Starbucks, Willow Creek and Christian Homophobia?

As many of you know from Twitter and Facebook I was asked to go to the first day of Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit, as a special guest of Willow, to hear Bill Hybels response to Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks, cancellation to appear at the Summit. I was then asked by the Washington Post to write an article about it. I did. The Post decided instead of the article being “event” specific, they would like different article that focused on broader cultural thematic overviews. That article will be published by the Post soon. In the meantime, the original article, about Willow and Starbucks has been published by my friends at Patheos.

You can read my thoughts about the Starbucks and Willow Creek situation here.

Much love. 

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I appreciate your awareness of the hurt that has been caused to the LGBTQ community. Being invited to sit in the back row, as you put it, does not create an image of a welcoming Creator! Thanks for this post. You may also enjoy two cents from that weekend’s events:

    Namaste ~

  • I don’t have much of a horse in this particular race. I know almost nothing about Willow Creek outside of them severing ties in the recent past with Exodus International and I’ve seen the video of the pastor discussing the Starbucks CEO backing out of their program. On top of that, I think I’ve been in a Starbucks once or twice in my lifetime and I don’t drink coffee.

    That said, I don’t know how significant it is for Willow Creek to say that they welcome all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Most churches say that. They then, like Hybels did in this clip, talk about how they only accept het families and relationships. It seems to make the people in the pews happy, but it’s not really welcoming for people like me. I’m not saying that they’re wrong for asserting their belief. I’m just not sure how significant that type of statement really is.

  • Tina C

    I feel the same way, Jon. (with the except that I do drink a lot of coffee)

  • Seth

    This is an excellent example of MLK Jr.’s “constructive tension” that you so often cite. I find (and have experienced firsthand at Willow Creek) a notable dissonance between the welcome and the expectations for conduct for GLBTQ folks. I give them credit for their willingness to participate in the dialogue, for example, by hosting you. On the other hand, I was disappointed to see their “safe space” ministry put on ice without adequate explanation. I think it’s problematic that Willow Creek has dismissed the work of the Holy Spirit by denying GLBTQ members the opportunity to use their gifts as co-members of the Body of Christ (I know of at least one other example in addition to the one you mentioned).

    I think this is another expression of the love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin heresy that pervades the evangelical world. Jesus made it absolutely clear that there is no practical distinction between what we think, what we say, or what we do; all of it falls short. But the evangelical church continues to reinforce the idea that GLBTQ folks might be okay as long as they don’t do anything GLBTQ (and if you pin them down, it’s only men making love to men that is proscribed–everything else is unspecified). Somehow, behavior trumps identity, personality, and orientation. And the principle gets applied widely as a way of dealing with all of our shortcomings. The result is people whose behavior is sterling, but whose inner life is far from it. Just like the “whitewashed sephulchres” that Jesus opposed.

    To me, the antidote to this tension and dissonance is liberally applied grace, recognizing that God has promised to always supply enough grace to close the gap between the way things are and the way we wish they were. It is in the context of liberal grace that tension offers an opportunity to grow.

    If Willow Creek offers full membership and participation to its members who have been divorced and remarried, using this construct of grace when Jesus explicitly taught otherwise, then they can use the same construct of grace to offer full membership and participation to GLBTQ folks when Jesus did not teach otherwise.</strong

  • Seth

    Oops. Sorry about the bold type–forgot to turn it off!

  • Seth, that post made my day! I’m currently getting some fundamentalist kick-back on my post about it ( and I needed to read something like what you wrote. I’m really tired of Christians justifying their hatred by clinging to the Bible and calling it “love” to “speak the truth.” My soul has been raped by that attack for too long! Say what we want of the Divine experience, the role of grace or the concept of forgiveness/sin, no one deserves to have the Bible thrown at them as a source of hate. God is not like that! So many people… making God in THEIR images. So sad and frustrating…

    Anyway… thank you, Seth!

    Much love and many blessings ~

  • Kelly

    “the role of grace or the concept of forgiveness/sin, no one deserves to have the Bible thrown at them as a source of hate. God is not like that”

    Reminds me of “Saved”