From Dan Meyer, pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook, a church, pastor and staff valued by Northern Seminary:
In light of the allegations now swirling around the former senior pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church AND the larger national movement drawing needed attention to the stories of women treated in harmful ways, this message comes to inform you that Christ Church will not serve as a host site for the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) this coming August. For those of you who have registered for the conference or planned to bring others, I know this may be a shock or an inconvenience. I apologize for that. This is why I am writing to you.
This decision has not been arrived at quickly or lightly. The GLS has been a well-attended event at Christ Church. It has provided valuable leadership insight for our staff, members, and guests. We will continue to look for opportunities to bring a similar conference or, if appropriate, the GLS itself, to our facilities in future years. We’d like to see the largely constructive witness of Bill Hybels, the Willow Creek Church, and its Association continue. But, given the high identification between Bill and the GLS conference, this year we are taking a purposeful pause.
Both the Christian and the American traditions have seen the value of stopping normal activities to observe a moment of silence … or to lower a flag to half-staff … or to issue a collective cry of lament — in the face of significant crisis, turmoil, or loss. We believe that the stories of the women that are now being told are deserving of this pause to LISTEN, REFLECT, and CHANGE. We feel that UNLESS we stop to listen, some stories that need to be heard will not be told and we as a community will lose the opportunity those voices can give us to become more compassionate, just, and holy.
Jesus was, in his time, a radical defender and advocate for women. He clearly valued the voice of men as well. But Jesus also went out of his way to ensure that women’s testimonies were equally heard. It is not incidental that Jesus welcomed women into the circle of his followers, held them up as among the greatest exemplars of faith and love, and chose to make them the first witnesses of the Resurrection. He did all of this amidst a culture that did not even accept a woman’s testimony in court.
If we are to be followers of Jesus, then we need to care greatly for the voices of women, as well as men. That’s why we’re stopping to listen. As we take a purposeful pause this year, please join us in praying for all those involved in the turmoil of our time – for Christ Church, the Willow Creek community, the wider church, and our nation, as we seek to find clarity, repent of our sins, and heal.
Let me say in closing that this issue goes beyond politics and pundits and all the anxieties and frustrations we understandably feel about how “the other side” will pillory our opinion or truncate the truth. The #MeToo movement drives to the very root of the Christian understanding of the creation. Jesus’ treatment of women was simply a restatement of the original intention of God’s creation: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 5:2). In summary, if we love the Bible and God and the creation he has made, then we will be the fiercest champions of both women and men that can be found upon the earth.It is worth canceling a conference to declare that value.
Rev. Dr. Daniel D. Meyer | Senior Pastor
Christ Church | Oak Brook and Downers Grove