Bill Hybels Responds to Being Called “Anti-Gay”

Bill Hybels Responds to Being Called “Anti-Gay” August 24, 2011

Do you have any thoughts on this issue? Personally, I think Hybels handled himself well. We need to get past polarization, no matter our theological stances. Here’s a great story on what led to this video from the Chicago Tribune.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • FDR

    I think he handled this with as much grace as you can. He has the conviction that homosexual acts are sinful. What else should he do? What would you do?

  • Brit

    I agree that he handled it with more grace than many would. Unfortunately, we Christians have a reputation of being hateful to certain communities of people, and this will likely continue to happen. How do we change our reputation, then?

    • Vid

      Being honest???  The sexual “sins” (yes, that is an ongoing process if we are going down that path) of the divorced and remarried are ignored while those is a complete zero tolerance policy for the sexual expression for gays and lesbians.  And people wonder why gays and lesbians have no interest in Christianity.  Honestly, this type of hypocritical nonsense is the reason I left evangelicalism and returned to the Episcopal Church (not limited to hypocrisy related to sex but also the complete embrace of war and right wing politics by evangelicals that are in direct conflict with Scripture at a very deep thematic level of what Jesus taught). 

      So if you want your reputation to change, act more like our Savior, and less like a church community that does mental gymnastics to support what we like and point fingers at what we don’t like though selective application of Scripture.

  • i shared my thoughts on a post this morning :: at the WayWard follower ::

  • Slater

    it’s a lot of great language, but for the issue itself it seems like he’s basically just saying “no no no no, we’re not ‘anti-gay’ – were just ‘against homosexuality.’  see the difference, now?  it’s totally not the same.”  maybe they’re welcoming to everyone, so maybe they’re not ‘anti gays’ (even though i personally think they still are), but they are definitely ‘anti-gay’ 

  • I think there are plenty of people who would criticize what he said about his stance on homosexuality (see Slater’s comment), but you certainly can’t fault him for reaching out to the very people who started the petition in order to have a constructive conversation. I think we could use a little more of that kind of attitude and action.

    • Slater

      to be fair, i wasn’t so much criticizing his actual stance on homosexuality, and i don’t fault him for making an effort to bring about positive conversations.  but if your stance is against homosexuality, i just think it’s kind of insulting to our intelligence to say that you’re not ‘anti-gay.’  it seems the only other choices are ‘pro-gay’ which he obviously isn’t, and ‘indifferent to gay’ which can’t be true or he wouldn’t be bothering with this message.  

      “i’m not a bigot or anything, i totally want you in the room with me. i just happen to think that the way i was born is a little better than than the way you were, as evidenced by the privileges of romance and marriage that i am permitted, and if you could just work on that a bit, we’d all get along much better.”  it’s difficult for me to see past this contradiction in what he’s saying (and what so many other Christians say on a daily basis).  if you’re anti-gay, just own it, don’t talk around it because you’re afraid of the label.  

      i totally agree with kurt that we should get past polarization…but the way to do that isn’t to ignore that the poles exist, is it? (my apologies if i sound forceful or anything, it’s not my intent and i’m not trying to get into a debate, but you cited me by name so i wanted to clarify) 

      • I want to add that one of my closest friends is gay and Christian.  He would disagree with the dichotomy that you’ve made.  Its perfectly possible to believe that the bible teaches that sexuality is to be between a man and woman in a marriage and to be pro-gay people.  There are always shades of gray.  This doesn’t have to be black and white.  For instance, many agree with hybels theology but also are pro civil rights for gay people.  I am not sure that you can get much more “pro-gay” than Tony Campolo in that regard, who still believes a more traditional view on sexuality.  Pro vs Anti is the way our world wants us to think… but, there’s always a third way.

