but there's several on these boards who may realize the impact this has on mainstream Christianity.
I guess I'm not one of them because I think Christianity will weather this just fine and I'd need it explained to me why this one megachurch's fall would have a severe impact on the religion at large.
 
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#7
There are a lot of megachurches in the Midwest.
I was gonna say... this has been my observation as well. There's a big push for churches to become all-in-one community centers these days, with events and programs for people to do there even when mass isn't being held. So you do tend to see a lot of larger churches with attached accoutrements. They are less like the mega churches in the past though, where it was basically just a giant building for someone to televise sermons from.
 
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#8
They are less like the mega churches in the past though, where it was basically just a giant building for someone to televise sermons from.
Osteen's "church" in Houston is the former Summit arena. Hard to have a sense of community in a sea of 10,000+ others.
 
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#9
The influence is more or less in naming. Willow Creek lent a naming trend to places like Elmbrook, River Glen, Highland, etc.
 
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#11
We've had pedo priests in the news in the Catholic church since the early 2000's and it hasn't destroyed Catholicism yet, I sincerely doubt one megachurch going under for the same reason is going to completely undo Christianity. The full PA 300 priest list has been released, all 1000+ pages of it, listing each and every priest that was accused of raping children, what the bishops/cardinals did about it, who paid hush money to whom; all of it. Even that isn't going to derail Christianity. And it shouldn't. Christianity isn't the problem, Humanity is.
 
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#13
I was gonna say... this has been my observation as well. There's a big push for churches to become all-in-one community centers these days, with events and programs for people to do there even when mass isn't being held. So you do tend to see a lot of larger churches with attached accoutrements. They are less like the mega churches in the past though, where it was basically just a giant building for someone to televise sermons from.
I volunteered at one two weeks ago. It blew my mind how large in size, both in physical size and outreach potential it was. The program, Day for Hope, had all sorts of things in multiple buildings and floors. They provided free backpacks, clothes, school supplies, giant family-sized bags of free groceries, free family portraits (it was explained that many people coming to the event never had a family photo done before), pregnancy services (free formula/diapers/clothes/housing assistance until the child is at least 1 years of age), free medical care (ears/eyes/diabetes), Dental (my part) which included teaching children how to properly brush, checking for cavities, checking for gingivitis, giving them a referral for the public health clinic to get any problems worked on, and a free fluoride treatment. All this in addition to another dozen things I didn't have time to see. Id say we saw a few hundred people in our few hours there, vast majority were minorities, and a solid three quarters had no English-speaking ability and we had a ton of volunteer translators that followed them to each place. It was nice to see them using their money and outreach for something really positive.
 
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#14
Well, one was created by the other. Which side is which depending on your beliefs.
All I'm saying is, we have the Catholics, the LDS, the Calvary, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Willow Creek, The Boy Scouts, Michigan State Universtiy and their pedophile doctor, USC and their rapist gynecologist, Baylor's Title IX rape scandal, football teams around the country, basketball teams around the country, correctional facilities, police departments - all of these organizations have seen serious rape, pedophilia, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual discrimination problems. Every single one of them. So we can't say it's a religion problem - it's way more widespread than that. It's not a nationality problem - the US is far from the only country with massive problems with rape and sexual assault, look at India, it's almost daily news over there that some kid or tourist has been brutally gang raped to death by a group of people. It certainly isn't an education-level problem - most LE positions may not require a college degree, but gynecologists and the priesthood certainly do. It isn't an age issue - some of the pedophile priests have been in their 70s and still committing crimes and in sports teams all around the country kids haze each other to the (sometimes) inclusion of ramming broom handles up the new guy's ass. Hell! It came out a couple years back that at least one college football team has a habit of trying to ram their fingers up the asses of the opposing team after each play so that their opponents will be spooked.

Sitting around pointing fingers at any group of people is only going to allow the problem to persist everywhere you're not pointing at the moment. Realize that people are the issue, and not individuals of a given class/race/religion/nationality/organization, and treat people like individuals when it comes to criminal complaints, investigating every report as though it were just as credible as every other report, and we might have a chance.
 
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#15
I remember a troubling blurb from back in the early 2000s when the first large scandal in the Catholic Church broke about child rape. Even with the high number of priests that were abusing kids, they were abusing at lower rates than the national average.

So it is a much larger problem in our nation at least.
 
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#16
This isn't about child abuse. This is about sexual abuse between staff and congregants, mostly male/female.
 
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#17
I volunteered at one two weeks ago. I It was nice to see them using their money and outreach for something really positive.
I know that there are churches out there that do a lot of good. I am glad to hear it. I do not attend church now, and can't really see myself doing so regularly anymore, but I can't bring myself to condemn the whole group b/c I know there are still those doing good things.

People are pretty bad about putting others on pedestals. I was a intern of sorts for a Methodist student organization as an undergrad. It let me sort of see behind the current at that church. I got to see the head pastor when he wasn't "on". It was quite sobering. It also made be quite uneasy by the way folks treated me. As if I had reached some higher level of enlightenment or something. This was a tiny group of about 50 college kids. I can't imagine a megachurch-sized group and the amount of pressure that would entail. Maybe the church should acknowledge that folks do not belong with so much power or authority.
 

figmentPez

Staff member
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#18
I guess I'm not one of them because I think Christianity will weather this just fine and I'd need it explained to me why this one megachurch's fall would have a severe impact on the religion at large.
I would hope this would have an impact on Christianity at large. Specifically, I hope it encourages more Christians to support the #MeToo movement, and to recognize that it's a problem even within Christian churches. I personally know a woman who was sexually harassed by her pastor. This happened at a very small protestant church, and I imagine many people know of similar stories.
 
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#19
@figmentPez - that's pretty much what happened at Willow Creek, but the scale is much larger, and it appears it involved a larger issue: no one believed that the founding pastor of a huge church with thousands upon thousands of members could do something like what was alleged.
 

figmentPez

Staff member
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#20
@figmentPez - that's pretty much what happened at Willow Creek, but the scale is much larger, and it appears it involved a larger issue: no one believed that the founding pastor of a huge church with thousands upon thousands of members could do something like what was alleged.
I did read the article. I'm hoping that this big news story will make people think twice about what might be going on in their own church, rather than just dismissing it. Most people in a congregation woudln't believe their pastor capable of such a thing, regardless of church size. They're likely to dismiss allegations against elders, deacons, and other laity as well.
 
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#21
Nope, because total loyalty is the first thing ingrained into members in these cults of personality.
As someone who had a family member who was pastor who did the same thing to his own children and grandchildren, I'm not surprised by anything modern clergy are accused of.
 
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