        • Slater

          but hybels isn’t speaking to civil rights – which is, of course, a different kind of conversation – he’s speaking to a place in the church.  and notice, there aren’t actually any gay people in hybels’ church – only people with ‘same sex attraction,’ which is in many ways a completely different group of people.  

          and i agree that you can be pro-gay PEOPLE in some ways, but in this case, hybels and his church are still anti-GAY, unless i’m missing something.  this doesn’t have to be black and white, no, and yet when Hybels enumerates the requirements of a biblical sexual ethic, it remains very black and white.  so i guess i just remain confused by the apparent paradox of a ‘welcoming but not affirming’ attitude.  

          btw, food for thought – Walter Wink has a great essay attempting to figure out just what a scripturally based sexual ethic actually looks like – i originally read it in a book, but i found it online here:

          • @d435c983125cd2a26be0704f851ea67f:disqus … thanks for the thoughts.  I’ve heard of that essay but never read it.  I’ve read a bit of Peter Gomes stuff from a chapter in “The Good Book.”  Also, my buddy chad holtz has written from the open and affirming perspective quite a bit.  The scholarship on this issue is important and the church both conservative, liberal and post-conservative… needs to keep wrestling with the texts.  Thanks for engaging me on this even if we may nuance our thoughts on Hybel differently.

        • Derekabbott

          Kurt, you make some very good points.  I apprecaite you bringing this topic up.  It is no walk in the park to be gay and feel at home in a church.  I tried for many years to “change” who I was in order to feel accepted and approved by Christians.  At the end of the day I was faking who I really way, I was a pit of emptiness and knew I was not being true to myself or to others in my life.  It was sad that when I accepted who I was and people learned I was gay and still very much loved Jesus that they quickly pulled away or completely left my life.  Pretty sad when some of these people were your best and closest friends and they preach love yet they are the first to turn their backs on you.  All this to say I feel the church definately has work to do in this area.  Even if a church preaches that they accept gay people, I found they still are in many cases not loving of their gay brothers and sisters. 

          • @5d849238b41fee7653b2241f19f7f376:disqus … First of all, its been too long my friend.  I hope you are doing well.

            Second, thanks for commenting on this issue that certainly comes close to home.  From what I know of you I certainly know that you love Jesus and are discerning how sexuality fits within that.

            Third, I am sorry that many of your close friends left you behind.  You are right, a “traditional” church can say something like “we love ALL people” but still not actually carry this love into the practical.  This especially true in the LGBTIQ community I suspect.

            If you ever want to hang out, let me know! Thanks again for your comment.

      • No problem. I wasn’t trying to get into a debate either. I totally get what you are saying and I think that is all the more reason for Hybels to meet with them and begin talking.

  • Thanks for sharing this Kurt.  I had heard about the situation, but I do agree that the response was most appropriate.  It is encouraging to see people responding in love to a difficult situation, and I feel that why strong in the conviction, it is always necessary to emphasize relationships and meeting people where they are at, as we are all equally sinful in God’s eyes with none of this imagined hierarchy of sin as promoted by some. 

  • I am an advocate for LGBT rights. I am a youth pastor, and I have was raised evangelical. I have heard churches say they are open to everyone, and I am sure they genuinely believe they are, but actions speak louder.  The fact remains, if you are transgendered, would you feel welcome at Willowcreek?  If you are gay and you married your husband in neighboring Iowa, would you feel welcome to attend church with your adopted children at Willowcreek?

    Hybels and many evangelical pastors love to be and act magnanimous in public, especially in front of large audiences.  I assume he got the ego stroke and the masturbatory admiration he was looking for with this.

    Furthermore, I hope the LGBT activists do get to meet with Hybels so they can report that in fact Willowcreek’s stance is vehemently anti-gay.  

    • Ian

      I agree that’s something that the church at large needs to work on. Many like to think that they are welcoming to gays but what happens most of the time is they define gays by their sin (which they might not do with any other sin) and they won’t talk to them very much at all or just won’t talk to them about anything else at all. I really hate to see that though I don’t much because as you know most  gays usually avoid the church and usually with good reason. Christians need to get he mindset hat gay people are more than just gay people. They’re mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and loved by God and they have jobs and hurts just like anyone else and they need to be treated as such. I’m sure that as a LGBT advocate and a youth pastor you are praying that the church would become more welcoming in that regard and I’m joining you on that.

      You don’t seem to think too highly of Hybels. Don’t let that become bitterness against a man you’ve never even me and a brother in Christ. And yes I agree that Willowcreek is anti-gay in that they believe that homosexuality is a sin, he just wanted to communicate that he’s not anti-gay people.


    Sounds like he’s anti-gay to me, but he does speak well.

  • Vid

    As a Christian who is a  sexually active gay man in a committed relationship of 16 years, this
    “hate the sin, love the sinner” hair splitting is very annoying.  Willow
    and the rest of the haters can continue to live happily in this dream
    of being gay friendly while denying gays the right to sexual expression.
    Sorry, this is just nonsense.   Until people admit that they
    selectively pick the scriptures they follow or ignore, we will continue
    to see prejudice views celebrated as inclusive and loving Christianity. 

    Clearly, Jesus taught in very black and white terms that divorce and
    remarriage is a sin.  Yet, we rarely see an evangelical church do much
    except make support groups for the divorced and remarried.  Nobody is
    telling them that they are whoremongers and whores or that their sexual
    acts are fornication.  Unless you, as a “Bible believing Christian”
    disagree with our Lord, that is exactly what the divorced and remarried
    and their sexual acts are.  Yet, evangelicals find a way around that
    teaching that comes directly from Jesus (perhaps the fact that the
    divorced make up close to 50% of most megachurches is one factor – giant
    loss of membership and associated income for that to be preached). 

    The reality is that we pick what we want to follow.  We all do but only
    some of us actually admit it.  All are guilty of sin and all of us have
    planks in our eyes while pointing the finger at someone who is

    So spare me the idea that this was a graceful move.  History will show
    that this type of theological game playing is no different than the
    defense of slavery by evangelicals in the 1800s.  If a leader of a
    megachurch (or hopefully any church) made a speech supporting slavery
    today in the 21 Century, he or she would be considered a deranged
    racist.  And anyone who supports this type of antigay prejudice today is
    no different than those who supported slavery in the 1800s “because it
    is in the Bible” as a justification. 

    Until we are ready to admit that all of us selectively use Scripture to
    support our beliefs rather than inform them, we will continue to see
    such rank hypocrisy come from religious leaders and see others support
    and make outlandish claims of it getting us “past polarization.”

    • @9968ab9829d2906c4b270fa6793d42a5:disqus … It might help you to balance this video and your comments on divorce with this article:

      I’d love to hear what you think about “banning divorce.”

      • Vid

        I am a fan of your writing, Kurt.  I read your article on divorce when it was first posted and believe that it forces people to think.  It is a great article! 
        I might have overstated my case (to some degree) above.  Not everyone at Willow is a hater, and I should have not written that.  However, I don’t agree that this talking out of both sides of the Willow mouth do anything but sound silly and illogical.  It is kind of like Pres. Obama saying his view on same sex marriage are “evolving” which seems cowardly to me.

        Thanks for all you are doing for the Christian community.  You are a one of small group of people who is encouraging people to use the brains God gave us.  Keep up the great work for Our Lord and Savior.  Vid

        • @9968ab9829d2906c4b270fa6793d42a5:disqus … Thanks for your kind words.  The LGBTIQ community has been the victim of much hate from the larger culture and the church at times.  I pray that the wounds will one day heal and that people on both sides of the discussion will begin building bridges of reconciliation. 

  • Andy J. Funk

    Thanks for sharing this Kurt. Maybe we as Christians have the problem of having the need to always point out the “sins” of our brothers and sisters. We all seem to define OUR sins differently than others. How do we negotiate around that? To my friend, being gay and acting gay is not a sin. To me, smoking and drinking are not a sin. For MANY Christians, killing other people is not a sin. I still struggle with God’s intentions with creation. Was it God’s intention that we were to be sexually expressive regardless of “common sense”, or “nature”?…you know, the idea that a man has a penis and a woman a vagina; they somehow magically fit together to do interesting things which also produce babies. I know that sounds crude, but I still wonder if there is a case for that thinking. I suppose it’s easy for me to contemplate this because I am not gay, but if we suppose that God’s intention WAS for man to leave his mother and father to become one with a woman, then we ought to be guided by that wisdom as well. If I state my view on homosexuality in the negative; as in I do not agree it was God’s intent for human sexual relations, I am often confronted with absurd arguments like, “oh, but you’re fine with divorce, abortion, killing others and lying.”. I have, many times in my life, lied to the people that I love. I have lied about smoking to my wife, when we had agreed I would not and it has strained our relationship. Lying is NOT fine! This is something I struggle with, but I DO struggle. Divorce is NOT fine! I hope we can learn more wisdom that what our base desires dictate or what we “wish” to be true. I’m still uncertain of my hard stand on homosexuality. I go both ways on the topic, so for me it’s not all that clear, even when I go to scripture. Let us seek first God’s will and wisdom, not our own. I pray this for all of us.